Review launched into future of Durham Light Infantry collection including at DLI Museum closed in 2015

The future of a treasured regimental collection is due to be reviewed by Durham County Council’s new administration.

Wednesday, 16th June 2021, 5:41 pm
The first cabinet meeting of the new Durham County Council has been held.
The first cabinet meeting of the new Durham County Council has been held.

This week, the council’s new Joint Administration discussed the Durham Light Infantry (DLI) collection and archive.

The new cabinet is made up of Conservatives, Lib Dems and several independents and was formed following May’s local elections.

One of its first actions included a full review of all options for the display and storage of the DLI collection – which comprises more than 200,000 historic documents and more than 15,000 objects.

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The grounds of the former DLI Museum have remained popular for walkers.

The most recent plan was to move the collection to a new history centre at the redeveloped Grade-II listed Mount Oswald Manor House.

However, the Joint Administration has promised to look at all options for the display of the collection going forward, including the former DLI Museum building at Aykley Heads which was controversially closed in 2015.

A report on the proposed review was presented to Durham County Council’s new cabinet and agreed on Wednesday, June 16.

Councillor Elizabeth Scott, cabinet member for economy and partnerships, said it was an “extremely high priority” of all members of the Joint Administration to consult on the future of the DLI collection.

The DLI Museum closed in 2015.

“Under agreement with the trustees, who own the DLI collection and archive, the county council cares for over 200,000 archive items and over 15,000 archive objects,” she said.

“Our high standard of care means that the collections are nationally accredited.

“The collection and its accessibility are incredibly important to the council and most importantly, to the residents of County Durham.

“The collection and archive has had a number of different homes over its lifetime, including the DLI Museum at Aykley Heads.

“It is right that the council should now undertake a review of the current options and plans for the collection, the archive, the building and the grounds in which it sits.

“The review will be carried out in consultation with partners and stakeholders as swifty as possible and recommendations will be brought back to this council by September.”

The DLI Collection belongs to the Trustees of the Regimental and Chattels Charity of the Former Durham Light Infantry and the Regimental Museum of the Former Durham Light Infantry.

In 1967, the council agreed to care for the collection and built a museum close to County Hall at Aykley Heads.

In October 2015, the council’s then cabinet agreed new arrangements for the storage and display of the DLI Collection, including the relocation of the collection to the DLI Research and Study Centre in Spennymoor, while the archives were moved to Durham County Records Office.

A programme of touring and permanent exhibitions was established to encourage people to engage with the collection, along with educational activities and loans to other institutions.

Current plans are for both the collection and the archive to be brought together at the redeveloped Grade II listed Mount Oswald History Centre site.

However all options for the display of exhibits will be considered, with a report on the review set to return to cabinet by September 2021 at the latest.

It will include an assessment of the opportunities, costs, risks and implications of any proposals, as well as ensuring the review takes account of the plans for the £19.6 million history centre, currently under construction in Durham City.

The review will also include engagement with the DLI Trustees and interested parties.

Councillor Mark Wilkes, cabinet member for neighbourhoods and climate change, said he hoped to secure “immediate improvements” at the former DLI museum site at Aykley Heads.

“I have been to the site last week and have been again and I’m not happy with how it looks at the moment,” he said.

“However, I’m confident of the support of our excellent clean and green and neighbourhood teams and the support that they’re offering.

“Following this meeting I will be taking a further look at the external areas of the site to decide what we can do now to tidy them up.

“This will help to give the grounds the respect they deserve as a place so many people like to visit for quiet contemplation and to respect those who have fallen.”

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