Natural History Museum

Re: Natural History Museum

Postby GrahamH » Wed Apr 14, 2010 11:04 pm

:D

Wonderful news. Can't remember the last time I was in there it was that long ago. The restored staircase looks magnificent.

Arguably the real star of the show is Philip Bromwell. As ever, an outstanding, beautifully crafted report. The only true television journalist in Ireland.
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Re: Natural History Museum

Postby Global Citizen » Thu Apr 15, 2010 1:04 am

publicrealm wrote:
I'm delighted there was insufficient money to bugger it up.


Well said.

The recession is a blessing in disguise here in more ways than one.

Not only will the museum be spared the vandalism that would have resulted in the
proposed extension, but any talk of moving the Senate here is also out the window now.

Thank heaven for small mercies like credit crunches.

I can't wait to visit here again when it reopens.

For once we left well enough alone.
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Re: Natural History Museum

Postby Paul Clerkin » Thu Apr 15, 2010 1:06 am

I cannot wait to bring my kids - they're 3 and 5 so would not have seen it. I reckon the eldest will love it. The smallest will just climb the exhibits....
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Re: Natural History Museum

Postby archipig » Thu Apr 15, 2010 2:15 pm

The museum will reopen Thursday 29th April
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Re: Natural History Museum

Postby saintleger » Thu Apr 29, 2010 2:17 pm

Just been down to have a look, and while it's great that it's open again, I'd have to say I'm disappointed. They've made a pig's ear of the entrance. They've built a whopping great wall across it, to create a lobby area. I'm assuming this is so they can regulate the atmosphere within, but it ruins the view of the giant Irish deer (or elk?) just inside the entrance, and means the wow factor you used to have on entering is gone. If they really do need to regulate the atmosphere, would they not have used glass? Maybe it's futureproofing against pay per view.

Also, because you can't go upstairs on the balconies on the first floor, (the railings failed the health and safety audit) you no longer get a decent view of the large animals on the first floor. They're mounted on high plinths, which was fine when you could look down on them from above, but now you're stuck looking at their undercarriages.

I understand their health and safety concerns regarding the upper balconies' low railings (well actually I don't, it's not like people used to fall over the edge, but let's pretend for a minute that I do) but I don't understand why they can't put a couple of steel cables at an appropriate height. Even if only on some part of the upper balcony, to create a viewing area.

It's good to see the grand staircase at the back opened to the public - it would be nicer if half of it wasn't boxed off with later offices.

Still, it's a great relief to see it re-opened, and for the most part it retains its cluttered Victorian glass case character.
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Re: Natural History Museum

Postby GrahamH » Fri Apr 30, 2010 12:54 am

saintleger, from what I understand of it, the reason the second floor balconies are closed off is that they failed fire evacuation times, rather than insufficient balustrade levels. This was one of the main reasons the major refurbishment was proposed: to provide contained fire exits from second floor level. As a result, only staff members and researchers will now be allowed access to this floor, presumably with prior notification of exit procedures.

Can't wait to see it again, not having been in for many a moon. If there's one thing that is most irritating about the media coverage of all of this, it is the all-consuming focus on children. One would think it was an exclusively children's attraction such is the way it has been portrayed by broadcast outlets. Still, it is wonderful to see kids so engaged with and animated about a national heirloom such as this. Long may it continue to enthrall.
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Re: Natural History Museum

Postby dc3 » Fri Apr 30, 2010 7:54 am

Nice to have it back. Sorry to hear about the wall.

Good time to also recall that Dublin must be one of very few capitals not to have a museum devoted to the City itself, since the Civic Museum closed "temporarily", - a matter of supreme indifference to the citizens and their rulers even in the good years when there was money for every sort of crazy project.
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Re: Natural History Museum

Postby PVC King » Fri Apr 30, 2010 9:32 am

I heard somewhere that the Civic Museum had fire egress issues which will be very expensive and logistically challenging to resolve; I stand to be corrected on this.

