Monday 28 September saw the public able to access The Hold, Suffolk’s flagship new heritage facility on Ipswich Waterfront.
This versatile new building will be the permanent home of the Suffolk Archives Ipswich branch and is shared with the University of Suffolk, who have dedicated teaching spaces within the building.
The creation of The Hold, and its associated countywide programme of events and activities, has been made possible thanks to a grant of £10.3m from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, and further funding support from other national organisations and local Suffolk heritage groups.
The public are currently able to access ‘front of house’ areas, including archive inspired displays, the café, shop, and toilets, including a new Changing Places facility.
First year History students were some of the first to try out the new facilities, with lectures and seminars beginning in the new facilities. The main area, known as ‘The Street’, as well as the café and shop, enjoyed a steady trickle of curious visitors and passers-by.
On 2 October, the long-awaited Exhibition Gallery also opened to visitors. The inaugural exhibition, Global Events: Suffolk Stories, examines how Suffolk has responded as a community to key global events over the past 100 years.
It focuses on the arrival of American service people during the ‘Friendly Invasion’ of World War Two, as well as the rising tensions and public messaging of the Cold War period, and the collective community response to the COVID-19 pandemic during 2020.
Through original archival documents, photos, music, and film, visitors will be able to explore the similarities and differences between these three global events and understand how Suffolk has changed as a result.
In order to manage numbers and ensure everyone’s safety, all visitors are asked to reserve a time slot and purchase tickets in advance, via the exhibition section of the Suffolk Archives website: www.suffolkarchives.co.uk/exhibitions/global-events-suffolk-stories/.
Councillor Paul West, Portfolio Holder for Heritage, said:
“Although there is still some way to go before The Hold is fully ready, it is very exciting that the major milestone of public access has been reached. We hope people are excited to see how this major development has progressed, and we encourage visitors to take advantage of the building being open to come and see the progress so far.
“The archives service has been waiting a long time for the ability to display documents and artefacts in a way that is accessible to the wider public and we are very pleased to have our inaugural exhibition up and running so we can get this next crucial phase of our work under way.”
Enabling public access to certain areas of the building is stage one of a gradual and phased approach to bringing The Hold fully into use, trialling public access and testing out the new COVID-19 requirements that have been put into place to ensure a safe and secure environment.
The move of the local studies and strongroom collections was delayed by the lockdown earlier this year - just two weeks into the Ipswich branch closure and the move preparations. Work is now under way once more but is likely to take until at least the end of this calendar year to complete the move.
It is expected that the official opening of The Hold will take place early next year once the building is fully completed, and all the archives have been moved into the strongrooms.
The public areas of The Hold are open from 9.30am - 4.30pm, Monday to Friday (café open from 8.30am), and 10am - 4pm on Saturday and Sunday.
Visitors are very welcome to discover the displays, enjoy a spot of lunch, browse the gift shop or, with booked tickets, explore the exhibition.