The historic Norris Museum has reopened its doors to visitors following a £1million refurbishment project.
The museum, in The Broadway, St Ives, closed in December 2015 to allow work to take place and, following months of restoration and refurbishment, finally reopened to the public at the weekend.
The reopening came at the end of a £1.4 million redevelopment that was made possible after the museum received a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
“There are big changes that have happened; there isn’t a single nook of the site that has not been touched,” Sarah Russell, museum director, said.
“We have an amazing archive and library section which used to be housed in the main building but now we have a specific research room where people can come in and use that space rather than perch on a desk.
“We also have a volunteer room, we have about 50 volunteers, and we have never had anywhere for them to take their lunch break and relax and now we have a really nice space to use as their own.”
The redevelopment project has seen the addition of a new wing which houses a new community room, and a larger, more accessible gallery space and improved facilities.
“For me the community room is one of the most exciting things as school groups can use it, as well as cubs, brownies and rainbows being able to use it in the evenings,” Hannah Vandridge, the museum’s learning and outreach officer, said.
“The galleries themselves are engaging and accessible for children as they can touch and see things – it is going to be lovely for me and interesting for them.”
Funds for the project also came from organisations throughout the town, including a grant of £35,000 given by the Friends of the Norris Museum.
Joff Whitten, committee member for HLF in the East of England, said: “It is a really incredible location and has such wonderful architecture but it needed some redevelopment, it needed a cash injection to make use of the space for the town, the region and the area.
“The museum submitted a superb proposal which detailed exactly what they were going to do. It was quite an easy decision for us.”
Television presenter Professor Alice Robert, along with St Ives mayor Councillor Philip Pope, cut the ribbon to welcome specially-invited guests for a first look at the revamped museum at a preview event on Friday.
She said: “I am really excited to be here, it’s such an important moment – the reopening of a museum is really important to the local community and beyond, this museum has been shut behind its hoardings for 18 months and its about to be reopened and reconnect with all of you.”
The museum and its collection was once that of benefactor Herbert Norris who was a St Ives-born amateur historian who was passionate about Huntingdonshire’s past and collected an array of treasures throughout his lifetime.
Cllr Pope added: “It is quite moving to see the transformation that has taken place. To see how much more impassioned the volunteers are by it is amazing.
“It is not just about the building here, it is a lot to do with Sarah and the team as they are going out into the towns and villages to make people aware that this is here, saying ‘we are here in St Ives, we are a museum for the whole county, come see what history there is’.
“It is going to increase tourism in the town, and it will reinvigorate this end of town as hopefully we will see people get of the guided bus and come into the museum before visit the rest of the town centre.”
The museum’s collections number more than 33,000 and range from 160-million-year-old Jurassic fossils to flint tools from the Stone Age, to Roman pottery and figurines to curios of Victorian collectors.