The Industrial Heritage Support Officer (IHSO) project commenced in September 2012. The post is funded by Historic England (HE) through their National Capacity Building Programme, and is managed by the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust (IGMT) in partnership with the Association of Independent Museums (AIM) and the Association for Industrial Archaeology (AIA). In addition to IGMT, AIM and AIA, the project steering group also includes Sir Neil Cossons, and representatives of the Prince’s Regeneration Trust (PRT), the European Route of Industrial Heritage (ERIH), and a Project Assurance Officer from Historic England.

Backbarrow Furnace in Cumbria is an important early ironworks which currently faces an uncertain future
Backbarrow Furnace in Cumbria is an important early ironworks which currently faces an uncertain future

Why is the Project needed?

The IHSO project stems from a growing concern, underpinned by the findings of Sir Neil Cossons’ Sustaining England’s Industrial Heritage: A Future for Preserved Industrial Sites in England 2008 report for English Heritage, that publicly accessible industrial heritage sites face an increasingly uncertain future. Many sites are trust owned or operated and are wholly or partly run by volunteers. Common problems include issues of volunteer retention and recruitment, technical skills transfer from an ageing volunteer base, adapting to a radically changing funding and visitor environment, and achieving modern ‘best practice’ conservation, management and visitor presentation standards. The particular nature of industrial heritage attractions, typically combining extensive sites, big and complex historic buildings and additional features such as working machinery, make these challenges especially pressing.

What does the Project aim to do?

The IHSO project aims to deliver England-wide support to improve the capacity, sustainability and conservation standards of preserved industrial sites with public access. The key objectives of the IHSO project are to:

  • Develop a national strategy to improve the sustainability and conservation standards of preserved industrial sites with public access;
  • Improve the capacity amongst owners and managers to secure the long-term future of these sites;
  • Create a network of relevant stakeholders and grant providers that is sustainable beyond the life of the project

Delivery of the project is supported by a Business Plan, key targets from which include providing an information ‘clearing house’ service, facilitating mentoring and training opportunities and programmes, undertaking national funding bid development, advocacy and celebration of best practice, and building new partnerships within and beyond the heritage sector.

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