I have happy memories of the Royal Marines Museum at Eastney as a kid back in the Dark Ages (1970s). The diorama of the attack on the mole at Zeebrugge… the diorama of the attack on Suez… I dearly wanted to take those home with me. Yet while there’s a part of me that bemoans the move from the historic Eastney location, there’s also a part of me (the pragmatic adult part) that acknowledges that the survival of the museum as an institution depends on getting visitors through the door. Moving to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard makes sense. We might not want it to make sense, but it does.
THE ROYAL Marines Museum will move to the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard by the end of 2017, it has been revealed.
Administrators are planning to switch the museum from the former Eastney Barracks to boost visitor numbers and income.
The museum has been at the historic site since 1958 and was a barracks for Royal Marines dating back to 1867.
It is hoped that the move to the dockyard will quadruple visitor numbers.
But the future of the Grade II listed building currently used by the museum at Eastney has been left in doubt.
Museum director, Robert Bruce, defended the plan and said: ‘The story of the Royal Marines is at the heart of the naval story, which is told at the dockyards.
‘That’s the right place for the whole story to be linked up together.’
The museum averages 29,000 visitors a year, a figure administrators hope would quadruple by moving.
Mr Bruce said he hoped the move would also include the Yomper statue – a marine on a long-distance march – which stands at the museum’s entrance on Eastney Esplanade.
Mr Bruce added: ‘I know the Yomper is an emotive subject.
‘But it’s important to point out that the Yomper was funded and is owned by the Royal Marines Museum and it is our iconic figure and it features on all our material.’
Mr Bruce said the move would cost ‘millions’ which would come from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the museum’s own resources and further fundraising efforts.
He added that moving the museum would allow its collection to be displayed using modern technology.
‘You only have to look at the Mary Rose Museum to see what can be done with museums now. We could be ploughing a similar furrow,’ said Mr Bruce.
Only about 10 per cent of the museum’s collection is currently on display.
East Southsea Neighbourhood Forum vice-chairman, Leon Reis, said the move would be good for Portsmouth, but a shame for the seafront.
Royal Marines Association member Frank Lycett said: ‘It’s an obvious move when you consider everything is down there (the dockyard) as far as tourism is concerned.
‘If it were down there it would get more visitors and therefore more income.
‘Even if it was a reduced income per person, it would be to our benefit.’
Portsmouth City Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson said he did not want the Yomper statue to move.
‘It is such a beautiful sculpture and an iconic part the Eastney seafront,’ he said.
Mr Bruce said it was too early to say what the current museum site in Eastney could be used for in the future.
Capt John Rees, chief of staff of the National Museum of the Royal Navy at the dockyard, said: ‘The relocation of the Royal Marine Museum to the Historic Dockyard has been raised, but this would be subject to suitable premises being found and the generation of adequate funding.’