ONE of East Lancashire's biggest museums in set to reopen later this month after a £2.2million redevelopment.

The Whitaker Museum in Rawtenstall says that the investment, including grants from the National Heritage Lottery Fund, has enabled a full refurbishment, additional exhibition space and new visitor facilities.

When it re-opens its doors on Saturday July 24, having had to close during the pandemic, The Whitaker will have a new café-restaurant, event and community space, and catering kitchen to support future hospitality events.

Managing director Carl Bell said: "We have certainly missed welcoming visitors to The Whitaker Museum and cannot wait to unveil our fantastic new facilities and enhanced exhibition programme.

"The Whitaker has always been such a special place, built on the foundations of our region’s industrial past and gifted to the people of Rossendale in 1902. This refurbishment will provide a renewed space for visitors to imagine, explore and unwind."

The museum says that the new space will allow it to host craft workshops, artist talks, heritage activities, film nights and outreach events for toddlers, children and young people.

Mr Bell said: "This amazing new space will allow us to invite more people than ever before, celebrating the rich cultural and natural heritage of our beautiful valley alongside cutting edge contemporary exhibitions."

The funding has also enabled the museum to employ their very first new collections curator, who will aim to ensure long term engagement and access to the heritage collections and who will be supported by a heritage activity coordinator who will lead activities including workshops, demonstrations, loan boxes, activity packs and family events.

The museum is also launching a crowdfunding appeal to ensure they are able to continue and maintain the high quality exhibitions and leisure and educational events well into the future.

Mr Bell said: "Every penny of the crowdfund appeal will go towards developing our offer and help us to engage with every possible corner of our local community.

"It is a chance for local people to be part of this re-development and support the future of this much loved cultural gem.

"We also wouldn’t have been able to get to this stage without our wonderful volunteers.

"We need around 50 regular volunteers to keep services going and are keen to hear from anyone, whether they’re retired in work or still in education, who could volunteer their time.

"We have a vast array of possibilities open to volunteers from admin work to front of house guides, so there will be something that we can find to suit you."

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