So now we know – October 30th will be the final opening day for Bath’s Fashion Museum after nearly sixty years located in the basement of the iconic Assembly Rooms. The National Trust – who own it – have other plans in mind for the building.
Following closure, the fashion collection will move to temporary accommodation until a new Museum, located in the centre of the city, is prepared for a relaunch of this major city attraction. An announcement on where that will be exactly is expected soon but it could be some years before museum is back in business.
The Council’s also aiming to created a purpose-built Collection’s Study Centre in Locksbrook.
Plans by the council for a new relocated, Fashion Museum are included in a publication of proposals to acquire a leasehold property in Bath’s Milson Quarter for the new attraction, using grant funding secured from the West of England Joint Committee. These recommendations are set out in a Single Member Decision report.
Although the exact location of the new home has yet to be confirmed, the Milsom Quarter Masterplan highlights that the Milsom St. Core (comprising Milsom Street and New Bond Street) will provide a home to an enhanced Fashion Museum. The Masterplan also highlights the opportunity for this area to become a nationally renowned fashion destination centred around the new institution, a range of high-end retailers and space for makers and creative industries.
In addition, the council also plans to open a bespoke new Collections Study Centre to house the collection, to provide new facilities for events and to allow the public to get a closer look at the collection. A purpose-built facility is being proposed at a council-owned site in Locksbrook. This will adjoin a significant new development by Bath Spa University for all their creative courses.
Taken together, these projects form one of the most significant cultural infrastructure investments in the country and will contribute to the wider regeneration of Bath while offering new visitors experiences to tourists and locals alike. The Study Centre and University facility will form a vibrant creative precinct whilst the relocation of the Fashion Museum is a key part of the strategy for regenerating the Milsom Quarter.
Pre-Covid, the Fashion Museum attracted more than 100,000 visitors a year. Through its extensive work with partners in education, industry and heritage the Museum plays its part in shaping the future of fashion and its role within society. Designated by Government as a collection of national significance under the scheme run by Arts Council England, the collection includes over 100,000 objects, making it one of the largest museum collections of historic and contemporary fashionable dress in the world. It includes garments from the 1600s right up to the present day. The collections also include thousands of fashion archive documents, photographs and drawings, including the work of fashion designers, makers and retailers.
The Fashion Museum also has an international reach. In 2021 more than 603,000 people worldwide saw Fashion Museum objects, thanks to the Museum’s loans programme.
Councillor Dine Romero, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, Communities and Culture at Bath & North East Somerset Council, said: “This is an exciting new chapter in the Fashion Museum’s long history; since 1963 the Museum has been connecting people with fashion and it will continue to do so for many years to come.
“Although the museum is leaving its current home, this is an opportunity to look at how the Fashion Museum can best serve its audiences. The new Collections Study Centre will be a home for our world-class collection of over 100,000 objects and will also provide us with a space to offer events and access to the museum collection for anyone who wants to see it. The public, industry experts and academics will all be able to visit the Collections Study Centre and take a closer look at the collection, beyond what is on display in the museum.”
Councillor Richard Samuel, Deputy Council Leader and Cabinet Member for Economic Development and Resources, said: “I am pleased that these recommendations to acquire a property for the Fashion Museum have come forward, and would like to thank our West of England partners for the funding they have made available for this. A new home for the Fashion Museum is a key part of our plans to regenerate the Milsom Quarter and I will consider the recommendations set out in the report carefully before making a decision.”
Due to the scale of what will be one of the most significant cultural infrastructure projects in the UK, new Fashion Museum and Collections Study Centre are likely to be completed in the next five to eight years. In the meantime, the Fashion Museum team will continue to engage with local residents and national and international supporters through an exciting programme of digital content, loans to museums worldwide, events and more.
The Fashion Museum is now preparing for the final exhibition at its current home: You Choose. This innovative new exhibition has been co-curated by members of the local community, who were asked to consider the question ‘What does fashion mean to you?’ Working with the curatorial team, they then chose items from the collection that they feel reflect them and their take on fashion and dress history.
The resulting exhibition is a vibrant celebration of fashion, and its varying and contrasting role in modern life. You Choose opens on Saturday 14 May 2022 and will run alongside the current A History of Fashion in 100 Objects display.