Friends group still supporting museum through challenging time

LYME Regis Museum will benefit from £16,000 in donations, split over this year and next, from its supporters group. 

The money will go towards an educational programme for children and will coincide with the end of the museum’s funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the appointment of a new board of trustees.

David Cox, chairman of the Friends of Lyme Regis Museum, said the donations should “assist the museum enormously at this time of transition”.

In 2019 the museum hosted more than 2,000 school children on scheduled visits. For each school party the museum’s education officer, Chris Andrew, teaches the children about the geological importance of the Jurassic Coast and about Mary Anning and the fossils discovered in and around Lyme Regis. This is followed up with a beach visit and fossil hunting.

In addition, the museum arranges practical activities for children during the school holidays. We believe strongly in supporting education and introducing children to the world of museums.

In the Friends’ latest newsletter, Mr Cox said the organisation was in a strong position to help the museum and treasurer Angela Main reported that it had funds of £42,500 at the end of 2019.

The group also plans to help with the conservation of the 17th century bell which hangs in the museum, and the repair and conservation of a long case clock which dates from the 18th century, totalling about £3,500.

Museum director David Tucker also gave a report in the recent newsletter, describing it as the “most concerning” he had ever had to write, due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

The museum closed when lockdown measures were introduced in March and, although museums have now been given the green light to open, trustees have taken the decision not to reopen until September.

Mr Tucker said the museum had taken advantage of the government’s furlough scheme and the trust was “striving to do more to financially protect our staff than the law might expect us to”.

“Our small staff team is marvellous and the museum will do all it reasonably can for them,” he added.

Commenting on the decision to remain closed until September, Mr Tucker commented: “Lyme in summer will be a high-risk environment for COVID-19 infection, and it is a challenge to maintain social distance as one walks around Lyme, and even more difficult in the museum. We are hoping that we can introduce socially-distanced fossil walks for small groups before September.

“When we reopen, access to the building will be controlled with an online booking system. We’ll have screens, hand sanitiser, PPE, cashless transactions and an upgraded cleaning routine. We’ll continue to do all we can to protect public health and the NHS.

“Unfortunately, opening under these limited conditions means that we will in the medium term run at a loss. We are not alone in this, many other charities and retailers are in a similar position.

For me, the key work is around managing the museum’s finances at a time when we have outgoings, but no income. We are a strong organisation and have purposely built up useful reserves, but the reality is we will probably not raise any significant income for the museum until at least spring 2021. Indeed, because we currently have strong reserves, we have been turned down for emergency funding.

“The generosity of the Friends, committing £8,000 a year in both 2020 and 2021, to support learning is a great reassurance and assistance to the museum trust. The Friends’ kindness will help to maintain the key role of education in the museum.”

Woodmead Halls

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