What role should Lancashire's libraries, museums and archives play in the life of the county?

County Hall's archives hold 130 years of history
County Hall's archives hold 130 years of history

Lancashire’s libraries, museums and archives should aim to “enrich the lives” of the county’s residents.

That is the main ambition laid out in a new strategy setting the direction for Lancashire County Council’s cultural services over the next five years.

READ MORE >>> More money for the Lancashire museums which 'can't be closed'
The document, which has been approved by the authority’s cabinet, details more than a dozen objectives for a department which is responsible for running over 60 libraries, maintaining millions of individual items within its archives and museums and acting as the “corporate memory” of County Hall, whose history dates back 130 years.

The strategy includes plans to help create more “digitally aware” citizens, who can use their new-found skills to browse the county’s digitally-accessible cultural collections – and to expand their digital skills in everyday life.

The county’s archives and collections will also be used to create a “shared Lancashire memory” for generations to come.

“We want to encourage more individuals and communities to find out more about themselves, to fulfil their aspirations and celebrate their achievements,” the document declares.

County Cllr Peter Buckley, cabinet member for cultural services, paid tribute to the “diverse and experienced workforce” which had helped to put the plan together.

“This [strategy] will be something which we can distribute when promoting our services or bidding for funds,” he said.

A recent report for the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership revealed that the county receives over 80 percent less in funding from Arts Council England than some other parts of the North West – just £7 per per head of population compared to £38 per head in Manchester.

That report concluded that Lancashire needs to sell its “cultural story” to a wider audience and cabinet members heard that the county council intends to work on more joint projects with national organisations in an attempt to increase cultural tourism.

Increased collaboration with local cultural bodies and the development of volunteering opportunities for residents are also part of the long-term plan.

In July, Lancashire County Council announced that it was pumping just over £1m into its museums service – £866,000 of which was to fund Queen Street Mill in Burnley and Helmshore Textile Mill in Rossendale.

The Conservative-run authority reopened the sites last year, after they were closed as part of a savings measure by the previous Labour administration in 2016. But delays in discussions about handing them over to the National Trust meant more council money had to be earmarked for them – on top of the £714,000 which was allocated when they first reopened their doors.