Council rejects £20,000 museum offer

The Enfield Society members with their alternative proposal for the Dugdale
The Enfield Society members with their alternative proposal for the Dugdale

Future of local archives and museum still uncertain, reports James Cracknell

Enfield Council has rejected a £20,000 offer from The Enfield Society for spending on improvements to its local museum and studies library.

The local residents’ group made the offer with the caveat that the money would only be made available if both the Museum of Enfield and Enfield Local Studies Library and Archive remain based at the Dugdale Centre in Enfield Town. More than 2,000 people have signed a petition calling on the council to keep these facilities there.

However, the council is still proposing to relocate the studies library and adjacent conference rooms to Enfield Civic Centre, allowing the first floor of the Dugdale to be used as office space for staff from its children’s and young people’s services department, who are currently split across three different sites. Such a move would save “hundreds of thousands of pounds” in rent and other costs, according to council property director Mark Bradbury, who wrote a letter to The Enfield Society rejecting their offer.

Mark wrote: “I appreciate your interest and concern in both the archives and museum services and thank you for your offer to contribute £20,000 to updating the displays, should they remain at Thomas Hardy House [home of the Dugdale].

“While it is not the only reason for creating a children and family service hub, the financial benefit runs to hundreds of thousands each year, so while your offer is generous it will not offset this.”

The Museum of Enfield contains some 17,000 local historic and ancient artefacts, but only a small number can be displayed at one time. Enfield Local Studies Library and Archive features historical documents dating back to the 13th Century, including photographs and newspapers. It moved to the Dugdale, which was specially adapted to host it, in 2008.

In March, the local authority revealed its intention to create offices for its children’s services department on the first and second floor of the Dugdale. The council says the museum – currently occupying spaces on both the ground and first floors – will remain but with all permanent displays moved to the ground floor. Enfield Local Studies Library and Archive is set to be evicted, with the civic centre its proposed new home.

The Enfield Society is opposed to the move and, in October, set out an alternative plan to keep everything at the Dugdale, together with its £20,000 offer of match funding. Trustee Val Munday told the Dispatch the council’s rejection of the society’s offer was disappointing but said the group would continue to campaign to keep the local archive at the Dugdale.

Val said: “I fail to see how they [the council] can manage to get the artefacts currently on display on the first floor to fit on the ground floor without cutting space.

“The museum uses things from the archives but if they are not in the same building, it means transporting them. Some of those documents are hundreds of years old – changes in temperature and humidity can damage them.

“We won’t let this slide. We have got a meeting scheduled with [council leader] Nesil Caliskan in December. We hope by then the council will have produced some concrete plans we can look at.”

Read The Enfield Society’s alternative proposal for the Dugdale:
Visit enfieldsociety.org.uk/ever-stronger/