Well, the confirmation of the move of Bath’s Fashion Museum from the Assembly Rooms to the Old Post Office in the centre of the city isn’t much of a surprise – but don’t expect a reopening any time soon!
Seems that could take anywhere from 3 to 8 years – depending on fundraising – and there is a lot of money involved.
A new Fashion Collection Archive also has to be created in Locksbrook, to the west of the city centre, to house the collection. Both centres will be subject to the same opening time scale.
To help deliver the project, Bath & North East Somerset Council has submitted a £20 million bid to the UK Government’s Levelling Up Fund, to help complete the £37 million project. The project will boost the visitor economy of the region and create jobs and opportunities for local and regional people. The council has also received a £2.4 million grant from the West of England Combined Authority, which will contribute towards the regeneration of the Milsom Quarter, including the opening of the new Fashion Museum.
Councillor Kevin Guy, Leader of Bath & North East Somerset Council, commented: “Located in the heart of Bath, the Old Post Office presents us with a unique opportunity to create one of the world’s great museums of fashion. It will be more accessible, engage with a wider range of people, tell a greater range of stories than we’ve ever been able to do before and will help to boost surrounding businesses.”
He continues: “The relocation of the Fashion Museum to the Old Post Office forms part of our wider Milsom Quarter Masterplan, an ambitious 20-year vision to transform the Milsom Quarter area of Bath into a fashion destination for the South-West, attracting creative industries to the area, relocating the Fashion Museum and providing 180 new homes.”
“The project will not only provide a home for this internationally important collection but will also provide strong benefit to the local area. Together, the new Museum and Fashion Collection Archive will increase visits and overnight stays to the area – boosting the visitor economy and employment and helping to catalyse the regeneration of an area of the city centre hard hit by covid. It will provide upskilling and reskilling opportunities to local communities and increase access to, and use of, one of the world’s leading museum collections of fashionable dress for education, creative industries and members of the public. It will also provide cultural engagement opportunities to local audiences who have traditionally not visited the Fashion Museum.”
Rosemary Harden, Fashion Museum Manager, added: “The Fashion Museum’s collection is of national and international significance. It is one of the best museum collections of fashion and dress in the world, as well as being a vital part of the heritage and cultural history of the city of Bath. It is important that we are able to care for this world-class collection and make it accessible to everyone who wishes to visit, and our future buildings are equipped to allow us to do this. We feel that the Old Post Office offers great opportunities to display the Museum collection in different ways and will allow us to develop future events, exhibitions, learning spaces, etc.”
She goes on to say: “The collection is so extensive that we can use it as a touchstone to explore a variety of contemporary issues such as sustainability and identity. Through our community consultation so far we’ve found that the collection can fascinate, delight and inspire!”
“While the Museum is closed, we will continue to develop our loans programme, so that supporters of the Fashion Museum across the world will continue to be able to see the collection in other galleries and museums. In addition, you will still be able to view the Museum digitally and there will be opportunities to take part in activities and events throughout the closure period.”
A home for the collection:
As well as the new Museum location, the Council will open a purpose-built Fashion Collection Archive in the Bath Spa University Creative Arts Quarter in Locksbrook (an area to the west of the city centre of Bath). This will provide a home for the collection and a place where displays for the city centre Museum will be prepared. This building will be accessible to all (including the public, filmmakers, and industry specialists), who will have the opportunity to interact with the wider collection through special events, activities and study sessions. The Museum is partnering with Bath Spa University on this new project, which will open in the next three to five years.
What will happen to the collection when the current Museum closes?
The current Museum in the Assembly Rooms will close on Sunday, October 30, 2022 and the collection will be housed close to Bath in temporary accommodation.
The Fashion Museum will continue to loan items to other museums for exhibitions, and in 2021, 603,000 people saw objects from the Museum’s collection worldwide. Items are currently on loan to:
- Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear at the V&A, London until 6 November 2022 and then touring in 2023 with venues confirmed in Beijing and Shengu.
- Mary Quant: Fashion Revolutionary – a touring V&A exhibition that was on display at Taipei Fine Arts Museum until 28 August 2022. Next venue is the Bunkamura Museum of Art in Tokyo, Japan, opening 26 November 2022. Previous venues include V&A, London (2019/2020); V&A Dundee (2020); Bendigo Art Gallery, Australia (2021); and Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, New Zealand (2021/2022) – over 20 pieces from the Fashion Museum collection have been loaned to the show.
- Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk – a V&A exhibition that is currently on tour. Previous venues include V&A, London (2020) and World Culture Museum, Gothenburg (2021). Due to open at Musée du Quai Branly in Paris on 22 November 2022 and then possibly move to Zurich.
Coming up this autumn Dandy Style at Manchester Art Gallery, 06 October 2022 to 01 May 2023 and Mirror Mirror. On Fashion and the Psyche at MoMu Antwerp, 07 October 2022 to 26 February 2023.
- The Fashion Museum collection is in the care of Heritage Services which is part of Bath and North East Somerset Council, who also operate the world-famous Roman Baths, the Victoria Art Gallery and Bath Record Office.
- The Fashion Museum is one of the world’s great museum collections of historical and contemporary fashionable dress and is Designated by government as a collection of outstanding significance. It contains over 100,000 artefacts and attracts 100,000 visitors a year to the city of Bath.
- The museum began as the personal collection of Doris Langley Moore OBE (1902 -1989). Through her network of famous and influential connections she built up an extensive collection of fashionable dresses. Her book, The Woman in Fashion, published in 1949, brought great public attention to her collection. She presented her first ‘Museum of Costume’ at Eridge Castle in Kent in 1955. She gifted the collection to Bath City Council in 1959, and worked with the council to open the Museum of Costume in the Assembly Rooms in 1963. In 2007 the Museum changed its name to Fashion Museum Bath.
- The Milsom Quarter Master Plan is an ambitious 20-year vision to transform the Milsom Quarter area of Bath into a fashion destination for the South-West. It proposes the following changes to the area:
- The Milsom Quarter will become home to a growing residential population, with around 180 new homes being developed (through the construction of new builds and the repurposing of upper floors that are currently vacant), it will become a more attractive place for city centre living as a low-car neighbourhood with greener and more attractive streets and public spaces.
- Existing buildings within the area will be sensitively retrofitted to enhance their environmental performance.
- Space for local amenities will be provided to support the growing residential population.
- Space for food and beverage uses and visitor accommodation, as well as space for businesses including creative workspace and maker space will help create a more sustainable balance of uses in the quarter.
Further details on the Master Plan can be found here.