Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery has a fascinating history. As we are creating a new Central Library and Museum we will find a new use for the building and a new chapter will begin.
The future of Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery
This Modernist style building could be used for a variety of purposes which will complement the new museum and the wider Civic and Cultural Quarter.
Designed by the Borough Architect’s team led by Mr L.J. Tucker, the museum was completed at a cost of £290,000 and was the first museum in this country to be entirely funded from local rates.
The new museum and art gallery was officially opened to the public by Princess Margaret on Friday 30th October 1964, accompanied by her husband the Earl of Snowdon.
Speaking at the opening Princess Margaret described the new museum as one with “an atmosphere which is fresh, alive, and stimulating”.
Design and Construction of the Building
In style, the building owes something to the Swiss-French Modernist architect Le Corbusier, in particular his designs for the Domino House, where reinforced concrete columns around the edge support an open floor plan.
The frame and general construction of the museum and art gallery was carried out in reinforced concrete. Externally concrete framework and ribs are exposed, while panel infilling between the ribs is executed in hand-made rustic facing bricks. At first floor level reconstructed random marble slabs have been used to face the overhanging wall of the art galleries.
Window frames throughout the building are made of aluminium, with Yorkstone used in the entrance porch.
Inside there is extensive use made of faced rustic brickwork. In other areas timber panelling has been used, with a variety of veneers to add warmth and interest. The floors have been treated with Terrazzo, cork and lino tiles.
Changes to the original building
Originally the Museum foyer was glazed all along the front, and there were windows on ground floor level along the side of the building.
The first floor art galleries were also illuminated with natural light from roof lights. These were boxed in quite early on the history of the building as the gallery became very warm in the summer, while the roof lights also leaked in the winter.
The KOYLI Museum, which is on the ground floor at the back of the museum, was added in 1987.
Museum time line
Since 1908 Doncaster Museum Service had been housed at Beechfield House, a Victorian mansion situated where the new Civic Building now stands.
As the museum’s collections grew it soon became apparent that Beechfield was not going to be large enough, and in the 1930s plans were drawn up for a new, larger museum and art gallery. Those plans eventually had to be abandoned because of the 2nd World war.
In the early 1950s it was decided that a new technical college should be built on the Beechfield site, and plans for a new museum and art gallery on Chequer Road were drawn up, although they were not agreed until 1958. Tenders for work were received in 1959, and work began on the new building in 1960.
The foundation stone of the new building was laid by the 6th Earl of Rosse on the 10th April 1962, and this can be seen near the main entrance to the museum.
The administration block was completed in 1962, with the rest of the building taking a further two years to complete. The mammoth job of moving the collections from Beechfield House to the new museum took 10 weeks to complete.
The first director of the new museum was Mr. Elphinstone Forrest Gilmour who had come to the town 12 years previously to run the museum at Beechfield House.
More information about opening times can be found at: Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery
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