From March 2014 until April 2015, Coventry Transport Museum is undergoing a major £8.5m redevelopment project, which will transform and re-energise the museum, enabling us to tell the story of our City's proud motoring heritage in a world-class, innovative new way.
Our ambitious project, which has been funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the European Regional Development Fund, as well as the Biffa Award and Garfield Weston Foundation, will include significantly upgrading 12 of our 14 current exhibition galleries, the relocation of the shop, the creation of a new entrance/orientation space and new visitor activity areas. It will also include the redevelopment of our neighbouring Grade 1 listed, 12th Century Old Grammar School, which will be brought back into public use as an exhibition, education and events space.
When this work is complete, the Museum and Grammar School will be world-class visitor attractions that will bring people from far and wide to find out more about Coventry's fabulous heritage, as well as offering opportunities for local people to get involved in a wide range of activities. The Museum will also be able to run in a more efficient and sustainable way, thus helping to safeguard the future of Coventry's important heritage.
Work is now well underway on the project, so we thought that this would be a good moment for an update on what we’re up to.
The Old Grammar School
The Old Grammar School building has now been completely covered in scaffolding, to enable a team of stonemasons to assess the quality of the 900-year-old stonework, and to commence work on repairing and conserving those areas that have suffered from years of neglect.
Inside the building, the historic pews (many of which bear the names of former schoolboys engraved upon them during long hours of lessons) have been carefully moved aside to enable work on the building’s floor to take place. Underfloor heating is being installed in the Grammar School, and once the new floor has been laid, the pews will be conserved and replaced in their original locations.
The takeaway shop between the Old Grammar School and the Diplomat Pub has been demolished to make way for a new grand entrance to the Grammar School building. This will include lift access to both floors of the building, as well as new toilet facilities and a kitchen area to enable the Grammar School to be used for catered functions – what a unique space for a special event!
Coventry Transport Museum
Visitors to the museum over the last few days won’t fail to have noticed that scaffolding has been erected in the main entrance area. This is part of the work which is currently taking place to replace the glass around the mezzanine gallery, which will improve soundproofing and temperature control in our new conference suite on the first floor of the museum (directly above the main entrance).
Immediately to the right as you enter the museum, the space which was previously used for temporary exhibitions is being extended and redeveloped, to become the new Land Speed Record Gallery and a new bright and modern museum gift shop. Currently this area is a hive of activity behind the hoardings, as work is done on piling for the extension, and preparing to build the walls of the new shop area, which is due to open in the Autumn of this year. Watch this space for details of how we plan to move the two enormous Land Speed Record cars from their current home, later in the year – it’s going to be rather spectacular.
The gallery which was home to the large commercial vehicle collection (where the Sky Blue Bus used to live) is also being extended out to the west of the building along Hales Street, where two empty shops have been demolished to make space for this extension. This gallery will eventually become our new temporary exhibition area, and piling work is currently in progress for the extension.
Finally, hoardings have also been built in parts of the current introductory gallery. This is where we will be breaking down walls to create a new Pioneers Gallery, which will tell the part of our city’s story that took place during the period 1900 to 1914.
Behind the scenes, a huge amount of work is going into putting the finishing touches to the design and layout of all of the new museum displays. This work is being undertaken by museum staff and a team of exhibition designers, in consultation with a wide range of museum visitors and community groups around the city and the region. We are inviting as many people as possible to contribute to this process, because we want to ensure that we tell our city’s story in a way that accurately reflects the experiences of the people whose lives were shaped by the transport industry, as well as making all of our displays engaging, interesting and accessible to people from all walks of life.
Inevitably with a project of this size, and as you will gather from some of the details above, the museum currently looks a bit different to usual, and there are some galleries that are closed to visitors while they are being worked on. However we have been delighted and heartened that thousands of you continue to visit the museum while the work is ongoing – there is still lots and lots to see and do during your visit, and you’re still absolutely guaranteed the same warm welcome from our staff whenever you choose to come and see us.
Overall, the Redevelopment project is going very well and we are extremely excited about unveiling some absolutely stunning new galleries in the very near future, that will showcase our collection, and tell the incredible story of Coventry’s massive contribution to the world’s transport industry.