Six months and £650,000 later, Dartford’s historic library in Central Park has reopened to mark its centenary year.
Despite the amount of money and time poured into the restoration, the guiding principle of the project was to ensure that the building maintained its heritage.
Walls and flooring have been redecorated, new furniture has been installed, art displays are dotted many of the rooms, and original listed bookshelves have been refurbished.
The work isn’t over, either, with a lift due to be installed in the Peter Blake Gallery, where artwork from local artists will be displayed, and the museum is also due for some attention.
Visitors will be able to get into the museum from within the library itself, rather than have to go outside to a different entrance.
Dartford council leader Jeremy Kite (Con) is hopeful of seeing the museum enjoy a major update in 2017, celebrating aspects of the town’s history such the origins of The Rolling Stones.
He added: “We have really kept the character of the building. It’s a soft opening today to get the book lending up and running, but there’s a lot of work still to do. It’s early days but we are really delighted with it.”
The project was commissioned by Kent County Council, whose library service worked alongside Dartford council to improve the facility.
Changing facilities and toilets have been added, as has a new meeting room for groups and societies, and a Centenary Room has been created for use for deaths and births registrations.
Mike Hill, KCC cabinet member for community services, said: “I am very pleased with what’s been achieved here. It’s taken some time but we have got a really good answer to bringing together our library with Dartford’s lovely museum.
“To bring them together in one complete facility is tremendous. I am very pleased with the changes I am seeing. We have managed to bring it up-to-date and at the same time maintain its history.”
He was joined at the opening by mayoress of Dartford Eija Burrell, KCC’s service manager for libraries, registration and archives, Matthew Kerr, and the assistant service manager, Mick Fearne.
Dartford’s library is open from 8.30am until 6pm on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, open until 8pm on Thursday. On Saturdays it’s open from 9am until 5pm and it’s closed on Sundays.