Keys to new cultural and learning hub in Doncaster handed over

Danum Gallery, Library and Museum is one step closer to opening its doors as the keys to the impressive new building in Doncaster town centre have been handed over.

Doncaster Council has received the keys for the iconic building from the main contractor Willmott Dixon and will now start the process of kitting the building out and then moving the library elements and displays across.

Doncaster’s very own Paddington Bear, one of the many planned exhibits, also had a sneaky look round his new home during the official hand over.

The focal point of the new building is the front of the former Doncaster High School for Girls which has been carefully restored and encased in glass to create a truly unique feature. When lit up at night it comes alive and sends a statement out about what this public building is all about.

Ros Jones, Mayor of Doncaster, said: “The building is visually stunning, unique and iconic, particularly the frontage of the former Doncaster High School for Girls which we have beautifully restored and showcased as an exhibit in its own right.

“It has changed the skyline in Waterdale, but it’s more than just a great looking, cutting edge facility. As a new public attraction, it will contribute to our wider regeneration plans for the Civic and Cultural Quarter and the rest of our town centre. Most importantly, it will be a great public asset for our residents and communities to enjoy and benefit from.

“Given the budget cuts councils up and down the country have faced in recent years, it is a great achievement to be delivering this public building and bringing together a number of services all under one roof. It’s something everyone in Doncaster should be proud to call their own and it will take them on a journey of discovery.”

Cllr Nigel Ball, Cabinet Member for Public Health, Leisure and Culture, said: “We are raising the bar with the Danum Gallery, Library and Museum by creating a state-of-the-art public building with a range of modern and quality services for our residents. It will showcase the varied history and many achievements of this great borough and has been designed to inspire creativity, encourage learning and drive innovation.

“We want to encourage local people to aim for the stars and inspire them to learn about Doncaster’s rich and varied heritage as well as promoting Doncaster and our achievements to the masses. We want to connect people with outstanding exhibitions and empower them through the new library to gain knowledge, skills and new talents that help them make the most of their lives. This superb new building will do just that.”

Anthony Dillon, managing director of Willmott Dixon in the North, said: “The Danum Gallery, Library and Museum is our eighth project with Doncaster Council, a partnership that has seen more than £40m invested with local businesses so far. This really is a building built by, and for, the people of Doncaster, so we’re hugely proud to hand over a cultural hub that will inspire, empower and bring people together.

"In the face of the challenges of the year to date, it has taken an outstanding collaborative effort of our team, Doncaster Council and our supply chain partners, and the end result is a stunning and state-of-the-art building that we think the people of Doncaster will be proud of, now and for generations to come.”

Matt Hutton, director at Bond Bryan architects, said: “This project shows the council’s clear intent to continue to invest and support the Arts, Culture and Education for the people of Doncaster and the wider Sheffield City Region. At its heart, it is a community focused project providing real opportunities to create positive impacts on public health and wellbeing through engagement with the local communities. Bond Bryan are extremely proud to be involved in another prestigious project for Doncaster Council supporting our partners Willmott Dixon.”

Danum Gallery, Library and Museum will be a superb attraction and place for learning.

The art gallery will display some of the most important and impressive works from the art collection cared for by Heritage Doncaster. There is also a dedicated gallery space to accommodate highly influential art works loaned from the likes of the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Arts Council Collection, this will be a first for Doncaster.

The library will offer a mix of traditional and new ways of reading and learning. It will include dedicated spaces for families, young children and teenagers and various facilities for people to learn and carry out research. It will cater for everyone and this includes having interactive digital content which will benefit people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and young visitors.

The museum will have a fascinating blend of collections, split into various zones. This will enable visitors to learn about Doncaster’s rich heritage and see how communities across the borough have changed over time. It will have a superb natural history space and there will be a special community display where local people can decide what to showcase.

The building will include a superb rail heritage centre too, including never been seen before exhibits from the rail collection at Hall Cross Academy. The remarkable selection of rail related memorabilia has been amassed over the years by the Doncaster Grammar School Railway Trustees. This will be a great attraction and showcase why Doncaster is often referred to as ‘the home of rail’.

Visitors will also be able to enjoy a new look King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry Museum, have a bite to eat or drink in a new café, up close and personal to the former girl’s school and much, much more.

Further details will be released in the coming months about the many exciting things people will be able to see and do inside Danum Gallery, Library and Museum. 

Like all construction schemes there has been some delays due to the Covid-19 pandemic but now the building has been handed over, the council can start fitting out the building and then look to start moving exhibits, books and other items into the building. There are also collections from partners to coordinate. This will take some time to complete and an announcement about when the building will be ready to open will come out in due course.

A film showing a glimpse inside can be watched: youtu.be/PGmb4YvIGCE