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Wednesday 13 September 2017

Cheshire East steps closer to state-of-the-art history centre

Cheshire East has taken a step closer towards the creation of a new state-of-the art history centre to host the region’s archive.

Cheshire Archives and Local Studies, a shared service of Cheshire East Council and Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC), needs a new home as its current one in Duke Street, Chester, is no longer fit for purpose.

Under proposals approved by Cheshire East’s cabinet today – and set for consideration by CWaC’s cabinet tomorrow – the archive would be rehoused in two new bespoke history centres, with one in Crewe and one in Chester.

These would be climate-controlled environments to house the collections, better display them and make them more interactive and accessible to the public.

The archive ranges from the middle ages to the present day and includes archives that would fill 8km of shelving from businesses, schools, hospitals and local clubs and organisations. In addition, it has tens of thousands of photographs, maps and books covering all aspects of Cheshire’s history.

The £13m joint scheme, if approved, would see each authority contribute £4.2m each with the remainder of the money being sought via a bid for a Heritage Lottery Fund grant.

Crewe’s history centre would be located at the old library site in the town centre. The proposed site for Chester’s new history centre is the former Business Enterprise site on Hoole Road.

Councillor David Brown, Cheshire East Council deputy leader and cabinet member responsible for archives, said: “I am delighted our cabinet has backed proposals to replace the current facility, which is no longer fit for purpose for the long-term preservation of our unique archives. These two new history centres in Crewe and Chester would be key to delivering an accessible, up-to-date and improved joint archive service.

“It’s an exciting proposal not just for Crewe but for the whole of Cheshire East in terms of its potential to greatly improve the offer to residents and making our unique and precious archives far more accessible for Cheshire East residents and visitors alike. It would also provide a place for our extensive railway and engineering archives – which are a nationally significant collection and central to the story of Crewe’s development.

“With an HS2 hub station coming and the council working with partners to deliver an impressive £48.3m investment in regeneration of the town centre, these are exciting times for Crewe.”

Under the proposals the new centres would incorporate facilities for exhibitions, events, research and more space for volunteers, while also allowing for the better preservation of the county’s rich written heritage. The proposal also sees the service developing plans to make the archives more accessible throughout the county through an expanded outreach programme and digital access.

The Crewe history centre would specifically reflect the story and heritage of the communities of Cheshire East. This would include: a large gallery space to host cultural exhibitions of regional and national interest, workshops and talks; railway/engineering archives for Crewe and the local region; access to film and sound archives; local newspapers and photographs, supervised access to archive materials not on display and a potential home for the Family History Society of Cheshire, with access to its genealogical resources and expertise.

Subject to a successful bid for HLF funding, the proposed new facilities would open by 2023.

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