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Project information

Opening Up The Soane

As the first phase of a major capital restoration the Museum wishes to create a new visitor reception and shop, a new exhibition gallery, and its first purpose built conservation studio at No.12 Lincoln's Inn Fields.
The best house museum in the world...is about to get better.

January 2011 - March 2012

Charity information: Sir John Soane's Museum

Sir John Soane's Museum logo
  • Need


    Sir John Soane's Museum is an institution under pressure. Visitor numbers reached a peak of 96,000 in 2009, which places an unprecedented strain on this grade 1 listed buildings. Increased visitor numbers place physical stress on the fabric of the Museum and its collections. Inadequate reception facilities mean that visitor experience is less inviting than it could be. There is no provision for access for disabled visitors.


    The renovation of No.12 Lincoln's Inn Fields, a Soane designed house which has been part of the Museum since 1969, will ease the problems posed by increased visitor numbers in several ways. New reception and cloakroom facilities will reduce queuing and congestion in the hall of No.13. The new conservation studio will allow for better care of the collection and buildings than ever before. Two new lifts will facilitate disabled access to all public areas of the Museum for the first time.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    To improve and expand access to the Museum and to ease circulation within it.


    » We will create a dedicated visitor reception on the ground floor of No.12 Lincoln's Inn Fields so visitors can enter No.13 unencumbered.
    » We will install 2 new lifts within No.12 Lincoln's Inn Fields which will allow disabled access to all public areas of the Museum.
    » We will design a new circulation route through the Museum which will allow a 33% increase in visitor numbers without compromising atmosphere.

    What success will look like

    Success will be welcoming increased visitor numbers, by up to 33%. As well as this the improvement in visitor experience can be gauged through the Museum's annual visitor survey.

    Aim 2

    To increase the Museum's self-generated income in a time of economic instability.


    » We will design and install a new shop on the ground floor of No.12 Lincoln's Inn Fields, with all profits being re-invested in Museum activities.

    What success will look like

    Success will be demonstrated through increased profits from trading activities being re-invested. Profits are projected to rise from £68,747 in 2010 to £103,603 in 2015.

    Aim 3

    To run a broader range of temporary exhibitions and related educational activities.


    » We will create a new gallery on the 2nd floor of No.12 Lincoln's Inn Fields with 60% more display space and vastly improved circulation.
    » We will organise new exhibitions and educational activities which can take place within the expanded gallery space, such as gallery talks.

    What success will look like

    Success will be gauged through feedback from the expanded range of exhibitions and education activities, which will demonstrate their value as learning resources.

    Aim 4

    To improve facilities for conserving Museum collections and increase public awareness of this work.


    » We will create modern flexible conservation studios on the second floor of No.12 Lincoln's Inn Fields, to care for our varied collections.
    » We will set up a Conservation-in-action scheme where the public will be able to see and get involved with the work of conservators.

    What success will look like

    Success will be an increased number of objects being conserved in the enlarged and refurbished studios, as well as increased visitor interest in the Museum's conservation activity.

  • Impact


    The new reception and circulation route will equip the Museum to cope with increased visitor numbers, demonstrated by decreased wear and tear in historic interiors such as the No.13 entrance hall. The new shop will contribute to the Museum being more financially self sufficient. The new gallery will over time lead to an increase in both the range and frequency of exhibition related education activities. Increased conservation capacity will preserve the Museum for future generations.


    The project is taking place in a time of distinct economic instability. However the larger part of our fundraising has already been completed,see project budget below. The Museum has a good record of completing capital projects on time and on budget. The Museum has accounted for these risks fully in project planning, for which an HLF grant was received in September 2007. This means the project has been subject to rigorous HLF scrutiny regarding the risks to its completion and success.


    During the period in which project works are being undertaken donors will be directed to our regularly updated OUTS Day Book, which will carry blog style updates on our progress. In addition to this donors will also receive our quarterly newsletter, either by email or by post as they prefer.

  • Budget

    Budget - Project Cost: £2,836,138

    Loading graph....
      Amount Heading Description
      £943,016 Gallery The creation of a new Exhibition Gallery
      £517,595 Shop & Reception The creation a new Shop and Reception Area
      £716,125 Conservation Studios Enlarging and refurbishing Conservation Studios
      £659,402 Disabled Access The installation of 2 new lifts to imporve disabled access across the Museum

    Current Funding / Pledges

    Source Amount
    The Coral Samuel Charitable Trust £10,000 Guaranteed
    The Esmee Fairbairn Foundation £10,000 Guaranteed
    The Michael Marks Charitable Trust £10,000 Guaranteed
    The Tana Trust £7,000 Guaranteed
    Philip Hewat-Jaboor £3,450 Guaranteed
    The Heritage Lottery Fund £457,696 Guaranteed
    The Monument Trust £1,803,000 Guaranteed
    The Bennett Foundation £400,000 Guaranteed
    Individual Donations £13,915 Guaranteed
  • Background


    Located in the the southern part of the London Borough of Camden the Museum is part of the fabric of a diverse metropolitan area. Several universities operate in the area and a substantial number of tourist attractions mean that local footfall is high. Much of the local population lives in social housing, with approximately 42% of children in local schools being eligible for free school meals. As a part of this diverse urban fabric the museum aims to be a place where these groups communicate.


    One of the most obvious benefits of the project is to the mobility impaired, who will gain access to all public areas of the Museum for the very first time due to the new system of lifts. The overarching aim of the project is to improve the visitor experience for all those who chose to come to the Museum, be they tourists, students or locals. Our expanded gallery education and conservation-in-action programmes will greatly expand the areas in which we are equipped to educate our visitors.

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    Sir John Soane's Museum is not only the repository of Soane's unique collections, but also a powerhouse of knowledge about the man himself, his work, techniques and the period in which he lived. This project will allow us to communicate more of this knowledge than ever before, and through a more varied and effective range of programmes such as gallery based education and conservation-in-action.

    Read more about the Charity running this project.


    Tim Knox, Director FSA

    Tim has been at the centre of an ongoing program of restorations since he joined the Museum in 2005. His leadership is key to the project.

    Helen Dorey, Deputy Director FSA

    Helen has been with the Museum for 21 years,and her knowledge of its history,collections and the way the Museum functions is central to the project.

    Beth Walker, Education Manager

    Using her substantial museum education experience Beth will bring dynamism and originality to the new gallery education programmes.

    Julian Harrap Architects Ltd

    This award winning architect firm specialises in working with historic building and will oversee the design of the new spaces working with the Museum.