In 2004-5, NHDC undertook a Fundamental Service Review (also known as a Best Value Review) of its Museum Service. Although the review found that visitors greatly valued all aspects of the service (Hitchin Museum & Art Gallery, Letchworth Museum & Art Gallery, the Education Service with its School Loans scheme, and the Archaeology and Natural History services), the two museums were both described as unfit for purpose and the Burymead Resource Centre as outdated and inefficient.
The review had five main recommendations towards providing a better service for the whole district, which were as follows:-
- To develop a Museum/Cultural Strategy
- To develop a new museum store/resource centre, possibly in partnership with other local museums
- To improve the School Loans scheme with partnership working
- To use IT to digitise the museum collections
- To close the two existing Council-run museums and instead run a museum and gallery on a single town-centre site, with a saving of £125,000.
- To enable public discussion of these recommendations, an open meeting, called the Arts, Museum & Heritage Forum, was called in January 2006. This Forum has continued ever since. Notes of all the meetings, briefing notes and presentations are available here.