Isles of Scilly Museum Association: Public Update on Museum Closure

A structural survey was undertaken on the Museum building for the Council of the Isles of Scilly, as its landlord in January. A further survey was conducted six months later and contrary to his first report, the surveyor this time found structural weaknesses that presented a significant danger in his view to anyone entering the Museum building.

The Isles of Scilly Museum Association was duly informed by the Council and the Museum was closed to the public on June 13th and remains closed. Closure was discussed by Full Council in private session on September 17th. The Council then wrote to us on September 20th and a week later announced to the public on its website that, because the Museum building was considered beyond practical and economic repair, Councillors had therefore agreed to seek vacant possession of the building with a view to its demolition.

Museum Association Trustees find it regrettable that as landlord the council has failed to comply with its obligations under our lease, which still has 47 years to run, namely, to keep the structure of the building in good repair.

The Association naturally understands that news of the Council's announcement will have alarmed our members, volunteers and indeed those who have donated or loaned artefacts to the Museum. Over the next few weeks we will be endeavouring to contact people who have loaned artefacts to be displayed or stored within the Museum to discuss the new situation. If you don’t hear from us and have some concerns, please contact us.  

We have already had offers of storage and possible display space from businesses and community groups on the islands and will be furthering these discussions with a mind to keeping as many of our collections as possible, readily accessible to researchers, visitors and the local community.

We are mindful that this must be done without compromising safety or security. In the short term we are awaiting proposals from the Council. For the longer term we are looking at options for alternative premises, including the possibility of joining forces with other local organisations to develop ideas for a new Museum, research and cultural centre.

As a small Scillonian charity, the Museum is undoubtedly facing difficult times, but small steps have already been taken to keep the islands’ heritage in the public realm. On the back of last year’s Being Scilly guide, which featured the Museum and was created in partnership with Five Islands School and the Creative Islands project, a pop-up museum is currently being developed at Carn Gwaval. It is being curated by Year 7 history students.  Watch out for the opening: it’s coming soon.   

We are also in the process of moving the Museum offices, the Family History Group, the Baxter Reading Room, the Archaeological Repository and Local Archives to the Porthmellon Enterprise Centre.  This will give access to local researchers and for those visiting the islands and looking for information and inspiration.

If you have any bright ideas or thoughts yourselves on how the Museum might be helped through this difficult situation, please feel free to contact us at information@islesofscillymusuem.org