Leicester Museum and Art Gallery to get new café with outdoor seating under new refurb plan

The latest improvements set to take place at Leicester Museum and Art Gallery have been revealed today, (Thursday, March 16). The work at the popular free attraction includes a new café area with outside seating at the front of the museum, in historic New Walk.

The development will incorporate a new entrance from New Walk which will enable the café to stay open after the rest of the museum has closed. The café will be moving into the area which previously housed the Wild Space animal display, Leicester City Council has confirmed.

A glass roof and original columns will be revealed again as part of the changes. Other improvements include creating a new modern art gallery in the former ground floor space used for the Ancient Egypt exhibition, which is now in a larger gallery upstairs.

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A new visitor route is planned from the modern art gallery through to the nearby Council Room and Victorian Gallery. The Victorian Gallery’s stage will also be moved and roof lighting will be upgraded.

Work has already been completed on creating a new Leicester Stories community gallery, designed to reflect the city’s recent history, culture and communities, and created with the involvement of more than 200 city residents.

A number of lifts, stairs and ramps throughout are being upgraded to improve access and ease the flow of visitors around the galleries. Improvements have also been made to staff offices and toilets, as well as repairs to roof windows, and bringing lifts and stairs up to modern standards.

Work on the new galleries is due to begin in December 2023 and should be completed by autumn 2024. The new café area will be installed from June 2024, while work to create a new gallery in the former café area will take place from April 2025.

Councillor Piara Singh Clair, Deputy City Mayor for culture, leisure and sport, said: “Investing in our museums is essential to ensure that future generations of visitors get to explore and learn about our natural history, our art collections and exhibits which reflect the history and character of this city.

“The current layout of the museum does limit how it can be used, but we have already begun altering and improving it. These latest plans will really help make best use of this fascinating, historic building, and also enable it to accommodate higher numbers of visitors. We are also improving accessibility to ensure that this important, educational building remains available to all visitors now and in the future.”

Leicester's New Walk Museum
Leicester’s New Walk Museum

Leicester Museum and Art Gallery opened back in 1849 as one of the UK’s first public museums and today houses galleries dedicated to Ancient Egypt, dinosaurs, natural history, the Victorian art gallery, arts and crafts, the Attenborough Collection of Picasso Ceramics and an internationally renowned collection of German Expressionist works among others.

According to the council, the museum attracts around 200,000 visitors each year – making it one of the most popular free attractions in the East Midlands. Reconfiguring the layout and upgrading the galleries will help it reach a new target of accommodating up to 300,000 visitors each year.

The planned works would be funded by a combination of Arts Council England funding for urgent museum repair works, maintenance budgets and the council’s capital programme. Leicester Museums and Galleries is an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation.

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