The major refurbishment and expansion of Northampton Museum and Art Gallery is one step closer to completion, with new photos released to mark what was planned to be the opening weekend.
The photos on the Northampton Museum & Art Gallery’s Facebook page, give a sneak preview of the spectacular new look museum on Guildhall Road, in the heart of Northampton’s Cultural Quarter.
The museum was scheduled to open on 20 June, but due to the corona virus pandemic, the opening is now postponed until late 2020 or early 2021. Building works are now in the final stages, and once complete and deep cleaned, curators will begin exhibition installation.
The museum has doubled in size with the addition of a nine-metre-high glazed atrium extension, which links the original museum to the Old Gaol Block, now home to a new Temporary Exhibitions’ Gallery, Shoe Gallery and schools’ activity space.
The atrium includes a café and south-facing outdoor terrace. The new Shoe Gallery housed on the lower floor, showcases Northampton’s internationally important shoe collection and the town’s rich shoe-making heritage and traditions.
The existing art gallery has undergone a major refurbishment and will feature a range of changing exhibitions drawn from the museum’s extensive collections, as well as exhibitions focusing on local artists and touring shows. The original History Gallery has undergone a light refurbishment and includes new displays on lace-making and post war development of Northampton.
The expanded museum shop will have a strong focus on local shoe heritage and history, while a new selling gallery will showcase arts and crafts created by Northamptonshire artists and makers.
New teaching facilities will also be available, with a dedicated schools and activity space available for visits and workshops, alongside a central hall capable of hosting major events and for corporate hire.
Councillor Jonathan Nunn, leader of Northampton Borough Council, said: “Following this major renovation programme, we are delighted that works are approaching completion and we will soon be able to get on with the exciting task of installing the exhibitions.
“It’s a great shame that we cannot open our doors yet because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but we will continue to share photos of the completed space on the museum’s Facebook page, so the public can see the fantastic new galleries and facilities ahead of the opening.
“This much anticipated development, in the heart of our expanding Cultural Quarter, represents a significant addition to Northampton’s cultural life and is a spectacular new focal point for the town’s art, heritage and culture.
“It is set to be a major attraction, where visitors can discover Northampton’s internationally important shoe collection, explore the town’s rich history, and experience an ever-changing programme of art, activities, events and temporary exhibitions.”
GSSArchitecture are the architects, lead consultants and principal designers for the expansion project. Tom Jagger, Associate at GSSArchitecture said: “We are extremely proud to have been involved in this exciting project and it’s great to see the space completed, ready for what would have been the public opening on the 20 June.
“Current circumstances mean that the public are going to have to hold off seeing this fantastic space in person, but I can assure them it will be worth the wait. The project team have worked hard to ensure the refurbishment and expansion meets the needs of modern visitors.
“New facilities including gallery spaces, café with roof terrace, open link space, education studio and central hall will allow the museum to act as a hub for the town, hosting varying events and providing a welcoming social space for all.”
Jonathan Keight, Director of Creative Good, who have designed the new galleries, central hall, shop and events space for the museum, said: “The museum fit-out is now virtually complete, and the last few elements of work which were delayed due to the pandemic will be completed imminently, so the installation of museum objects can begin.
“Our designs blend the ‘old’ and the ‘new’, respecting the nature of the historic buildings, while providing welcoming and stimulating contemporary spaces that will improve access to the museum’s collections for all visitors.
“The Central Hall has a bespoke audio-visual presentation system that can deliver spectacular immersive experiences, while the Shoe Gallery is a clean, contemporary space.
“Strong graphics and bold colours will guide visitors around the story of shoes, where they can learn how shoes are designed and made, consider the psychology of shoe buying and wearing, and explore thousands of years of shoe style history.”
The museum opens with a major new temporary exhibition called ‘We Are Northampton’, which explores the character and history of Northampton, through people, places and events. Alongside this will be a retrospective of notable and prolific Northamptonshire artist Christopher Fiddes, called ‘Challenging Perspectives,’ presenting work from his early career up to the present day.
A new dedicated museum website is also set to launch later this year to start the countdown to the museum’s grand opening. www.northamptonmuseums.com
Take a virtual tour to see the expanded museum: northampton.gov.uk/virtual-tour
Follow Northampton Museums and Art Gallery on social media for further photos and updates. Facebook: @NorthamptonMuseum Twitter: @northamptonshoe