£21m museum plan to create new home for region's history
A long-awaited "history centre" is set to get a multi-million pound lift-off.
An ambitious £21 million project will triple the size of Plymouth's City Museum and breathe life into its past.
Earlier plans for a history centre have never even left the drawing board.
If the latest proposal succeeds, it will finally provide a suitable home for the Plymouth and West Devon Record Office, alongside other historical collections.
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The record office, housed in an unsafe building on Cattedown, has lived under the threat of being closed down by the National Archive for 14 years.
If Cabinet members agree at their meeting next Tuesday the council will pump-prime the project with a £3.5 million investment.
The attraction will incorporate the Library at Drake Circus and transform the existing museum on North Hill into a cutting-edge, interactive centre by January 2018.
But the council will need to seek more than £17 million of grants to make the centre a reality. It plans to bid for up to £13 million from the Heritage Lottery's national programme, plus smaller applications to other funding bodies.
Because of the economic benefits the Cabinet is being asked to agree to a financial commitment of £3.5 million from the council's investment fund.
Council leader Tudor Evans, said: "It's time to think big. If we want to compete for national and international tourism we must have attractions that people want to visit.
"When we launched Plymouth as Britain's Ocean City, we meant it. This attraction will transform the way people discover history and culture using the very latest in audio and visual technology.
"The £21 million project will see the museum turned on its head. It will be exciting, interesting and will attract visitors in its own right."
Coun Peter Smith, the deputy leader, said: "The basic concept is to bring together the city's historic objects and archives with films from the South West Film and Television Archive and photographs from the South West Image Bank.
"We will tell the stories of Scott, Darwin, the Mayflower, Drake, the Naval Dockyard, the Beatles on the Hoe, the Blitz, the Cattedown bones and pirates.
"We want people to discover their own history and journey and we also want to blaze a trail using the latest technology and collect the history of the future."
Coun Evans said: "People will walk in their ancestors' footsteps, and find out more about their own family history.
"They will explore 500 years of Plymouth's maritime heritage and discover more about the extraordinary lives of the people of Plymouth. Or they might simply be inspired by beautiful and strange objects.
"When we pull this off it will be the biggest thing to happen to Plymouth in terms of celebrating our history and heritage."
Maureen Selley of the Devon Family History Society welcomed the proposals.
She said: "The society will do all it can to support the Heritage Lottery Fund application and our volunteers will continue to work in partnership with the Plymouth and West Devon Record Office."
Dr Todd Gray, chairman of the Friends of Devon's Archives, said: "It has been a long 14 years since the National Archive condemned Plymouth's archives building.
"Plymouth people have become wary because we have had so many false starts."
He said this was the furthest any plan had got.
"Coun Evans has to be congratulated for pulling together a proposal, which we haven't had before."
He said some of the schemes put forward, such as converting a building in Royal William Yard, were much too ambitious.
"This is much more realistic and more appropriate for the needs, and yet it does have ambition."
He said many volunteers had put in a lot of time to make it a reality.