Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (BMAG) will remain closed throughout 2021 while essential electrical upgrade work of Birmingham’s Council House complex takes place. While the building is closed Birmingham Museums Trust will continue to share items and stories from Birmingham’s collections with audiences in a variety of exciting and engaging ways both online and in the community.
BMAG is currently closed due to the Coronavirus pandemic but plans for reopening in time for the 2022 Commonwealth Games are already underway. Next year also marks the 160th anniversary of the birth of Birmingham’s collection and in celebration of this key moment, when the eyes of the world will be on the city, Birmingham Museum’s will use this opportunity to re-invigorate its collection re-interpreting it for the 21st Century.
The reopening will be launched with a transformation of BMAG’s iconic Round Room. A radical new display of this stunning gallery will reflect the people of 21st Century Birmingham. In a sweeping change from the current paintings of landscapes, historic subjects and dignitaries from the past, the new We Are Birmingham display will present a vibrant celebration of the city that Birmingham has become. It will draw on new artworks as well as historic items from Birmingham’s Collections. 2022 will also herald a programme of new exhibitions as well as celebrating the city’s treasures such as the Staffordshire Hoard, world-famous Pre-Raphaelites and more recent items from Collecting Birmingham such as the Koh-i-Noor curry house booth.
Sara Wajid and Zak Mensah, Joint-CEO of Birmingham Museums Trust said:
“We had very much hoped that we would be able to reopen BMAG to visitors before this essential work started, but sadly due to the latest lockdown this won’t be possible. We understand just how disappointing this will be for many people who would have been looking forward to visiting BMAG once lockdown restrictions are lifted.
“However, during our closure we will continue to find ways to make Birmingham’s collections available to as many people as possible. Understanding our history and our national identity is now more relevant than ever and so we look forward to staying connected with all our audiences across Birmingham and the West Midlands as we bring them with us on our journey towards 2022.
“At the same time we also feel that this is an ideal time for us to allow BMAG to embrace the city that Birmingham is now, as well as the city it was when the Birmingham collection was founded.”
Ways in which Birmingham Museums will stay connected with audiences over the coming year will include taking world-renowned artworks and items from the collections into schools, inviting Birmingham citizens to co-produce new displays for when the museum opens, sharing Birmingham’s collection through digital platforms plus a series of outdoor exhibitions.
Birmingham Museums Trust is also planning to reopen its award-winning science museum, Thinktank and its historic properties across the city to visitors later this year once government guidelines allow it. Visitors will be able to enjoy new collection displays at both Aston Hall and Thinktank Birmingham Science Museum later this year.
Birmingham City Council own the buildings which currently house BMAG and the Council House. The electrical upgrade of the complex is an extensive and essential programme of work which is needed to future-proof the building making it safe for staff and visitors while safeguarding Birmingham’s collections housed there for generations to come.
Cllr Jayne Francis, Cabinet Member for Education, Skills and Culture at Birmingham City Council, said: “These essential electrical works are necessary to ensure the continued safety of both the Council House and Council House Extension for all those who work or visit these historic buildings.
“While both buildings have been able to operate safely in the short term, these vital works will also ensure the long-term viability of these buildings which not only house Birmingham’s history and heritage, but also the city’s centre of democracy.
“As the civic custodians of the Council House, built in 1879, we have a duty to preserve it for future generations – along with Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery – as an important part of the city’s heritage, and in doing so we are also safeguarding Birmingham’s collections.”
The proposed work is due to commence in June 2021 however before contractors can start over 2150 items from Birmingham’s collections will initially need to be removed with a further 33,000 remaining items to be moved into safe storage over the coming year as work progresses. The complete programme of work will be phased with the first phase completed in early 2022.