Tenders sought for €6.5 million expansion of City Museum

Redevelopment plans: Galway City Museum.

The Galway City Museum is looking for architects to design a major expansion to its bayside building.

The tender calls for a project management team to design, go for planning approval and oversee the construction management for the proposed upgrade, which has a estimated budget of €6.5 million. The plan proposes to develop and expand the Galway City Museum site at the Spanish Arch into a cultural hub, extending into Comerford House and the Spanish Arch structure.

Once the plans are drawn up, the planners will seek Part 8 approval from the councillors. Fáilte Ireland have approved funding for the design stage and it is hoped they will foot €4.5m of the total bill.

A spokesman for Galway City Council said earlier this year that it hoped to be well under way on the project by the start of European City of Culture designation in 2020.

Last year the director of Galway City Museum defended the institution as a well-functioning museum which punched above its weight in terms of visitor numbers and exhibitions, despite of the building’s limitations.

It is the second most popular non-fee paying attraction outside the capital.

A draft strategic management plan by consultants on behalf of the museum detailed the “highly problematical” design of building for the display and conservation of archaeological and historical objects.

The glass throughout the building, opened at a cost of €10 million a decade ago, means the display of environmentally sensitive objects such as watercolours, textiles and prints is unsafe for long periods.

Air exchange units to regulate humidity are also inadequate to control the environment for valuable collections.

The National Gallery of Ireland has refused to lend important paintings due to the “serious” fluctuations in conditions which would breach standard international and national protocols on borrowing and lending.

The museum has applied to the Department of Arts, Heritage Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs for funding of €360,000 to fix the environmental problems, and a further €200,000 to sort out the storage areas.

The long-term vision for the site is to move the medieval collection to Comerford House, trebling the size of the lecture room to seat up to 90 people, and reordering the current building to house the prehistoric artefacts with tales from the era.

An all-weather area outside could hold currach-building workshops, and themed markets, as well as concerts and films with a viewing platform on top of the Spanish Arch. The four Council-owned cottages opposite the House Hotel would be transformed into “living heritage ateliers” for craftspeople to work and live.