CAMPAIGNERS for a regiment’s cherished collection have welcomed suggestions to refurbish and reopen a former museum.

Council leaders are asked to look further into restoring the former Durham Light Infantry (DLI) Museum building as a visitor attraction.

It could be turned into an exhibition centre, gallery and café venue with dedicated space for displaying items in the DLI collection and a “peace and contemplation garden” in the grounds where veterans’ ashes have been scattered.

This art gallery and attraction would contribute to Durham’s City of Culture 2025 bid, says the report to Durham County Council.

The Faithful Durham group, which fought against the original Aykley Heads museum’s 2016 closure, has called for the regiment’s legacy to be done “full justice”.

Campaign group secretary Diane Inglis welcomed the latest ideas today, saying: “At the moment we’re very happy with the new council.

“They’ve actually listened to what we’ve had to say and have listened to our viewpoint. Thankfully these people are seeing sense.

“So we’re quite happy. We do understand they’re trying their best to have the museum reopened.

“It was closed without public consultation. There was a huge public outcry.

“Over the last five years our campaign has been going, we’ve hit the street, we’ve leafletted places, we’ve had different meetings.”

The DLI Collection and Archive is one of the most extensive regimental collections in the UK and covers the history of the regiment since its 1750s origins.

Owned by trustees and managed in partnership with the council, it contains more than 15,000 objects including firearms, uniforms, medals and an archive of photos and documents such as war diaries and battalion records.

It moved from the museum to a gallery and medal storage at Durham University, a research and study centre in Spennymoor, temporary exhibitions and a learning and outreach programme.

Splitting the collection was contentious for Faithful Durham, who argued it needed a “substantial display”.

It became part of plans for a new £19m History Centre at Mount Oswald in Durham to offer “a complete picture of an evolving county” in a state-of-the-art attraction.

The county council’s latest review says keeping the entire collection at the old DLI Museum is “not practicable or recommended” and would harm the History Centre’s exhibitions and put the project at risk, jeopardising more than £1.2m of grant funding.

But it found using the building as a museum, gallery and café, with display space for some collection items, could add a much-needed attraction to Durham, complementing the History Centre.

Ms Inglis said: “You never get everything that you want.

“But at least these people are trying their best to do what the public want.

“They’re willing to speak to us in the future.

“I welcome the fact there will be a contemplation garden. There are quite a lot of ashes scattered on museum grounds. There’s memorial benches there that have been simply left.

“We could have the garden once again. People could go up there and enjoy the lovely grounds. It could be a real asset to the county.

“We’re just happy that we’re actually being listened to and we’re hopeful that the museum is going to be reopened.”

Findings from further work, including funding, marketing and business plans, are expected to be presented to the council’s cabinet in early 2022.

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