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The Cromwell Museum houses a unique collection.
The Museum has a wide ranging collection of paintings, documents, personalia, decorative objects and coins and medals. It is the best collection of Cromwell related material that exists. Most of the collection is on exhibition. In addition to the permanent display there are temporary exhibitions.
It is the only accredited museum that focuses solely on Cromwell and the mid-17th century. Accreditation is a scheme run by Arts Council England and it requires museums to meet documentation, conservation, interpretation and curatorial standards.
The Museum tells the story of a significant national figure born in Huntingdon.
Oliver Cromwell is a significant figure in British history and recognised worldwide. He is the most famous Cambridgeshire person of all time. Born in Huntingdon, he was MP for the town before moving first to St Ives and then to Ely. In 1640, he was elected MP for Cambridge, a position he held throughout the English Civil Wars. In 1653 he became Lord Protector, a ‘king in all but name’.
Cromwell was judged the third greatest Briton of the Millennium in the Radio 4 poll in 1999 and 10th greatest Briton of all time in a 2002 BBC TV poll. The Museum building is the former town grammar school attended by Cromwell, which is a Grade 2* listed building.
Between 10,000 and 11,000 people visit the Museum – and the County – each year.
47% of the visitors are from within Cambridgeshire. 11% are from Huntingdon itself, but over 30% travel more than 50 miles to visit the Museum. It is Huntingdon’s only tourist attraction and helps to generate income for the local economy.
Cromwell and the civil war feature on the national curriculum and most historians and history teachers agree that it is a period that should be taught, as it is of critical importance to our understanding of our own past. The Museum works with local schools and has regular visits from A-level students from much further afield.
The resources of the Museum are used by researchers and publishers nationally and internationally, which helps to generate revenue for the Museum.
If this unique collection is dispersed now, it will not be reassembled again.
The collections have been developed over more than 50 years by gift, bequest and purchase – often supported by external funds. If the collection is dispersed it will not be re-assembled, and the loan from Cromwell’s descendants will be lost from Cambridgeshire, and most likely from public exhibition. The cost of a managed dispersal of the collections will be a significant cost in the short-term.
There is no other proposed, or viable, use for the Grade 2* listed building which is owned by Cambridgeshire County Council.
The Museum’s published Mission Statement sums it up:
The Museum is provided by Cambridgeshire County Council to focus on the life and legacy of Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) by the collection, conservation, exhibition and interpretation of relevant material. It does so for the enjoyment and benefit, educational and economic of the local community and for all visitors, actual and virtual (with and without prior knowledge) in the belief that it helps to sustain a lively, well informed and wide ranging debate, of Cromwell’s significance both locally and nationally.