Archaeology and archive services face centralisation

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SUFFOLK’S archaeology and archive services could move to Stowmarket due to a shortage of space.

The services, which are currently spread out at sites across the county including in Bury St Edmunds, would be based at the Museum of East Anglian Life.

A new heritage centre could later be built at the museum for archives, finds and artefacts.

Bosses at Suffolk County Council say the move is necessary as archive repositories will reach full capacity in 2016 and current storage for archaeology collections does not meet national standards or provide display space.

Cllr Guy McGregor, portfolio holder with responsibility for archaeology, stressed the plans were driven by the need ‘to protect the cultural heritage of Suffolk’ rather than savings targets.

He said: “The savings that could arise from this are of little consequence and could possibly be tens of thousands of pounds.

“Much of our valued archaeology is inaccessible to the public. I want to change that.”

He added that they ‘do not envisage staff reductions’.

A new organisation would initially be set up to run the services.

The community interest company would be able to secure additional sources of funding such as Lottery grants to develop the plans.

On Tuesday, the authority’s cabinet will be asked to grant permission for the council, working with the Museum of East Anglian Life, to develop a business case supporting the creation of the new organisation.

The county has three records offices in Raingate Street, Bury, Ipswich and Lowestoft.

The archaeology service operates from two buildings in Ipswich and another two at the Shire Hall site, in Bury.

Cllr Kathy Gosling, portfolio holder for sport, culture and diversity, added: “We want to enhance this service. With our current archives facilities due to reach full capacity by 2016 we must act now to identify a solution. This proposed new organisation would raise Suffolk’s profile and safeguard its archive and archaeology for the future.”

The council aims to establish the new organisation in April 2012.