Urgent repairs need to be carried out to Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery – with water reported to be leaking into the building and threatening artworks within.
A report approved by the city council’s Cabinet today (Sept 7) calls for an application to Government for nearly £5 million in funding to fix the problems.
Birmingham Museums Trust (BMT) has a collection of one million objects – described in a report to councillors as “the city’s greatest cultural asset and a priceless resource for learning, creativity, health and wellbeing”.
It also holds the most important collection of Pre-Raphaelite art anywhere in the world, numbering over 3,000 paintings, drawings, prints and examples of decorative art and design.
There are more than 47 areas affected by water leakage due to broken and blocked drainage, missing flashings and tiles and damaged mortar, pipework, windows and roof-lights.
The external public lift has “exceeded its life” with frequent call-outs and is out of action for 10 per cent of days open in 2019.
The main goods lift has also “exceeded its life, currently running on slow, showing signs of major failure” according to papers to Cabinet.
In addition, heating is “inadequate” in major public areas.
The report to councillors notes “several Birmingham Council-owned museum estate sites require much needed repairs and maintenance” but it states only one site can be applied for.
The recommendation – approved by councillors today – is for a bid to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS)’s Museum Estate and Development (MEND) fund.
The paper says: “Considering the criteria and circumstances, it is recommended that BMAG is the subject of the application – it is the flagship museums site that has a number of significant infrastructure issues including water ingress through the roof and windows and, ageing access lifts.
“It also happens to be closed for major (rewiring) works until 2023-24 making any works / interventions easier to facilitate.”
The repairs required are described as “vital and urgent” in the report. The meeting heard there is water coming into offices in the building.
Declaring an interest, leader of the Conservative group Cllr Robert Alden (Con, Erdington) said: “My wife works there and would probably like to stop water coming into the offices where she works.”
Cabinet member for education, skills and culture Cllr Jayne Francis (Lab, Harborne) said: “I hope Cabinet will give their full support to this application, recognising the cultural importance of our museums and the reputation that we have locally, regionally, nationally and internationally.
“So the benefits of investment will be profound. It’s absolutely vital we get these repairs done.”
It was heard during the meeting that the works going on at the Council House will be used as a matched funding element from the city council.
The bid was approved by councillors on the Cabinet and is due to be submitted by October 18.
A £32 million redevelopment is currently under way on the neighbouring Council House, used by the city council and partly by the museum.
The work is reportedly needed because the current electrical installation “cannot be safely maintained”.
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