A People’s Museum is being proposed for Margate’s Old Town Hall.
Campaigners wanting to save the property as a community building have announced the plans, based on ideas from people who attended two public meetings.
The People’s Museum will subvert the traditional idea of the museum as a place where curators display precious objects by inviting people from Thanet to show their own collections instead.
From toy cars to glass bottles and from postcards to Funko Pops, local people have their own collections and will be invited to share them in the People’s Museum.
As well as hosting changing exhibitions of interest to locals and visitors, the museum will provide behind-the-scenes services such as training in conservation skills, workshops in archive research, and apprenticeships in preservation techniques.
It will build a growing catalogue of the collections held by residents, creating a town-wide, community-owned museum collection to sit alongside the items owned by existing Thanet museums.
The idea, suggested by local photographer and collector Frank Leppard, was developed in a workshop held at Dreamland on Thursday, February 17.
The People’s Museum team, led by Jack Packman, will be making a formal expression of interest in acquiring the Old Town Hall, with the People’s Museum sitting alongside Margate Museum at the heart of the Old Town.
With expertise in community development, heritage projects, and social enterprise, they will develop the plans further before creating a Pop Up People’s Museum to test the idea further.
The Town Hall was built in 1897. The two storey building is joined to the older building by an overhead bridge which is now the home of the Margate Museum.
The Old Town Hall was used as the Magistrates Court and police station. Four cells and offices for the police were installed at ground level. The Town Hall has been used by Margate Charter Trustees and the Mayor of Margate since 1974.
The Old Town Hall has been closed for several years due to health and safety concerns.
In 2018 the listed building was put on Thanet council’s asset disposal list. A report at the time said baseline costs were £911,400 for Margate Museum and Town Hall. It was agreed that Margate Town Hall would be marketed with the proviso that “consideration (is) given to preserving the Margate Charter Trustees presence.”
In early Spring of 2020 marketing withe advertising and approaches for support through English Heritage, Heritage Lottery Fund, Arts Council England, Association of Independent Museums and other independent museum trusts was due to take place. However the covid pandemic hit with national restrictions coming into force in March 2020.