CONCERNS have been raised that in-house historical experts could be lost from Basingstoke’s museums in a bid to save money.

Specialist roles at venues such as the Milestones Museum, Willis Museum and Basing House – run by the Hampshire Cultural Trust - could be replaced in favour of more digital investment to create cultural hubs.

In an email seen by The Gazette, it is claimed that the change will reduce the trust’s venues to “second rate coffee shops/trinket stalls and not much else” and at least two trustees have resigned as a result of the move.

The trust has confirmed there will be a 10 per cent reduction in its staff but argued the wider changes it was making would “lead to rich and engaging experiences for our customers”.

The trust was set up in 2014 to operate arts and museums facilities previously operated by Hampshire County Council and Winchester City Council.

The open letter was sent to Hampshire County Council’s culture and communities select committee, saying it should take back ownership of venues around the county.

The concerns raised are that with the cuts within the trust there will be no one to deal with hundreds of public and peer group enquiries each year visiting venues around Hampshire.

The letter reads: “[The trust’s] tireless, disgraceful campaign to remove and mothball important objects and convert all museums to second rate coffee shops/trinket stalls and not much else is set to continue unless action is taken very soon.”

In a statement, trust chief executive Dr Janet Owen said: “We are replacing our current arrangement of central specialist subject curators and exhibition officers with cultural experience roles that will be responsible for curatorship and exhibitions within each work stream.

“These roles will focus on placing collections at the heart of our programmes.

“Milestones Museum and Basing House will have a dedicated leadership, operations and cultural experience team.

“The Willis Museum, with its government indemnified gallery, will be the flagship of our new culture hub’s work stream, also with additional resource invested locally.

“In addition, Milestones, the Willis Museum and Basing House will benefit from greater investment in digital and increased fundraising support for social impact programmes.”

The charitable trust was set up to secure a resilient future for arts and museums facilities