Museum of Making, Derby Silk Mill

Redevelopment of the UNESCO World Heritage site


Museum of Making, Derby Silk Mill

Celebrating the area’s rich history of innovation, the original 1721 Museum of Making in the Derwent Valley Mills UNESCO World Heritage Site is a heritage development that has saved an iconic public asset and brought the whole building back into use for the first time in 50 years. It has provided long term security, safety and sustainability for the building and its collections, telling Derby’s 300-year history of making on what is widely regarded as the site of the world’s first modern factory and provides an anchor for the city’s vision as a ‘City of Making’ – estimated to provide a gross economic impact of over £4.2m annually for the city.

The scheme is only the second in the UK to be delivered using the innovative Integrated Project Insurance (IPI) procurement approach, following Speller Metcalfe’s Dudley College, Advance II. The IPI procurement model was chosen as the most compelling by Derby Museums, matching its collaborative community principles and that of the wider project team.

Following an earlier redevelopment of the ground floor, for the main construction programme Speller Metcalfe was employed to strip out and renovate the remaining four floors of the L-shaped building and create an additional mezzanine level to provide a state-of-the-art new museum, which is complemented by the new Civic Hall extension.

The team overcame numerous challenges throughout the build, including multiple instances flooding, significant findings of asbestos and the COVID-19 pandemic, and the result is a heritage site that has been sympathetically restored from a state of degradation while retaining nearly all of the fabric of the original building. It is also now fit-for-purpose for the 21st century in terms of audience and environment; using technology and a modern approach has created an all-encompassing experience for visitors that doesn’t interfere with the historic nature of the building itself.

The Derby ‘Museum of Making’ was also delivered alongside a unique programme of co-production, allowing volunteers to participate in creating the museum and its exhibits and the restoration project itself. This unique human-centred approach and was being driven by the local community and museum stakeholders, with almost 36,000 hours of volunteering logged on the project.

In 2021 the scheme was awarded:

  • Construction News Awards: Project of the Year (under £20m)
  • East Midlands Constructing Excellence Awards: Winner of Winners  |  Building Project of the Year  |  People Development  |  Conservation & Regeneration  |  Innovation
  • Building Awards: Refurbishment Project of the Year

The Museum of Making is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Derby City Council and Arts Council England.