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Development Work Now Underway

Spring, 1999

WITH the completion of the archaeological investigations in the forecourt and the resolution of a number of planning issues, building work for the Museum redevelopment project is now finally underway.

The building work has been contracted to Ernest Ireland Construction, a local company within the Mowlem group, who took possession of the site on the 1st March. Hoardings now surround a substantial area to the north and east of the Museum, as illustrated above in the view from the roof of the New Bodleian.

Within the Sheldonian Yard are offices and a large ramp running from the street, through a gap created by the temporary removal of a section of railings, to the rear of the site at the level of the top of the wall between the Museum and the Theatre. This ramp is used for transporting materials to and from the new extension in the Town Ditch which will become offices and the special exhibitions gallery.

The demolition of the modern extensions to the Museum – the kitchen and workshop – in the ditch has now taken place and has necessitated a significant amount of re-routing of power and communications and the temporary relocation of computer equipment. Piling and excavation in the Broad Street area is soon to begin, following the temporary removal of the stone stairs and securing of the so-called emperors’ heads.

Excavation will also take place in the Sheldonian Yard itself, in order to provide a new lift to the basement level of the Museum for visitors who find the present entrance difficult to negotiate. A hydraulically-operated system is to be installed which will rise from the basement level to an area of the yard protected by railings.

As well as the building work, the University has decided to take the opportunity to upgrade the Museum’s internal mechanical and electrical services. Details are currently being finalized by the architects A-S:L Dangerfield and Fulcrum Consulting, but will involve the complete rewiring of the existing galleries, the installation of a new heating system, and extensions to the internal data networks which will allow security and enviromental monitoring to be linked to individual display cases.

While this new work is very much to be welcomed, it is likely to extend the period of closure. A re-opening date sometime around the middle of next year is now likely. Meanwhile, the Museum remains accessible via the Internet where the Museum website, which has recently moved to a new server, is currently receiving in excess of 1,700 visitors per week.