The museum at Housesteads Roman Fort has shut ahead of a six month £1m revamp.
The closure at what is the most complete example of a Roman fort in Britain on one of the best preserved sections of Hadrian’s Wall, will see English Heritage, the National Trust and Northumberland National Park Authority, working together to improve the landmark tourist attraction and enhance the visitor experience.
The first phase of development will start this winter with the refurbishment of the museum.
Visitors will still be able to access the fort free of charge, however, throughout the planned programme of works while the nearby Roman museums and collections at Chesters, Birdoswald and Corbridge will remain open on winter weekends.
The combined developments are being made possible through £500,000 of funding from both English Heritage and the National Trust and £40,000 from Northumberland National Park Authority.
The new museum will include an interactive and audiovisual exhibition exploring life at Vercovicium, the Roman name for Housesteads.
Visitors will be able to discover how the Romans came to the location on the northern edge of their empire and built the iconic fort. The exhibition will also show what life was like at Housesteads and through a collection of Roman finds reveal the legacy left behind.
Outside in the fort a series of new site interpretation panels will help visitors understand the network of buildings, and access for disabled visitors to the museum is also being added.
Richard Polley, head of visitor operations for Hadrian’s Wall at English Heritage, said: “We are delighted our plans for the redevelopment of Housesteads Roman Fort can now finally begin and we will continue to work in partnership with our colleagues at the National Trust and Northumberland National Park Authority, to help ensure that all of the planned improvements are brought to bear for the benefit of our many visitors.
“English Heritage and our partners at Housesteads have responded to the needs of our visitors and, as part of this redevelopment at this iconic site, we will repair and upgrade the museum building, create a brand new exciting exhibition and ultimately a better experience for visitors.
“These are exciting and carefully considered plans that will preserve and enhance an important part of the Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site and attract more visitors to this popular attraction. We look forward to seeing the plans progress quickly.”
Phase one of the project will open to the public in spring 2012. Phase two will see the National Trust remodel the visitor centre, toilets, shop and café with work due to take place towards the end of 2012.
Northumberland National Park Authority is improving the visitor infrastructure. Improvements to the car park and access points will ultimately provide 40 additional car park spaces and better access.