Salisbury Museum moved into the King’s House in 1981 and the premises were refurbished – new galleries dedicated to the history of Salisbury, archaeology, costume and ceramics were opened throughout the 1980s. In 2012 the museum was awarded a grant of £1.8 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund to re-display our archaeology collection (total cost £2.4 million). The new Wessex gallery opened in July 2014 and covers the story of the south Wiltshire area from 500,000 years ago to the foundation of the present Cathedral in 1220.
Alongside the development of the Wessex Gallery the museum has developed a programme of major exhibitions. This includes our Constable and Salisbury exhibition in 2011, Rex Whistler in 2013, Cecil Beaton at Home in 2014 and Turner’s Wessex in 2015. These exhibitions have increased visitor numbers and enabled the museum to achieve a national profile in terms of media coverage. The museum now has an average of 30,000 visitors per year.
In 2009 the museum commissioned architects and designers Metaphor to produce a masterplan for the King’s House. After the completion of the first stage of the plan – the Wessex Gallery – the masterplan was significantly revised and we now seek to undertake the following activities:
- Restoring, renewing and repurposing the building, enabling it to show more of our collections and provide designated spaces for learning and engagement.
- Creating a new Salisbury Gallery telling the city’s story from 1220 to 2020, rooting the narrative in the stories of local people and the objects in our significant collections of archaeology, art, costume and social history.
- Re-displaying our collection of 18th and 19th century ceramics, alongside other aspects of our collections, within the context of the historic 17th Century core of our magnificent building.
- Developing larger, top quality exhibition spaces to build on our reputation for major exhibitions, and enabling increased access to our collections.
- Developing our audiences and volunteer base, diversifying our income streams, and thereby ensuring our business model is self-sustaining.
We are planning to submit a stage one bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund in the autumn of 2016 to fund this work.