Future plans for Bath’s world-renowned Fashion Museum revealed

Bath’s world-renowned Fashion Museum at the city’s Assembly Rooms will be close to the public on Sunday 30th October 2022, Bath & North East Somerset Council has said.

The Assembly Rooms in Bath | Photo © Bath Venues

The final opening day will mark the last of the museum’s almost 60 years at the site, with plans announced to put the collection into temporary storage until a new venue is made available.

The B & NES Council says a new museum will be created along with a purpose-built Collections Study Center.

Proposals to acquire a leasehold property in Bath’s Milson Quarter for the new attraction have been published, using grant funding secured from the West of England Joint Committee.

Although the exact location of the new site has yet to be confirmed, the Milsom Quarter Masterplan says the area will provide a home to an enhanced Fashion Museum.

The local authority is also planning to open a bespoke new Collections Study Center to house the collection, provide new facilities for events and 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 their creative courses.

Pre-Covid, the Fashion Museum attracted more than 100,000 visitors a year.

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.

Photo © B & NES Council

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.

In 2021, more than 603,000 people worldwide saw Fashion Museum objects, thanks to the Museum’s loans program.

Councilor 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 Center will be a home for our world-class collection of ove100,000 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 Center and take a closer look at the collection, beyond what is on display in the museum.”

Councilor 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 the project, the B & NES Council says the new Fashion Museum and Collections Study Center are likely to be completed in the next five to eight years.

In the meantime, the Fashion Museum team will engage with residents and national and international supporters through a program of digital content, loans to museums worldwide and events.

The Fashion Museum is now preparing for the final exhibition at its current home: You Choose.

This 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.

You Choose opens on Saturday 14th May 2022 and will run alongside the current A History of Fashion in 100 Objects display.

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