Future of local history in doubt

Enfield Council yet to confirm new location for museum’s archive, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

The Dugdale Centre is home to both the Museum of Enfield and Enfield Local Studies Library and Archive
The Dugdale Centre is home to both the Museum of Enfield and Enfield Local Studies Library and Archive

A conservation group has urged Enfield Council to reveal more information about plans for a museum and archive that contain a wealth of historical artefacts.

The Enfield Society has been pressing the council to reveal plans for the Museum of Enfield and Enfield Local Studies Library and Archive, both based at the Dugdale Centre in Thomas Hardy House, but says it has so far received no response.

In March, the local authority agreed to create offices for its children’s services department on the first and second floor of the Dugdale. Staff are due to move into the building from September. The council says the museum – currently occupying spaces on the ground and first floors – will remain but with all permanent displays moved to the ground floor.

Members of Enfield Society say they are “extremely concerned” about the fate of the museum and archive – warning the changes could threaten their accreditation by the Arts Council and National Archives and deprive them of eligibility for grant funding. They also warn the shake-up could be at odds with the borough’s heritage strategy.

In a letter to council leader Nesil Caliskan, the residents’ group wrote: “The remaining rooms on the ground floor of the Dugdale Centre are wholly inadequate for a display of the museum’s permanent collection.

“Failure to provide adequate accommodation could result in a fragmented service across the borough.”

The Museum of Enfield contains around 17,000 artefacts from across the borough, dating all the way back to prehistoric times, but only a small number are on display at any one time. Enfield Local Studies Library and Archive features historical documents dating back to the 13th Century, including photographs, newspapers and journals. Previously based at Palmers Green Library, it moved to the current building, which was specially adapted to host it, in 2008.

Val Munday from The Enfield Society said: “I don’t know where the council are going to fit the permanent collections. There is a theatre and café on the ground floor of the Dugdale Centre, and not really room for display space.

“If you have a school going to visit, it is not really satisfactory – accommodating them on the ground floor is going to be extremely difficult.

“Local studies are going to move, but we are not sure where. The [first] floor of Thomas Hardy House is specially reinforced, and the temperature controlled, so it is going to be a major upheaval.

“People like it in the centre of town because it is accessible. Visitor figures for both the museum and archive have gone up since the move to Thomas Hardy House.”

Enfield Society says the council should hold a full consultation with stakeholders before any decision is made on relocation.

A council spokesperson said: “The museum will remain at Thomas Hardy House with permanent displays relocated to the ground floor. We are working on a detailed design and will share proposals in due course.

“Options for the location of the archive are currently being reviewed. Accessibility will be a key consideration. We will again share proposals in due course.”