City of Lincoln Council has completed the legal paperwork with Nottingham City Council to preserve Lincoln’s art and artefacts – including the Usher Collection.
The move has been made following unsuccessful negotiations with Lincolnshire County Council over the future storage of such material.
Unfortunately, the city council was given notice by the county council in September 2019 that it intended to hand back all of the art and artefacts it was storing on the city council’s behalf, unless the city council was prepared to pay for its storage in future. This is despite the city council providing the Usher Gallery and The Collection building to the county council on leases that are essentially rent free.
This move left the city council with no option but to explore all opportunities for storing this significant collection elsewhere, resulting in a better value deal with Nottingham City Council who have been procured for an initial two year period to safeguard the material whilst the future of the Usher Gallery within the county council’s vision for heritage services is determined.
Last month, the city council’s Executive agreed a proposal to move its art and artefacts to a new, purpose-built storage facility owned and run by Nottingham City Council. Although located outside of Lincolnshire, the facility is only 45 minutes away and is staffed by experienced heritage professionals who will be able to ensure the future of the collection.
The city council remains determined to find a way to keep the Usher building open and intact as a gallery space and so, as part of this new deal, the county council will be given access to the art and artefacts from the new storage facility so they can rotate displays regularly to create ever changing art works to entice repeat visitors and aid sustainability of the Usher Gallery.
Cllr Ric Metcalfe, Leader of City of Lincoln Council has expressed extreme disappointment at the situation created entirely by the actions of the county council.
Ric said: “Lincolnshire County Council has looked after our art and artefacts without charge since 1974. Their decision to return all our material – which amounts to almost 30,000 individual pieces – after so long shows a contempt for the city’s rich heritage.
“Unsurprisingly, the city council has no specialist facility of its own in which to store the material and so has been forced to identify another provider.
“Nottingham City Council staff come with a national profile and reputation for high quality heritage services and they will now take a lead on behalf of the city council in overseeing the complex process which will ultimately see the transfer of all art and artefacts to them in October 2021.
“The opportunities this new partnership presents are significant and could well lead to many of our pieces forming travelling exhibitions which could see the Lincoln’s heritage advertised across the country. We very much look forward to exploring these exciting developments with Nottingham City Council over the period to October 2023.
“It is now even more crucial that the county council determines the future of the Usher Gallery to secure our heritage for the long term. I very much encourage the county council to explore a Trust model as a way of accessing external funding and expertise.
“Partners such as the University and Historic Lincoln Trust are very keen to support that process. Experience of the industry would indicate that given goodwill and a desire to co-operate, such a solution is entirely realistic.”