Museum closing for major refurbishment, 23 December 2014

The Museum is closing for its major refurbishment, the biggest single investment in its history. Not only will this put the Large Mansion into good heart for the future, but it will effectively create a completely new museum due to open in 2017. While it is sad to see the Museum closing, it is worth celebrating this exciting moment!

Following Vanda Foster’s retirement in the summer, two staff have been appointed for 6 months to support the refurbishment work. Project Curator, Julia Tubman, a conservator, and her assistant, Lucy Smith, a curator, will help to develop the interpretation scheme and oversee the removal of the collections from the Large Mansion. These will be going to a new long-term store off-site; this is being fitted out to provide suitable conditions for the collections, and will have room for volunteers to work on them and for groups to visit. The employment of the museum education team is being transferred to Ealing Council and they will continue to offer an education and events programme. They will be based in the Small Mansion, whose interior has been spruced up. They will be developing new areas of learning, creating workshops which encourage children to engage with aspects of local and national history, expanding the school loan box service and creating new online resources for local history study. Some staff have been re-deployed and we wish them well for the future.

Vanda Foster has been engaged as a freelance adviser to research images and information on the history of the Park and the Large Mansion for future interpretation. She says, “I have had chance to read numerous Rothschild letters and revisit oral histories from the Gunnersbury collections. I have dis-covered many interesting details about servants, food, gardens and the animals in the Park. And it appears that the Rothschild Archive had no idea that polo was played here!”

In addition, Vanda reports that “Jacqui Pearce, Heather Heath and Gunnersbury volunteer, John Marshall, organised a team of volunteers from local archaeology societies who have been working in the Dining Room on 100 boxes of sherds from Pinner, “temporarily” stored at Gunnersbury by the West London Archaeology Field Group. They have now been sorted, weighed and re-boxed; some items will be retained for the handling collection, some are going to the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) store in Mortimer Wheeler House. This has been useful experience for the volunteers and has found a home for what was a problem collection that did not belong to Gunnersbury”.

In relation to the Park, meetings have been held with English Heritage to develop proposals for the café and carriage building. The design team are creating drawings and specifications to send out to prospective contractors with relevant experience of heritage sites. In advance of the re-creation of the western half of the Horseshoe Pond, MOLA have excavated one side of its Middle Bridge to assess its condition; they found the mid 20th century concrete pond liner and sections of earlier concrete edgings.