‘This is not about cuts’ – Sunderland takes over direct control of museum

Queen Elizabeth II at the opening of Sunderland's Winter Gardens  old ref  number 71887  pictures by Kevin Brady  Tuesday May 7 2002

Queen Elizabeth II at the opening of Sunderland's Winter Gardens old ref number 71887 pictures by Kevin Brady Tuesday May 7 2002

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COUNCIL officials have cut links with the organisation which runs museums in Sunderland.

Nearly 10 months after mooting the plans to shake up the management of heritage attractions in the city, the authority has pulled out of its agreement with the regional governing body.

Exhibitions across the North East, including the award-winning Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens, are run by Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums (TWAM) and have been since 1986.

But Sunderland issued a 12-month notice of withdrawal last March so it could take the “opportunity to influence and tailor services”.

The local authority has now set up a new museum management service, which will come into force from April.

TWAM will continue to manage Sunderland’s archive service.

It is thought 29 full and part-time TWAM staff, based in Sunderland, will transfer to the council.

Councillor John Kelly, cabinet member for culture, denied the restructuring was due to cuts.

“The new service continues our strong relationship with Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums,” he said. “What we have done is look at what was provided and how we can all continue to work together to provide more of the best for residents and visitors to Sunderland.

“We want to deliver even more in our museums, meet customer expectations and aspirations and enhance our services. That’s the aim of the new Sunderland Museums and Heritage Service.

“This is not about cuts, it’s about maintaining high-quality services for residents. There are no reductions in service levels.”

The city council funds museums in Sunderland by £1.2million.

Coun Ged Bell, chairman of Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums Joint Committee, said: “We recognise Sunderland City Council’s desire to join up museum services more closely with other cultural services in the city, and will continue to work with the new Sunderland Museums and Heritage to provide specialist support and the benefits of a strategic service.

“In addition, we will continue to manage and develop the joint archive service for the five Tyne and Wear authorities.

“This joined-up working will ensure the best and most cost-effective service for the people of Tyne and Wear, visitors and our online users.”

Turner Prize-winning artist Grayson Perry is to exhibit six quirky tapestries at the Museum and Winter Gardens in June.

Two of the artworks feature scenes from the city, which he visited as part of his Channel 4 series in summer 2011.

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