A NEWLY proposed history centre in County Durham set to open to the public next year has taken a major step forward – despite ‘political intervention’ claiming credit for the overall project.

It was revealed by Durham County Council earlier this week that the centre, which is currently under construction and due to open to the public in 2023, is to be called The Story at Mount Oswald.

The project, which was initiated by the authority’s former Labour administration, will house the DLI collection in an extended and upgraded Grade II listed Mount Oswald Manor House - providing a secure future for more than five miles of county archives, charting almost 900 years of history.

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County Durham Labour deputy leader, Cllr Rob Crute, has welcomed the progress on the project, by saying: “I am delighted to see this project coming to fruition, although a name more associated with the DLI would have been more appropriate than the rather generic “The Story”.

“This history centre is an initiative conceived, procured, and constructed by the previous Labour administration, with the intention of displaying the DLI collection, along with other archives associated with County Durham’s proud past.

“I’m sure the people of Durham will embrace this important and enriching addition to the county’s cultural offer, which will also bring more people to visit our fantastic medieval city.”

The Northern Echo: An artist impression of the history centre. Picture: DURHAM COUNTY COUNCIL.An artist impression of the history centre. Picture: DURHAM COUNTY COUNCIL.

A key new cultural venue supporting the county’s bid to be named UK City of Culture 2025, The Story will transform the way the history of County Durham is told, helping people to discover the past, celebrate the present and create the future of Durham.

There will be free entry to permanent and temporary exhibitions at the site which will tell of the history of the county, brought to life through the often-unheard voices and lesser told narrative of the working people and communities who have been pivotal in shaping the county.

Cllr Elizabeth Scott, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for economy and partnerships, said: “The Story is a fitting name as the site will help to create new stories and share old ones.

The Northern Echo: The history centre will take over the old Mount Oswald Hall. Picture: NORTHERN ECHO.The history centre will take over the old Mount Oswald Hall. Picture: NORTHERN ECHO.

“This includes registering a birth, celebrating love stories through weddings and civil partnerships, and sharing tales of honour won in battle alongside the history of our towns and villages, our traditions, our culture, and our homes.

“History and heritage are an integral part of County Durham and our heritage venues, like The Story, are central to our bid to be named UK City of Culture 2025.

“Once open, the venue will allow us to show off even more of our diverse cultural offering to residents and visitors of all ages, backgrounds, and circumstance.”

Despite the County Durham history centre taking shape, the Labour group has maintained that the project “wouldn’t have happened” without the parties’ administration on the council.

The Northern Echo: County Durham Labour deputy leader, Cllr Rob Crute,. Picture: COUNTY DURHAM LABOUR.County Durham Labour deputy leader, Cllr Rob Crute,. Picture: COUNTY DURHAM LABOUR.

Labour Shadow Cabinet member for Strategic Housing and Assets, Cllr Kevin Shaw, added: “This is a fantastic project for Durham showcasing the DLI collection and finding a fitting home for our cultural and historic archives, but people should be under no illusions – this project would not have happened under the current administration.

“In fact, this Coalition Council is actively undermining this new facility before its even open, talking up plans to reopen the former DLI museum at Aykley Heads.

“County Durham needs more progressive projects like this, not regressive ones that cost millions and do nothing but tie financial millstones around the necks of our county’s taxpayers.”

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