OXFORD’S Story Museum still needs to raise £8m for its eye-catching “cathedral of stories” development.
But the organisation has announced plans to open part of the £11.5m attraction as early as next year, two years earlier than originally planned.
The turreted museum with rooftop walkways to celebrate storytelling, was approved by Oxford City Council’s west area planning committee earlier this month. It was originally not expected to open before 2015.
But museum co-director Tish Francis said she plans to open up a third of the three-storey building by the end of 2013, while the fundraising continues.
So far £3.5m has been raised for the project, including an anonymous donation of £2.2m.
Now armed with planning approval, they will be bidding for funding from statutory and charitable bodies early in the New Year.
Ms Francis said: “The sooner we get the museum open and bringing money to cover some of our costs the better. The longer it is closed, the more money will have to be raised.”
The museum is currently housed in Rochester House, with parts of the building variously used as a pub, stables, post office sorting office and telephone exchange.
Ms Francis expects to open a large gallery on the first floor of the new development, along with a shop and cafe on the ground floor, facing out onto Pembroke Street.
The museum has been encouraged to open earlier by the enthusiastic response to exhibitions, storytelling events, tours and workshops, attracting 15,000 people to the building for one-off events. It would also establish its presence in the city centre in advance of extensive building work.
Museum co-director Kim Pickin said: “The endorsement by the council marks a new chapter in the museum’s progress from pauper to prince – and brings us another step closer to the palace. It will be the first museum of its kind in the world. “ The plans for the 20,000 sq ft site cover the refurbishment, repair and upgrade of three existing buildings and courtyard; new lift towers and a rooftop walkway leading to a story lookout tower with a viewing platform.
Plans were modified after concerns from English Heritage, with materials for two small turrets changed from timber to copper and a stone surround to the gated entrance now proposed.
The museum proposes to employ 26 full-time staff in addition to volunteers, with estimated annual visitor numbers put between 90,000 and 110,000.