The museum is grade two-listed. Credit: via Mather & Co

Next step for Sunderland museum revamp

Specialist design firm Mather & Co has been selected to be part of the project team to deliver the next chapter in Sunderland Museum’s story.

The Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens redevelopment project is an opportunity to reshape a key cultural asset, the firm, which works specifically in the exhibition design sphere, said.

Sunderland City Council was awarded a development grant of £299,425 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund in 2022 to develop its plans.

The tender was issued in autumn last yar, with the brief describing SMWG as a popular, free-entry visitor attraction attracting 350,000 visits a year.

Built in 1879, the grade two-listed structure was designed by Tillman Bros, and has been named the first purpose-built civic museum in the UK outside London.

The museum’s repair programme was approved at council level last month.

Having won the public tender from the local authority, Mather & Co has been brought on board to develop a collection and audience-focused interpretation strategy as the partners reach the stage of submitting a delivery phase application to the Heritage Fund.

If successful, this submission will lead to the delivery and realisation of a first-class project that meets Sunderland City Councils core objectives.

The four floors of the museum explore Sunderland’s industrial heritage, with exhibition spaces dedicated to shipbuilding, coal mining, glass making, and pottery as well as other aspects of the city’s past.

Mather & Co said it will aim to co-produce the vision for Sunderland Museum and Winter Garden, deliver a successful application to the Heritage Fund and create a lasting legacy for the city and its people.

With an excess of 100,000 objects, Sunderland’s collections are one of the strengths of the museum. The redevelopment project aims to maintain current audiences, whilst also attracting a more diverse audience through the creation of a more representative museum.

Paul Lee, design director at Mather & Co said: “We are delighted to be part of the project team for Sunderland Museum.

“We are looking forward to working with visitors and local communities to create a space that builds on the popularity of the current museum; bringing out collections that reveal new and untold stories, re-telling favourites with new perspectives, and showcasing the important part Sunderland still plays today.”

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