In shape and Bath fashion.

I know council officials have been paying some recent attention to empty shops – and even some not empty yet – in the Milsom Street ‘quarter’.

They are on the look out for a suitable place to house their world-famous Fashion Museum – which must face moving from its long-term current home by 2023 at the latest.

The Assembly Rooms

It opened in the Assembly Rooms on May 23rd 1963 – as the Museum of Costume – and has grown impressively since its foundation around a private collection donated by writer and designer Dorothy Langley Moore.

The museum changed its name to The Fashion Museum in 2007 but has now been given notice to leave by the building’s owners – the National Trust – who have other plans for the complex.

The museum looks after more than 100,000 objects and – whatever is decided – the bulk of the collection is going to have to go into virtual storage with a High-Street-styled ‘shop-window’ – of a still reasonable size – open to the general public.

This is an issue that is going to be discussed at a Cabinet meeting of the Council when a revised business plan is presented by Heritage Services which manages the Museum, the Roman Baths and Pump Room, and the Victoria Art Gallery.

The plan presents business strategy proposals to stabilise the effects of the Covid pandemic and rebuild “visitor numbers and financial performance on a sustainable basis, whilst maintaining the high standards of visitor experience, conservation and presentation that are the bedrock of commercial success.”

You don’t need me to tell you how important Bath’s Roman remains and Georgian architecture are in generating a tourist industry of great economic benefit and one that has been hit hard by Covid 19.

The Great Bath

How soon that new Fashion Museum set up will be available is open to question.

The report says:

The Service will bring forward proposals to relocate the Fashion Museum to a better location and to create a Collections Centre to house the Museum’s ‘Designated’ collection to retain public access to it for study and learning and enable important objects in it to be prepared for loan to prestigious exhibitions elsewhere (in 2019 over one million people saw Fashion Museum objects at exhibitions in London, New York, Vienna, Bruges and Bendigo, Australia).

Even if a new museum is not ready at the termination of the Assembly Rooms’ lease in March 2023, appropriate accommodation into which to move the Fashion Museum collections will be essential.

So they have got to find somewhere to keep it all – regardless of whether that includes generating a local income.

The report states that 2021/2 will see the completion of the new 5 million pound Heritage Lottery Fund supported Archway Project in the old laundry adjoining York and Swallow Streets.

This will provide a World Heritage Centre – explaining how the city earned this UNESCO designation – and a Clore Learning Centre and extension to the Roman Baths.

Subject to Cabinet agreement of course.

The report continues:

It is recognised that, due to the pandemic’s adverse impacts on all aspects of the tourism economy (both domestic and international), financial returns to the Council may not recover to pre-pandemic levels until at least 2024/25.

Because of this, the opportunity to develop and monetise high-quality digital content is being explored.

The Cabinet will be asked to back a continuing policy of reducing dependence on coach-borne business to reduce congestion and putting a stronger focus on generating longer-stay visitors who would bring greater economic benefit to the city.

The Council was in the middle of trying to win itself another World Heritage status UNESCO designation as part of the Great Spas of Europe which would earn it another accolade.

The hot spring waters

I am a bit concerned about a proposal to ‘review the resident’s Discovery Card scheme‘ which currently gives us ratepayers free entry to attractions like the Roman Bath but glad to see proposals for updating the capture of energy from the city’s hot springs to reduce running costs and the Pump Room and Roman Baths and a proposal to repair the roof at the Victoria Art Gallery and incorporate photovoltaic glass panels to convert sunshine into electricity.

Victoria Art Gallery

Heritage Services propose retaining its temporary retail warehouse in its non-city centre location to eliminate multiple merchandise supplier delivery journeys into centre Bath but will aim to acquire an electric van to move supplies from warehouse to the Service’s museums.

The fact the new Cabinet is looking at its heritage assets so early in its existence is some measure of how important the ruling administration regard tourism’s essential contribution to the district’s economy.

Maybe they should look at the now vacant Debenham’s store in Southgate as a new home for the Fashion Museum, says follower Esther smith.

She writes:

“Of course l don’t know about the costings, but how about the Debenhams Store for Bath’s Fashion Museum?

On the ground floor there’s room for a cafe and sizeable Fashion Museum shop. The first floor offering a lovely exhibition space, and the upper floors available for storing the collection and with space for research. What a tourist attraction and right by transport hubs too – with rail and buses close by.

It would be a lovely modern display space and without too much damaging daylight. It would have good disable access and room to have a permanent museum area as well as well as themed changing exhibitions – a bit like the Victoria Art Gallery.

A visitor experience that has a modern touch as well as historical appeal. Never mind the money – think about the WOW factor and what would be a potential future attraction for the city – attracting footfall to the area too.”

Thanks for that Esther. What do other people think?