Charles Dickens Museum to shut for 200th anniversary year

Charles Dickens Museum The museum is based in Dickens' former home of 48 Doughty Street, Camden

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The Charles Dickens Museum in central London has defended its decision to close for a revamp during the 200th anniversary year of the author's birth.

The author's former home will shut on 10 April, also ahead of the Olympic Games when many tourist attractions are expecting boosted visitor numbers.

The museum has been awarded a Heritage Lottery grant of £2m.

Museum manager Shannon Hermes said the money was only available for a limited time and they had to seize the chance.

She added that there were already many Dickens-related events planned for London throughout the year.

An international programme of literature festivals, film screenings, plays and other projects have been organised as part of the year-long celebrations, called Dickens 2012.

The programme, which marks Dickens' birth on 7 February 1812, has been devised by the British Council in conjunction with the Charles Dickens Museum, Film London, Penguin and other organisations.

However, the Charles Dickens Museum, based at 48 Doughty Street, Camden, will close from April until the beginning of December.

'Great, great pity'

The house is where the author wrote Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby and other works.

"It's certainly the wrong moment to close it and a great, great pity," said Michael Lamb, one of the directors of the Living Literature Society, which organises literary events in London.

He said visitors coming to the capital as part of the celebrations would specifically "seek out" the museum as it is the only one of the author's homes that still exists.

Charles Dickens Dickens wrote Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby at the house

"I can understand they feel there is no shortage of events but I do feel it would be a mistake," he added.

The museum, which has a collection of 100,000 items relating to the author, including manuscripts and rare editions, has secured £2m of Heritage Lottery funding to improve accessibility and make the attraction "feel more like a home than a museum", officials said.

Ms Hermes said it was "not an overnight decision" to shut the museum for several months throughout 2012.

She added that it had been decided that with the range of Dickens attractions on offer it gave the museum the "availability to do it".

"Obviously the money is available for a limited period and if you don't use it in a certain timeframe, the offer is rescinded," she added.

A spokeswoman for promotional agency VisitLondon.com said there would be many options for Dickens fans this year including the exhibit at the Museum of London.

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