Alec Samuels

Controversial Southampton Sea City Museum

From Culture24

The futuristic maritime museum at the centre of divisive plans to sell off artwork by Southampton City Council has been given £4.6 million by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Southampton Sea City Museum, a £15 million archaeological and naval showcase designed for a new Cultural Quarter in the city in 2012, will use a converted Grade II-listed magistrates' court to house permanent galleries on immigration and the 549 local voyagers who died when the Titanic sank in 1912.

It drew derision in September 2009 when the Council earmarked two works from Southampton City Art Gallery's revered municipal collection for disposal in a bid to raise up to £4 million towards the development.

Critics, campaigners and a Museums Association warning that the move could have breached its Code of Ethics forced planners to backtrack, but they remain under pressure to raise cash in matchfunding for the HLF award.

Speaking at the time, Council Leader Alec Samuels warned outraged residents that the authority could not afford the Museum without selling Alfred J Munning's After the Race and Auguste Rodin’s Eve.

"If we don't sell some paintings, we don't get a heritage centre,” he said.

"The Heritage Lottery Fund has offered £5 million, £5 million can be raised from business and sponsors, and the remaining £5 million falls to the City Council, which has no money for such a project.

“These decisions have not been taken lightly. The iconic Heritage Museum will bring many more people to the Cultural Quarter and the old and new art galleries.”

The Museum is the first beneficiary of an explosion in Lottery ticket sales which has allowed the Fund to announce a £25 million annual budget increase for heritage projects across the country, rising to £205 million from April.

The ravages of the recession appear to have left most people hoping for a pay-out from Lady Luck, and the official statistics are expected to show record flutter figures when they are published in May.