Publicado originalmente en Kent Current: http://centreforjournalismprojects.co.uk/kentcurrent/2018/10/07/rochesters-guildhall-museums-conservancy-building-closed/
Guildhall Museum’s Conservancy Building’s doors closed last Saturday for the last time before being sold at the end of the month.
Medway Council agreed to sell the Rochester building last August as it was deemed to be “surplus” to requirements but the move will condemn many of its 8,000 artefacts to storage.
The Rochester building was a free exhibition which housed many exhibits on Rochester’s most famous resident, Charles Dickens, including an interpretation on his work and his links to the Medway Towns.
A representative from the Friends of the Guildhall Museum criticised the decision and lamented the loss of the Dickens exhibitions.
“Part of Medway council’s cultural strategy was creating a Dickens county and fellow Tory councillors are not doing a very good job at it.
“There are no plans to put the Dickens story or Dickens memorabilia that the museum holds anywhere else. This is the sad thing, if the council had a plan we would understand but there isn’t one.”
Labour Councillor for Rochester West, Alex Paterson, also condemned the move as it would put a “paywall” on the exhibits, which could be previously accessed for free in the Guildhall Museum.
“We were told that some the exhibits will be going on display in East Gate House. But the difference between East Gate House and the Guildhall Museum, is that the first is a paid for attraction”, he says, “as far as I’m concerned it´s putting the exhibits which belong to the people of Medway behind a paywall, and I can’t accept that as a solution.”
Faced by these claims, Tory Cllr Stuart Tranter, from Rochester West, says he stands by the decision but recognised that some artefacts will be stored, at least in the short-term.
“This (decision) will provide a net benefit to our heritage buildings in Rochester and improve our overall heritage offering. Much older Heritage buildings, including the museum, will benefit from the proceeds and be protected for many years to come in public ownership and improved use.
“In the very short term they (the artefacts from the Conservancy Building) will mostly be stored, but our aim is to get as much as possible on public display elsewhere in Rochester.”
The Conservancy Building will be auctioned in Maidstone on the 29th of October, however, it’s facade will always remain part of the High Street as it is Grade II-listed building.