Ely Museum

  • Ely Museum
  • Heritage for All
  • £1,822,000
    Total Value
  • NLHF Heritage Grant

Development phase stakeholder consultation, Ely Museum

Ely Museum is located at the centre of the historic city in a restored 13th Century gaol. Collections tell the story of the city, its building and the surrounding Fens from prehistory to today. Ely has many thousands of visitors each year who come to the city because of its heritage, yet most of them did not engage with the museum – this project was developed to address that and relaunch a museum that reflects the audiences it serves today.

Tricolor and the museum team worked closely together to develop both the Activity and Interpretation Plans for a Round 2 application to the National Lottery Heritage Fund for the Unlocking the Potential of the Old Gaol project. The project provided a pivotal opportunity for the organisation to completely revitalise its interaction with visitors and how they experience and discover the rich heritage that the museum represents. Central to this was ensuring that the historic Grade II-listed Bishop’s Gaol and the building’s fascinating history was at the heart of the new visitor experience.

ricolor RIBA 3 render of proposed new layout for submission to HLF

It was crucial that the Activity and Interpretation plans dovetailed, with both springboarding from the same basis of consultation and research that Tricolor led. It was important for the team not only to build a fantastic new museum but to use activities to embed that museum in its local communities so as to build a sustainable future. Common consultation ensured that both the Interpretation and Activity documents spoke with a common voice and provided a wide range of ways for the target audiences to get involved in the museum. Through the project development phase Tricolor and the museum team established a new way of collaborative community working. Over 450 local people took part in a wide-ranging 6 month-long consultation. Their views, needs and preferences directly shaped planning and the whole project.

The consultation showed a desire to see stories that expressed what was specific about living in Ely and East Cambridgeshire. This led to the development of the overall Interpretive Vision and then to the narrative to run through the galleries. Key to what defines the way of life in East Cambridgeshire, and therefore key to the vision, is people’s relationship with the landscape: the flat, fertile fens.

Ely Musem Collections - Tricolor Associates

The second theme which emerged from the consultation was an interest in the history of the building itself, in particular its time as the Bishop’s Gaol. The decision was made to interpret these two distinct narratives by telling the story of the building through its historical features and then for the broader lives in the landscape storyline to sit within and around the building interpretation.

Research for the project also identified a number of video assets produced by local HLF-funded projects so the project included a Heritage Hub that now acts as a district repository for the content and resources created by local heritage projects.

The application to NLHF was successful and a grant of £1.82 million was awarded towards the total project cost of £2.2m. The museum reopened to visitors in May 2021.

Project timeline

  • 2017

  • 01/01/2017


  • 2018

  • 01/01/2018

    Work Complete

  • 2019

  • 01/01/2019

    Funding Secured

  • 03/01/2019

    Museum Closed

  • 2021

  • 01/01/2021

    Museum Reopened

Exciting futures ahead

Tricolor team

Meet the team behind this project...

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06 May 2022