Bringing joy in lockdown

Lyme Regis Museum (photo by Matt Austin)

IT’S a challenge running a museum which prides itself on the amount of people that visit, be they tourists or locals in a pandemic.

In a good year 32,000 visit us with 5,500 others learning about the coast on our famous fossil walks.

We were only open for three months between March 2020 and May 2021, but through a combination of generous funding from Lyme Regis Town Council and money we salted away for a rainy day, we were able to deliver some remarkable events.

When we discovered our very popular craft events for families couldn’t happen, we asked our artists, including Darrell Wakelam, to prepare online ‘make and do’ events.

Children of all ages junk modelled ichthyosaurs, ships and clay dinosaurs from the safety of their own houses.

Under such strange conditions we found that many of the events we had planned for older Lyme residents in 2020 had to be shelved – as did our work with St Michael’s Primary School.

But we identified that because of lockdown there were a lot of people locally and further afield, whose lives we could illuminate in such gloomy times.

And so ‘Museum at Home’ was born, using our collections and the skills of artist Christine Allison and poet Sarah Acton, as well as Lyme filmmaker Rob Coombe, we were able to put together a set of on line presentations challenging people to unleash their inner artist or writer.

And what a success it was! Museum at Home, devised and co-ordinated by our own Bridget Houseago had 120 people involved, the majority local, but some from places as distant as Canada and Somerset.

As soon as the museum was allowed to open, we displayed much of the home-created work.

We also used digital to celebrate the museum’s centenary, and our volunteers and supporters made a string of short films capturing their love of the museum, and these can be seen on our website www.lymeregismuseum.co.uk

Now things have loosened, we’ve been able to work with St Michael’s and Woodroffe pupils on ‘Lyme Legend’, the life of Thomas Coram. This production has been led by another ‘Lyme Legend’ Dot Wood.

So, we managed to bring some joy to people in difficult circumstances, as well as being able to invest some much needed money into Lyme’s ‘creative economy’.

The really positive outcome for the museum is that we’ve discovered new ways of supporting people ‘at a distance’ through the use of the digital world.

Woodmead Halls

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