The new £7.75 million St Albans Museum + Gallery will open on Friday 8 June following a two-year restoration of the city's Georgian Grade II-listed Town Hall (built in 1831).
The museum and gallery is set over three floors, with a number of restored historic spaces and newly created state-of-the-art galleries. These spaces will be used to host regularly changing exhibitions and a vibrant programme of events. Visitors will also have the opportunity to explore the fascinating history of the town hall itself, including its pre-Victorian assembly room, courtroom and cells.
Glazed links have been added to the first floor enabling visitors to walk around the entire building and to take in wonderful views of the city. A new temperature-controlled and secure basement gallery has been hand excavated under the building to house national touring exhibitions and contemporary art shows. The ground floor has also been renovated to accommodate a learning studio, visitor information point, gift shop and café.
Permanent displays will tell the story of the district's development from the pre-Roman era through to modern times. The story starts as far back as 110,000 BC, when hunter-gatherers first arrived in Britain, and features Roman treasures as well as evidence of Boudicca's revolt in the city. Visitors will be able to learn about St Albans' fascinating role at the start of the War of the Roses in 1455.
They will be able to learn about how the city played a part in the lives of Sir Francis Bacon, Sarah Churchill Duchess of Marlborough, and the Ryder Cup founder and former mayor, Samuel Ryder. More recent local figures will also feature in displays, including Stephen Hawking, Stanley Kubrick, Jim Rodford and Eric Morecambe.
While the museum will be free to enter, there will be a small entry fee for national-touring exhibitions from top UK museums.
What's on at the St Albans Museum + Gallery
First Impressions: 8 June to 12 August 2018, Vault Gallery
The first exhibition at the new building in June, First Impressions celebrates the city's printing heritage. From the schoolmaster printer with the third printing press in England in 1479 at the Abbey Gateway, to the proliferation of printing presses in Fleetville in the 19th century, the history of printing in St Albans can be used to illustrate the history of the industry as a whole. Exhibits will include the Book of St Albans (Hawking, Hunting and Heraldry) by Juliana Berners - believed to be the first book to be printed in colour in the country
Responding to the intriguing history and collections of the museum, Lyndall Phelps, Abi Spendlove and Katie Gillam-Hull will present Accumulate - a key opening exhibition. This exhibition of artworks and interventions created over three years will shine a light on the hidden elements of the museum collection.
Susie MacMurray installations
Artist Susie MacMurray will also exhibit a range of sculptures, including a specially-commissioned dramatic installation located in the assembly room, which will act as a backdrop to her work. With a reputation for poetic interventions in historic spaces, MacMurray will showcase art work made with surprising materials and raise questions about the relationship between place and people.
Squatlife:14 July to 26 August 2018
A thought-provoking, challenging and far-reaching exhibition inspired by Dave Kotula's photographs of squatted premises and their inhabitants in St Albans in the 1980s. This collection of iconic images illustrates a period in history and a culture that has almost completely gone, and rarely documented. The exhibition will be contrasted with a view of Victorian (and pre-Victorian) workhouses and historical attitudes to homelessness, providing an historical context on what is often perceived to be a contemporary issue.
Hand Drawn, Action Packed: 1 September to 11 November 2018, Vault Gallery and East and West Galleries
This exhibition is the national launch of the new Hayward Touring exhibition, curated by Roger Malbert. Introducing new and existing work by 10 internationally acclaimed artists (including William Kentridge, Amy Sillman and Nalini Malani) exploring drawing, animation and narrative.
Game Plan: 24 November 2018 - March 2019, Vault Gallery
This V&A touring exhibition explores board games from social, physical and historical perspectives. Board games have universal appeal, transcending cultural and language barriers, and are works of art and design, tools for education, even a mirror to the world, as well as providing entertainment for all generations.
There is a full programme of family-focused events throughout the summer of 2018, which launches on 28 July with a festival of activities from 11am-4pm on 28 July.