Plans for the stunning new Spitfire gallery at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery have received a further boost after being awarded £210,000 from a national grant.
The money comes after a successful bid to a joint funding pot run by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) in partnership with the Wolfson Foundation. Further funding totalling £45,000 was also raised with help from Operation Spitfire, The Friends of the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, and through visitors’ donations.
The money would be used to create the gallery’s display – including objects, information boards and interactive digital technology. These will be designed and produced in partnership with volunteers and a number of local and national stakeholders. It would form part of the wider £6 million project to restore and display the Spitfire in a new gallery and to improve its surrounding area.
Councillor Anthony Munday, cabinet member for greener city, development and leisure, said: “This is such fantastic news. We want to give the iconic Spitfire a truly fantastic new home which celebrates its history and champions designers and engineers – particularly Reginald Mitchell. The display would give people an insight into the science, technology and design behind the Spitfire. We want local young people to be inspired by the gallery and go on to be the engineers of the future. The display will also recognise the lives and experiences of local people and pilots during the Second World War, which is an extremely important and poignant part of our area’s history.”
Julian Mitchell, Spitfire designer Reginald Mitchell’s great-nephew and a member of Operation Spitfire, said “We’re absolutely delighted at the news. This means everything we’ve envisaged and hoped for, and the messages we’re trying to get across, can be achieved. This display – along with the fantastic wider plans for the gallery – will be the foundation of the ongoing inspiration, through restoration, that this project can achieve.”
Ian Lawley, chair of the Friends of the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, said: “This is exciting news as it means the Spitfire will get the high quality interpretation that it deserves and the visitor experience will be so much richer.”
Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism Michael Ellis said: “Our museums and galleries are among the best in the world and we are rightly proud of these institutions. The DCMS/Wolfson Fund demonstrates how the government and philanthropic organisations can work together to boost our museum sector. We want people up and down the country to enjoy culture and heritage wherever they are. The 35 grants awarded today will make important contributions towards improving the visitor experience; ensuring our wonderful collections are open to as many people as possible.”
Paul Ramsbottom, chief executive of the Wolfson Foundation, said: “We are delighted to provide this funding through our longstanding partnership with DCMS – an excellent example of how we as a charity can work together fruitfully with government. We are grateful to DCMS for matching our funding. One of the great treasures of this country is the sheer quality and range of our heritage collections – stored and displayed in wonderful museums and galleries. This funding will help to provide even better visitor experiences and greater awareness of these fascinating collections. A particular joy of this funding round has been the impressive mix of the projects supported: from a dress collection at Carlisle’s Tullie House to temporary exhibition space in Falmouth’s National Maritime Museum.”
Stoke-on-Trent City Council is delivering the wider Spitfire gallery project as part of its capital programme of investments across the city. The authority is hoping to start building work in March 2019, subject to the scheme gaining planning approval. It could open to the public in spring 2020.
The Spitfire would take pride of place in the newly-built, two-storey extension at the site. There would be large glass panels at the front and back, making the iconic plane – based on Reginald Mitchell’s famous design – visible to the outside world.
The Spitfire was painstakingly removed piece-by-piece from the museum in January last year and taken to Medway Aircraft Preservation Society, in Kent, where it is currently being restored to its former glory by a team of experts. Once complete, it will return to the museum as the star of its new attraction.