The museum services in Colchester and Ipswich merged in April 2007 to create a stronger, more dynamic service for the two towns.
This unique venture makes social, economic and cultural sense, providing the people of Colchester and Ipswich with a museum service to treasure.
Combining thousands of years of history, Colchester and Ipswich Museum Service has strong collections in Roman, Saxon and local history in both towns.
The vision is to create a museum service that is a source of pride, inspiration and fun.
In 2007 the two councils of Colchester and Ipswich came together in a partnership arrangement that combined their respective museum services under a new organisation called Colchester and Ipswich Museum Service. This was a brave decision, as both towns had museum services with long and proud histories and museum collections and buildings of outstanding importance.
Following the formation of the new combined organisation the benefits of the partnership have clearly been demonstrated. There has been considerable interest from other councils across the country and it is clear that some others are already considering following the bold example of Colchester and Ipswich.
On 1st April 2007 'Colchester and Ipswich Museum Service' came into existence. It is a combination of the museum services of Colchester Borough Council and Ipswich Borough Council that up until that point had operated independently. The main objectives in creating the combined museum service, in summary, were to:
- Increase customer satisfaction and use
- Bring about step change improvement to museum services at Ipswich and further continue the development at Colchester
- Have an organisation that could react to challenges more effectively and quickly
- Increase the opportunities of partnership working and enhance the ability to lever in external funding
- Create more development opportunities for staff leading to improved job satisfaction and customer service
- Further the broader agendas of the parent bodies and others, such as that of the Haven Gateway Partnership
- Increase status and influence both regionally and nationally
- Lead to a reduction in the net cost of the combined service, through increased income and shared and more efficient use of resources
Joint Museum Committee
In creating the new organisation it was important to establish precise details of the governance arrangements for the joint museum service. These were set out in a Joint Committee Agreement that was formally adopted by both Colchester Borough Council and Ipswich Borough Council (the agreement is attached as Appendix 1). In summary it sets out:
- The service level: strategic; Ipswich specific; and Colchester specific
- Funding arrangements
- Detailed governance arrangements, including the composition and areas of responsibility of a joint committee
- Clear safeguards in relation to the collections and buildings, with ownership remaining with the respective Local Authorities.
- Arrangements, including financial and staff responsibilities, in the event of a dissolution of the partnership
The Joint Committee is made up of two executive councillors from each of the partner Local Authorities. The committees meetings are timed to allow critical decisions to be made that fit in with key organisational needs of both parent bodies, such as the annual budget setting process. The chair of the committee alternates, on an annual basis, between the two Councils and the meetings alternate between Colchester and Ipswich.
The majority of strategic decisions relating to the delivery and development of the museum service are now taken through the Joint Museum Committee. However, matters such as budget setting and some collections decisions are passed, with recommendations, to the respective Councils for formal endorsement.
The full details of how the organisation functions and our approach for each individual museum is covered in our Development Plan.
These are some of the awards we have been given in the past few years:
- 1994 The National Access for Disabled People to Arts Premises Today (ADAPT) award for the best improvements to a museum
- 1995 the Colchester Access Award
- 1995 the Gerald Simmonds Healthcare Accessibility Award for Public Buildings
- 1999 Best Family Attraction in Essex awarded by the Good Britain Guide
- 2000 Visitor Attractions Quality Assurance Awards for all museums
- 2000 Heritage Building of the Year awarded by the Good Britain Guide
- 2001 Colchester Civic Society Award for conservation
- 2001 The Interpret Britain Awards managed by the Association for Heritage Interpretation.
- 2001 Hollytrees - Colchester Civic Society Award
- 2002 Museum Registration Phase II
- 2002 Hollytrees - regional finalist, Excellence in England awards
- 2003 Hollytrees - commended, Interpret Britain Awards
- 2003 Hollytrees - finalist, Awards for Excellence, Museums and Heritage Show
- 2003 Colchester Castle Museum - Classic Award, commendation, Museums and Heritage Show
Every year we are trying to improve our services so that our visitors can have a great day out and come back to see us again and again!