Our heritage hidden away

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LOCKED away in storerooms from public view across Calderdale are thousands of items charting the district’s heritage.

They include huge examples of steam engines and water power built into the former Halifax Industrial Museum.

Nineteenth century textile machines which could be restored to working order have also been mothballed.

And numerous boxes containing smaller items from children’s toys to textile printing blocks are among Calderdale’s museum collection of 70,000-plus items.

But, the council is now having to turn away donations because of a lack of storage and parts of the collection are housed in buildings needed for disposal or development.

Consequently, a review of the museum and gallery service is underway to develop a strategy for the future.

But, the service will have to run on a reduced budget.

Options include transferring the service to a trust and opening up the collection to a wider audience by working with interested partners.

A council scrutiny panel will comment tonight on a draft strategy drawn up by officers.

A key element is rejuvenating the story of Calderdale through the planned transformation of the Piece Hall and Todmorden Town Hall.

Both developments are seen as having the potential for opening up displays to more people.

Other heritage buildings displaying collections are at Bankfield, Shibden Hall, both Halifax, Heptonstall and Brighouse.

Councillors will also consider shared storage with other authorities as financial pressures are likely to block hopes of an integrated and single storage solution.

Council leader Janet Battye (Lib-Dem, Calder) said the district had a fantastic collection which should be more accessible.

She would like to see the industrial museum, ideally located next to the Piece Hall, reopened if funds could be found.

“It would need to be part of something bigger - people would be fascinated by what we have got,” she said.

Richard Mcfarlane, museums collections manager, said authorities only had around 10 per cent of exhibits on display at any one time and those never displayed were still important for research purposes.

But, a lack of storage space caused difficulties in Calderdale and offers of more items had been declined.

Jeff Wilkinson, curator of industrial history, said the district was blessed with old technology it could still tap into.

“Recognising our heritage would be an investment in the future,” he said.

l Should more money be found for museum pieces to be displayed? Email: yoursay@ halifaxcourier.co.uk