In terms of museums it is I think only a matter of time before there are charges to them; we are way out of step with most countries granting free access; the winners being the bus companies who soak up that section of the tourists budget which otherwise would go on museum admission; lets be honest some of the collections held are well worth paying to see. The argument for keeping museums free is largely based on the very important role that museums play in childrens education; if all under 18s and all student card holders were granted free admission then tourists visiting here would simply revert to the european norm; this way the museums could earn income towards their ongoing maintenance and to acquire important historcal material which does the auction house rounds every 20 to 30 years as collectors pass on.
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Re: Natural History Museum

Postby saintleger » Fri Apr 30, 2010 9:59 am

dc3 wrote:Nice to have it back. Sorry to hear about the wall.

Good time to also recall that Dublin must be one of very few capitals not to have a museum devoted to the City itself, since the Civic Museum closed "temporarily", - a matter of supreme indifference to the citizens and their rulers even in the good years when there was money for every sort of crazy project.


Well, the contents of the Civic Museum have all been transferred to the city archive in Pearse Street Library, no? So the building it was housed in was closed, but the collection is available upstairs in Pearse Street, if I understand. I could be wrong, I never went to the old museum, so not sure if there are omissions.

I'm surprised nobody has mentioned City Hall, "The Story of the Capital" exhibition/collection when discussing the idea of a museum of the city. It's small, but I think it does the job quite well.

Graham, that makes more sense, alright, I can see it would be a fire hazard as it stands, tripping over toddlers crawling backwards down the stairs. I still think the access to the upper levels is very important to the experience of the museum, and something should be worked out. I think the current solution indicates the priorities of the museum curators - they're interested in the collection, whereas I see the collection as one aspect of the museum, and I actually think the importance of this particular museum lies in its architecture and history.
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Re: Natural History Museum

Postby Global Citizen » Fri Apr 30, 2010 11:34 am

PVC King wrote:
In terms of museums it is I think only a matter of time before there are charges to them; we are way out of step with most countries granting free access; the winners being the bus companies who soak up that section of the tourists budget which otherwise would go on museum admission; lets be honest some of the collections held are well worth paying to see. The argument for keeping museums free is largely based on the very important role that museums play in childrens education; if all under 18s and all student card holders were granted free admission then tourists visiting here would simply revert to the european norm; this way the museums could earn income towards their ongoing maintenance and to acquire important historcal material which does the auction house rounds every 20 to 30 years as collectors pass on.


It will be a sad day indeed when we are charged an admission fee to view the collections in our national museums.

I don't understand the logic behind the tour buses gaining an advantage. How will charging an entrance fee into the museums entice a budgeting tourist off his tour bus ?
Furthermore, there appears to be an underlying assumption here that only tourists visit the museums. This is far from the case and introducing a charge to get in will dissuade many regular visitors from attending as often, and discourage many who have never been from ever doing so.
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Re: Natural History Museum

Postby GrahamH » Fri Apr 30, 2010 12:12 pm

I'd have to disagree. Indeed far from a charge dissuading tourists from entering the museums, I'd imagine most get off the bus or walk in off the street with wallet in hand, only to be pleasantly surprised at being able to walk carefree into the building, sliding the cash back into the back pocket. There is significant potential for revenue generation through entrance charges, not only to supplement or partly replace existing central funding, but also to enable the museums to develop, conserve and better present their collections. Ireland's museums have always been cash-starved - it is not a problem exclusive to the current economic backdrop.

Likewise, as suggested by PVC King, universal and free access to all those under 18 years of age is sufficient to cover the museums' critical educational role, while for regular users the museums can simply be added to the existing OPW Heritage Card system, which costs a minuscule €21 a year for free access to all OPW sites across the State. The Sunday family trip with hoards of kids likewise remains largely unaffected. Numerous open days throughout the year can also promote access to those who may otherwise be dissuaded by a charge.

