203Durham County Council had pledged to keep meeting with veterans and campaigners as it develops how best to continue to honour the Durham Light Infantry.

Speaking at a meeting of full council on Wednesday morning, the council’s cabinet member for economic regeneration and culture, Cllr Neil Foster, said meetings have already taken place with many who share strong views on the future of the DLI collection.

And he said the council will continue to listen to people who want to help bring the story of the men and women who served to the audience it deserves.

Cllr Foster said: “In adopting this report the Cabinet members recognised the heritage of the DLI regiment must not only be maintained and preserved for future generations, but honoured as widely as possible.

“We also recognise, as a city containing a World Heritage Site, that it is also important to provide an excellent cultural offer, both for the benefit of our own residents and the many thousands of tourists who come to visit us each year.

“However, we must also recognise that what we have done before may no longer be appropriate or sustainable, and we must therefore look for opportunities for how we can make the most of what we have.

“In consultation with the DLI Trustees, whose role is to do what is best for the collection, and in partnership with Durham University, we have sought to find a new way of telling the DLI story – a way that will take it to the heart of the World Heritage Site, with its more than 600,000 visitors a year, and give it the far greater audience it rightly deserves.

“In addition we have been working with Army Museums Ogilby Trust the recognised authority in this area.

“We have already met with many of those who have strong views on the future of this museum and welcome the opportunity to meet others in order that this can help shape the future of the collection and how we exhibit the many important artefacts it contains.

“We understand there has been significant public concern about the proposed changes, particularly with the idea that we are seeking to lock much of the collection away from public view, but that is simply not true.

“Durham County Council – as one of the few local authorities still funding a regimental museum – is committed to multiple exhibitions over the next five years to showcase much of what is currently on display, as well as many items, photos and stories which aren’t.

“At the same time we want to provide a new more suitable home for those items not included in exhibitions, with a publically accessible research facility at Spennymoor at which curators, conservators and volunteers will be able to study and work on items.

“Both of those are longer term commitments to the DLI. Work is well underway on an exciting programme of events for 2016 that further explore and commemorate the role of Durham men and women at war.

“Rest assured that we are very aware of the importance of the DLI both to the history and people of the county and beyond.

“And we believe our plans which we are developing with the input of many will offer both a fitting tribute to those who served with the regiment, and ensure the continuation of the collection for many years to come.”

The DLI collection is set to move from its current home at Aykley Heads in April, by which time the first of the exhibitions on Palace Green, looking at the involvement of Durham people in the Battle of the Somme, will be open to the public.

A five year exhibition on the History of the DLI will follow later in the year, with further temporary exhibitions on different topics related to the regiment, and a linked programme of events marking the World War One centenary also planned.

To discover more about the county’s involvement in the 1914 to 1918 conflict visit the council’s archive, museum and archaeology services’ Durham at War website, www.durhamatwar.org.uk.

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