A proposal will go before Cheshire West & Chester Council and Cheshire East Council’s respective cabinets next week for a £13m project to re-house the Cheshire Archives & Local Studies collection.
The collection is currently housed at Duke Street, Chester, a venue described as no longer fit for purpose. This would be replaced by two bespoke history centres.
Chester’s facility would be created at the former Business Enterprise site on Hoole Road, and Crewe’s at the former library site in the town, library services having been relocated to the town’s lifestyle centre in April 2016.
The centres would be climate-controlled environments to house the collections, better display them and make them more interactive and accessible to the public. The centres will also include exhibition and event space.
The archive is a shared service between the two local authorities. The joint scheme, if approved, would see each authority contribute £4.2m each with the remainder of the money being sought from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The archive ranges from the middle ages to the present day and includes 8km of archives from businesses, schools, hospitals and local clubs and organisations. In addition there are tens of thousands of photographs, maps and books covering all aspects of Cheshire’s history.
Cllr Louise Gittins, cabinet member for communities and wellbeing, said: “Currently the archives service helps over a million people each year, through visits to the record office, outreach events, support for community history projects, services in libraries and through its websites.
“Sites in Chester were identified through discussions with Chester Growth Partnership, the Chester One City Plan and the Chester Heritage & Visual Arts Strategy. The new proposals will protect our irreplaceable heritage for future generations, whilst also making them more accessible.”
Cllr David Brown, Cheshire East Council deputy leader, said: “This proposal is really exciting and the centre in Crewe would make our unique, precious and richly diverse archives far more accessible for Cheshire East residents and visitors alike, and would help attract many more visitors to the town centre.”
The proposals will be more fully developed over the next two to three years including consultation with residents, service users and new users.
The Chester centre would house the majority of the collections, including the county-wide Local Studies collection. The need for a new facility in the city was a strategic priority within the Chester Heritage and Visual Arts Strategy adopted in March 2017.
Subject to funding, the proposed facilities could open in 2022 or 2023.