€5 or €6 is an entirely reasonable adult entrance fee to Kildare Street or Collins Barracks. I agree there is a noble air of civic mindedness in being able to walk in unhindered from a busy commercial street to view incredible objects from the past, but equally we have to be realistic about the realities of maintaining such collections, never mind expanding or developing them and the historic properties in which they are housed.
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Re: Natural History Museum

Postby aj » Fri Apr 30, 2010 3:33 pm

many Museums / attractions on the continent have free entry for citizens on the production of a valid piece of ID, the Boboli Gardens in Florence comes to mind.

Why not charge Tourists a small nominal fee and let the citizens who maintin the museum via taxes continue to have free entry?
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Re: Natural History Museum

Postby PVC King » Fri Apr 30, 2010 9:43 pm

In Bolivia a number of years ago in their Art Museum they had a twin price approach; little for locals say 20c and $7us for tourists; given that the majority of tourists will pay close to €7 a pint in the Temple of Bars they'd feel even more ripped off. But I do see Temple of Bars aside the merit in what you say. you could picture the chaos of all those weekenders from Bolton claiming to have an Irish grandmother and spending ages trying to explainwhy they personally didn't have to pay.


I agree with Graham's pricing matrix these are very high quality and sizeable collections; no doubt when the National Museum sends specific collections abroad the vast bulk of those viewing them would be paying to view them anyway. Worst case scenario it is a good press release for NTMA to display that the assets are being sweated at every possible opportunity; cutbacks would be a much worse result as some of the highly qualified experts would emmigrate and may not return.
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Re: Natural History Museum

Postby publicrealm » Wed May 05, 2010 9:16 pm

Had my first lunchtime fix today and I'm still smiling at nine o' clock Place was jammed with excited kids and parents (many completely ignoring the ban on photography). :D

Lots of stuff nicely cleaned-up, but not excessively so (pleased to see that the stuffing is still coming out of the suspended basking shark on the ground floor - and that he still dances when people on the first floor walk over him (her?)).

Didn't have sufficient privacy to establish whether the baboons can still be made to dance.

The ('temporary') loss of access to the upper levels is sad, so some ringfenced funding must be found to restore it. But I absolutely agree with previous comments on admission charges - all under eighteens must be free and I would extend that to pensioners and unemployed if feasible.

I note from the museum website that donations are tax allowable but that they do not appear to have a 'friends' scheme. Strange omission?
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Re: Natural History Museum

Postby PVC King » Thu May 06, 2010 7:12 am

The choice is simple either go back to the bad old days of museums getting funding when it is available or allow the culture industry to act like a business. In terms of extending the provision from the under 18's / third level students there could be an angle in developing a 'social solidarity card' to grant rights of admission plus say off peak travel on public transport etc to pensioners, unemployed etc. The last decade has seen dramatic capacity enhancements across a number of areas in the public services; not all of this capacity is currenty being utilised. This being a uniquely Irish piece of social thinking would unless copied (unlikely) result in the objective of tourist revenue being collected to pay for the benefits derived from our cultural assets being acheived.
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Re: Natural History Museum

Postby rumpelstiltskin » Fri May 07, 2010 9:41 am

PVC King wrote:The choice is simple either go back to the bad old days of museums getting funding when it is available or allow the culture industry to act like a business. In terms of extending the provision from the under 18's / third level students there could be an angle in developing a 'social solidarity card' to grant rights of admission plus say off peak travel on public transport etc to pensioners, unemployed etc. The last decade has seen dramatic capacity enhancements across a number of areas in the public services; not all of this capacity is currenty being utilised. This being a uniquely Irish piece of social thinking would unless copied (unlikely) result in the objective of tourist revenue being collected to pay for the benefits derived from our cultural assets being acheived.


