CONSULTANTS working on Durham’s new history centre have given a sneak peek at how the exhibition space inside the attraction will look.

Cheshire-based attraction design consultancy, Mather & Co, has been appointed to design the exhibition and interpretation for a new history centre at Mount Oswald Manor.

Durham County Council is restoring the Grade II listed manor house and turning it into a "vibrant and interactive local history hub" to bring together archive, heritage and registration services in a single location on the edge of Durham City.

And even though it is not due to open until 2023, the company now working on plans for the exhibition space inside has shared a couple of images of how it is likely to look.

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Mather & Co said the attraction, which will be operated by the council, will include ultra-modern search rooms, innovative digital facilities, allocated learning space, exhibition and interpretation spaces and café.

There will be a focus on the stories of working people and everyday families, supported by the rich archival collections housed at the centre.

New methods of storytelling will be “complementary and in partnership with the existing heritage offer”.

The Northern Echo:

A CGI of the transformation exhibition area Picture: Kelsey Mulvey (Mather & Co)

Design director Paul Lee, of Mather & Co, said: “The History Centre will preserve and showcase the heritage and ingenuity of the working people and families of County Durham from first settlements to technical advances and future planning.

“It will introduce and connect local audiences to their collective heritage archive and become a collections hub for the future.”

The Northern Echo:

Archives and digital forum at Durham History Centre Picture: Kelsey Mulvey (Mather & Co)

Read more: Approval for history centre at Durham's Mount Oswald Manor House

Construction company Kier was appointed by Durham County Council to carry out the refurbishment and redevelopment of the 19th century building.

When it opened, there will be free entry to permanent and temporary exhibitions exploring the history of County Durham.

Alongside the venue, there will be an interactive countywide outreach programme; an activity programme with storytelling sessions, kids takeover days, behind the scenes tours, volunteering opportunities and community projects and an education programme for local schools.

The redeveloped Mount Oswald will replace the Aykley Heads House and Bishop Auckland register offices - although a facility to register births and deaths will remain in Bishop Auckland - and Durham County Council says the new enhanced registration facilities will enable couples to hold weddings and civil ceremonies in a stunning location with up to 100 guests.

The Northern Echo:

The heritage centre project has secured grants from The Wolfson Foundation and The National Lottery Heritage Fund to enhance the exhibition space and appoint a dedicated interpretation and exhibitions officer.

The development of the history centre comes as County Durham bids to be named UK City of Culture 2025.

Last month the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport announced that Durham is among its longlist of eight locations that will progress to the next stage of the prestigious contest, with the winner set to be named in May 2022.

The Northern Echo: Durham County Councillor Elizabeth Scott

Councillor Elizabeth Scott, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for economy and partnerships, said: “The new history centre will be a dynamic heritage hub for all of County Durham where our history will be celebrated and preserved for generations to come, a place for residents of all ages, backgrounds and circumstance to discover more about their ancestors and the people and events that shaped our communities.

“By staging temporary and touring exhibitions, linking up with schools, digitising our collections and also hosting fascinating talks and workshops, we can showcase the county’s treasures to a far greater audience than ever before.

“The development of the history centre is an important part of our bid to be named UK City of Culture 2025, further showcasing our diverse heritage and cultural offering.” 


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