The under-threat Captain Cook Birthplace Museum is being considered as part of a study into heritage sites by the TVCA.

A controversial proposal to close the museum as part of Middlesbrough Council’s Budget savings was put on hold last month amid strong public opposition.

At a meeting of the council’s regeneration scrutiny panel on Wednesday, Martin Peagam, chair of the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum Trust, said they had reached out to the TVCA and believed there was “some interest in possible grant funding” for investment in the museum.

He also said there was a potential donor in the private sector who was “seriously interested” in putting money into the visitor attraction at Stewart Park.

“I think for the way forward, seeking grants and sponsorship – we have to be open to it,” he said.

A spokesperson for the combined authority said they had worked with local authority partners to commission a feasibility study of the region’s heritage sector.

“The study aims to build a collective vision for the role that the sector plays in growing the visitor economy, as well as understanding the vital role of heritage sites and services in community life,” he said.

“The study will identify opportunities for strengthening the region’s heritage sector landscape to build sustainability and resilience for the long term. We can confirm the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum will be part of this review.”

The museum in Stewart Park opened in 1978 and tells the explorer’s life story through galleries, temporary exhibitions and events. The proposed closure of the museum was initially included in the council’s Budget proposals but was deferred in February following public consultation.

The meeting heard the museums service needs to save £100,000 as part of the savings and, although the museum was granted a temporary reprieve, the challenge still exists. The council has said it is reviewing its options for the museum, which could include searching for a third-party provider to run it, reducing running costs and developing a plan to attract more visitors.

Mr Peagam said the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum Trust could not take it on “at present” as he said he believed the council “expected”. But he went on to say: “It’s not impossible – that’s what I would say to this meeting.

“We would need real clarity on the costs and any legal responsibilities that would be there and, above all, would need clarity on the condition of the building.” Mr Peagam said the message from tour operators is there is significant demand, both nationally and internationally, to visit Captain Cook’s birthplace, noting many of the people signing a petition to save the museum live abroad.

In terms of funding, he said energy, staffing and footfall were the main issues affecting the museum. “Let me be quite clear, from my point of view, I have no desire to sack staff, he said. “They are committed, they are informed and they know what they are doing within the museum service but we need to get the right staffing in the right place.”

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Up to 40 people had expressed an interest in volunteering following the threat of closure, he said. “Even if the museum was to open with reduced hours across the week I am fairly confident we could find volunteers,” he added.

Mr Peagam said the energy system at the museum was “insufficient” and, in terms of boosting footfall, finding ways of attracting repeat visitors was key. In the long term, Mr Peagam said he believed a new, modern museum at the entrance of Stewart Park would be the best outcome.

Quoting Captain Cook after one of his voyages, Mr Peagam told the meeting; “Ambition leads me not only farther than any another man has been before me but as far as I think it is possible for any man to go.”

Mr Peagam said he hoped to “channel some of that ambition” to secure the future of the museum.