The very notion that I should have to pay to see collections of which I am co-owner is absurd and offensive. Charge for non-Irish citizens if you like, but I don't see anybody paying what will inevitably be about €10 to get into the National Gallery.
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Re: Natural History Museum

Postby MethylRed » Fri May 07, 2010 9:58 am

rumpelstiltskin wrote:The very notion that I should have to pay to see collections of which I am co-owner is absurd and offensive. Charge for non-Irish citizens if you like, but I don't see anybody paying what will inevitably be about €10 to get into the National Gallery.


I tend to agree. They are public collections.
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Re: Natural History Museum

Postby johnglas » Sat May 08, 2010 12:15 am

I think the recent crisis of capitalism should be a caution against market-led approaches; by all means sell 'souvenirs' and have a cafe, but admission should be free.
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Re: Natural History Museum

Postby PVC King » Sat May 08, 2010 9:52 am

rumpelstiltskin wrote:The very notion that I should have to pay to see collections of which I am co-owner is absurd and offensive. Charge for non-Irish citizens if you like, but I don't see anybody paying what will inevitably be about €10 to get into the National Gallery.


There is a large difference between being a passive funder in the form of taxation and making a conscious effort to buy into something i.e. become 'a freind of' a cultural institution. Having been in a situation where there was a differential pricing model at a gallery where the locals paid little and as a tourist you paid a full price it leaves a sour taste which risks losing potential return visits.

As public finances tighten further there iare real risks that the support services underpining all cultural assets will be cut and the ability to aqcuire important items that typical exchange between private collectors on a 30 -50 year cycle could be lost.

Moving into line with most European countries is inevitable due to economic circumstances; however when you look at Parisian museums and galleries and what they have acheived with their income streams it is hard to knock the paid entry route.

I do however think that there needs to be a social balance and in that regard I think the idea of a national solidarity card would give the government a great deal of scope to ensure that access is not denied on the basis of economic disadvantage.

John you clearly don't buy into markets but you have to admit that the only reason the UK can raise money on bond markets is that the deficit has been controlled until 2008; if business approaches aren't taken to government quickly the UK will become the new Greece because like any household you can only borrow what you don't earn for a while; if you continue to borrow you need to spend more and more money paying ever increasing levels of interest.

Giving museums a chance to raise their own revenue really is the best form of self help and enables very specialist staff who make a very valuable contribution to remain in stable employment which many would describe as 'their lifes work'. Protect them.
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Re: Natural History Museum

Postby shytalk » Sat May 08, 2010 2:27 pm

PVC King wrote:There is a large difference between being a passive funder in the form of taxation and making a conscious effort to buy into something i.e. become 'a freind of' a cultural institution. Having been in a situation where there was a differential pricing model at a gallery where the locals paid little and as a tourist you paid a full price it leaves a sour taste which risks losing potential return visits.

As public finances tighten further there iare real risks that the support services underpining all cultural assets will be cut and the ability to aqcuire important items that typical exchange between private collectors on a 30 -50 year cycle could be lost.

Moving into line with most European countries is inevitable due to economic circumstances; however when you look at Parisian museums and galleries and what they have acheived with their income streams it is hard to knock the paid entry route.

I do however think that there needs to be a social balance and in that regard I think the idea of a national solidarity card would give the government a great deal of scope to ensure that access is not denied on the basis of economic disadvantage.

John you clearly don't buy into markets but you have to admit that the only reason the UK can raise money on bond markets is that the deficit has been controlled until 2008; if business approaches aren't taken to government quickly the UK will become the new Greece because like any household you can only borrow what you don't earn for a while; if you continue to borrow you need to spend more and more money paying ever increasing levels of interest.

Giving museums a chance to raise their own revenue really is the best form of self help and enables very specialist staff who make a very valuable contribution to remain in stable employment which many would describe as 'their lifes work'. Protect them.


memo to WHO:

Serious oubreak of virulent strain of jargonophrenia in London. Cure urgently needed.
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Re: Natural History Museum

Postby dc3 » Sat May 08, 2010 5:53 pm

rumpelstiltskin wrote:The very notion that I should have to pay to see collections of which I am co-owner is absurd and offensive. Charge for non-Irish citizens if you like, but I don't see anybody paying what will inevitably be about €10 to get into the National Gallery.


