Borough's archives upgrade takes a key step forward

Archivist Alex Miller at work
Archivist Alex Miller at work

Work is set to begin on the transformation of vacant shops into a new exhibition space for Wigan borough’s archives project.

A £321,000 tender has gone out to find a contractor able to design and create the gallery space in three empty Leigh Town Hall shop units.

Other news: Murder probe launched after woman stabbed to death


Wigan Council’s Archives and Local Studies service last year secured a grant of £1,320,700 from the Heritage Lottery Fund thanks to money raised by National Lottery players for the Revealing Wigan Archives project.

The latest contract is the next stage in delivering the project.

With historic documents dating back 800 years, the service collects, preserves and catalogues thousands of records from schools, churches, hospitals, businesses, families, estates, people, and makes them available to the public.

There will be new volunteering opportunities for people to get involved with the service including helping to digitise collections, hosting visits, welcoming visitors and stewarding exhibitions. The archives are also being made more child-friendly.

Coun Chris Ready, cabinet member for communities whose portfolio covers culture, said: “Our archives are vital to our understanding of Wigan borough’s past and they play a key part in bringing history alive for residents and visitors alike.

“This funding will enhance the cultural offer of Leigh and will complement the fantastic work already ongoing at the Turnpike Gallery.

“We hope to involve the public when deciding the themes for the exhibition.

“We look forward to appointing a creative, specialist design team who shares our values and understand the importance of this project for the people of Leigh and the borough as a whole.”

Along with a new public search room, the three units will be converted into new exhibition space for archives and additional shop units will be used as specialist storage to protect the collection, which will transform the Leigh archives base and restore part of the town hall building.

Wider plans under the Revealing Wigan Archives project also include a new café space in Leigh Town Hall and conservation facilities to catalogue and digitise collections making them more readily accessible.

This tender is to appoint “exhibition design consultants” who will work with the archives and museum team to design the new exhibition space in the former shop units.

The successful design team will help to develop, design and create the new exhibition.

Part of the design consultants’ role though will also include wider public engagement around the exhibition themes. The town hall will provide more information about themes after it has appointed a contractor and once information is available about how consultation or engagement will take place.

The tender is for the exhibition design work only and does not relate to the wider building scheme, work on which has already begun. Bids will be accepted until April 8, with the work expected to begin on May 15.

The exhibition is scheduled to be open to the public next spring. For more details visit www.contractsfinder.service.gov.uk and search “Wigan”.