“The Whitaker has always been such a special place, built on the foundations of our region’s industrial heritage and gifted to the people of Rossendale. This significant refurbishment will provide a renewed space for visitors to imagine, explore and unwind,” says Carl Bell, the museum’s managing director.
It was in 1902 that local mill owner Richard Whitaker entrusted the site to the local community, motivated by his belief that people of all ages and backgrounds should have access to culture, leisure and educational opportunities.
The venue would now be unrecognisable to its 20th century benefactor, after grants from organisations including National Heritage Lottery Fund facilitated a redevelopment that doubled its footprint. This growth has enabled the creation of new expanded exhibition spaces, a café and areas dedicated to events and community activities.
The changes, the museum team hopes, can attract more visitors than ever before to the venue tucked away in the Rossendale Valley.
To strengthen this aim, the institution is launching a crowdfunding appeal to ensure future programming befits its freshly modernised environs. Money raised will be channelled directly into exhibitions and events to attract the broadest audiences possible.
Artists Kara Lyons and David Hancock helped The Whitaker launch its brand new programme, with the former’s Marginalia exhibition featuring drawing and sculpture while Hancock’s paintings will be on display in an exhibition titled A Still Life.
“Culture shouldn’t stop at the edge of big cities, and the Whitaker Museum’s redevelopment firmly aligns with Richard Whitaker’s original vision of providing educational, cultural and holistic wellbeing for all,” Bell continues.
“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 people to be part of this re-development and support the future of this much-loved cultural gem.”
Aside from bricks and mortar developments, The Whitaker has also used its relaunch as an opportunity to attract fresh talent to Lancashire.
Gaynor Seville has become the site’s new creative director, bringing with her over two decades of experience in arts management roles.
“We have an incredibly talented, creative team who are committed to the highest standards in terms of artistic output, engagement with visitors, community outreach and commitment to collaborating with and supporting the best artists, both locally and nationally,” Seville states.
“We will be providing platforms for experimentation, challenging and innovative work within The Whitaker’s beautiful exhibition space and a collection that is wonderful, unique and unusual.”
Another new recruit is Teri Booth, who becomes collections curator after a career path which has included working for Science Museum Group. On the commercial side of the business, Michael Whitworth has joined the team as shop manager, having previously worked at Manchester Museum and The Whitworth Gallery.