EU and EEA citizens would also have to be given the same concessions as any Irish citizens under Treaty obligations, if I recall correctly a museum guard in Madrid once had to check to see if Ireland was in the EU, rather ironic as we were members years before Spain was permitted to join.

I am amazed no one mentioned the huge decline in visitors to museums in the UK when places such as the V&A were forced to charge access fees (in Mrs T's time) and how visitor numbers exploded when the Labour government made national museums free.
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Re: Natural History Museum

Postby johnglas » Sat May 08, 2010 7:15 pm

PVC: You're quite right to point out the dire state of the public (and private) finances in both Ireland and the UK (listening to some commentators, you'd think we all need to revert to some kind of pre-industrial existence). I never ignore the market, nor would I wish it away, but the importance of continued access to cultural assets in a recession should not be underestimated.
Perhaps the key is to push the 'voluntary contributions' element; even an average of a couple of euros per visitor would bring in some useful revenue - based on the 'if you haven't got a ha'penny, then God bless you' principle.
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Re: Natural History Museum

Postby PVC King » Sat May 08, 2010 7:26 pm

We are in total agreement on preserving access and that is precisely why I would propose the National Solidarity Card which I would extend to off peak public transport to ensure that people in tough economic circumstances can lead full lives until such time as the labour market recovers to give them the resources to pay.

The biggest winners from free museum entry in my opinion are the tour bus companies who charge massive fares; should people have to pay to enter museums I have no doubt that they would as opposed to visiting 6 or 7 museums to see the 'must see exhibit' listed in the guide book and galleries go to 1 or 2 but spend a lot more time in the chosen museum. London has done really well from corporate sponsorship up to recently but I understand that the cultural sponsorship environment has become a lot more challenging of late.

DC3 as always makes a valid point and of Thatcher it must be said that she was a great fan of the big bang approach and if pricing were to be introduced it would need to be graduated over a number of years starting at say €2 year one and stepped up by 50c per year until a level of €5/€7 was hit. If numbers dropped too radically it could be reviewed; again coming back to Paris I would be surprised if they didn't adopt a more graduated approach as unlike Thatcher the result was always more important to the french than the symbology of the decision.
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Re: Natural History Museum

Postby GrahamH » Mon May 10, 2010 1:52 am

I don't think everyone is necessarily in disagreement here. There are countless ways of charging for entry while also retaining an element of free access for all. In addition to a card/friend/member method, there is also the simple system that operates in a number of cities where the museum is just free at weekends, or a designated weekday, or Sunday afternoons, or whatever. I think this is the most successful way of ensuring open access while also generating revenue for most of the year. I don't for a moment buy that these are 'national collections and must be free to view'. Virtually every State site across the island charges for access to maintain upkeep. The museums, by their very unique and broad-ranging nature must maintain universal access, but still should have the option of sustaining themselves in an equitable manner.

To return to the topic in hand, as noted by publicrealm above, it is not until you step inside the Natural History Museum that the magical qualities of the institution are vividly evoked once more. You do indeed spend the entire time there smiling broadly, and continue to do so for much of the rest of the day. The combination of weird and wonderful exhibits, fusty, mellow Victorian interiors, and raucous hoards of children makes for an unforgettable experience. This is truly an institution of international significance.

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Once the geological and zoological collection of the Royal Dublin Society, all of the material of the Museum was formerly housed in Leinster House itself, before a design competition was initiated in 1851 for a new museum building to formally display the thousands of gathered artefacts. This process was promptly stopped when State funding would only be forthcoming on the basis of designs being furnished by the Board of Works – presumably they knowing best in the fickle field of cutting costs. In any event it was a happy occurrance, as the architect, the Board of Works’ Surveyor of Works and Buildings, Frederick Villiers Clarendon, was more than competent as executor of designs for the new building, having successfully extended the Royal Irish Academy around the corner on Dawson Street with a reading room and vast library in the years immediately prior to works on Leinster Lawn.

