Project legacy as museums charity winds up

A cultural champion" is bowing out after 50 years of supporting and developing museums in North Devon and across the region - but hopes to leave one last legacy behind it. Museums Libraries Archives South West will cease to exist on March 31 as it makes

A "cultural champion" is bowing out after 50 years of supporting and developing museums in North Devon and across the region - but hopes to leave one last legacy behind it.Museums Libraries Archives South West will cease to exist on March 31 as it makes way for a new national and regional team created following the reorganisation of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council.During the past seven years the charity has handed out �1.8 million in grant funding and its swan song was a further �150,000 through the New Expressions programme to create new art inspired by museum collections. The programme is also supported by the Lottery.In North Devon this has seen marine biology treasures opened up at both Barnstaple and Ilfracombe museums, inspired by the Darwin 200 bicentenary celebrations and with various workshops hosted by artist Peter Stiles.His Vivarium exhibition opens at the Museum of Barnstaple on Saturday, March 14."The relationship with the artist has been inspirational," said Allison Mills at the museum."We haven't worked with an artist like this before and Peter's enthusiasm and the surprising directions in which the project has moved, have given us all kinds of ideas for working with the museum's stored collections."MLA South West, most recently based near Taunton, started life as the region's Area Museums Council - the first of its kind in Britain - in 1959 and its remit was expanded to include libraries and archives in 2002.The winding up of the MLA South West meant 10 of its 16 staff have gone on to new jobs, three in the new MLA organisation, while another four were made redundant and two may be able to transfer elsewhere."It is very sad to be closing the history book on MLA South West's 50 years as a champion of culture in the region," said the charity's chief executive, Bob Sharpe."In many ways, this has been a golden age of investment and I hope the museum, library and archive sector will continue to have a strong voice in local, regional and national government, as public spending becomes increasingly tight.


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