His design is noble in its simplicity of form, elegance of detail, and deft handling of the practical requirements of an institution that turns its back on the outside world to shield its delicate collections within. It is a much under-rated building, a stoical, but in its own way cheerful, palazzo design that sits quietly and unobtrusively skirting the southern flank of Leinster Lawn.

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Rapidly built between March 1856 and August 1857, what makes the Natural History Museum of particular interest is that all is not quite what it was intended to be. To the modern-day visitor, the Museum is a stand-alone institution with a grandiose entrance addressing Merrion Square. Its design intention was quite the opposite. What Villers Clarendon conceived was a decorous sarcophagus exclusively serving Leinster House: its positioning adjacent to Merrion Square was entirely incidental. Indeed, the building makes no acknowledgement of the existence of the square whatsoever, set back a considerable distance from the street line and devoid of a ceremonial facade. We must bear in mind that the National Gallery had yet to be built, while the site of Government Buildings was a terrace of townhouses. The Museum was little more than a garden folly discreetly tucked away on Leinster Lawn.

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As seen above, as originally designed, there was no entrance to the Museum from Merrion Square. The intention was to provide access to the building from Kildare Street via Leinster House – essentially an extension to the growing complex the RDS was building for itself in and around the 18th century mansion.

Here we can see the Museum’s connection with the main house via a curved screen wall (the lecture theatre in the middle, now the Dáil Chamber, would not arrive until the 1890s).

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A current map view of the original connection.

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As a result, the primary staircase and entrance hall is at the back of the building, while the front – now the principal entrance, installed in 1909 – goes unacknowledged by way of internal architectural treatment.

The southern exterior wall of the Museum, which can be well appreciated from inside the private laneway running alongside Government Buildings, is little more than rubble limestone with brick-lined window opes.

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This is where the proposed new sliver of a glass extension was recently proposed to accommodate access provision to the upper floors, a café and a shop.

The Portland stone carvings dressing the walls of granite ashlar are of a surprisingly high standard and charmingly themed on the natural world. The cornice and frieze is outstandingly detailed, while the linear panels above the pedimented niches show a variety of subjects.

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The central panel depicts Neptune flanked by two dolphins.

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The entire facade, along with that of the National Gallery opposite, was cleaned by the OPW about three years ago – quite the revelation of polychromy that went largely unnoticed by the public. Here it is back in 1994 as photographed by Jacqueline O’Brien.

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Re: Natural History Museum

Postby GrahamH » Mon May 10, 2010 1:59 am

Today.

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The statue of Surgeon Major and explorer T.H. Parke of 1893, by the sculptor Percy Wood, proclaims the entrance to the Museum from Merrion Square.

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Quite an idiosyncratic piece that shows a character beyond the humdrum approach to many public depictions.

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Signed to the base.

The antics in the garden give a taster of what lies in store.

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A lovely little intervention here that goes down a treat as a fun introduction to proceedings. The poor lawn doesn't think so though.

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The Edwardian entrance, unnecessarily compromised by bins (if painted a very nice colour).

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And really, the ramp? Not just why galvanised steel, but why at all?

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Why not slope the (brand new) fawn coloured tarmac up the miniscule gradient to the existing step?

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It creates a disappointly poor first impression.

So moving inside, this is the modern entrance hall, which in effect is the divided off final bay of the ground floor exhibition hall, with original staircases either side of the Edwardian timber porch. The coffered ceiling has just been slabbed over and a stud wall erected.

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Obviously this arrangement is necessary, but requires resolution in the longer term. The skirting of the wall is unfortunate, and the doors would look better with the same pictorial treatment as the wall. A clever idea through that works to eye-catching effect while mitigating the impact of the intervention.
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