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West Norfolk museums move online but fears over funding are expressed

Museums are adapting services to reach out to the public despite the doors being closed for the buildings-but some concerns have been raised over finances.

True’s Yard Museum has been contacted by students and school teachers regarding its online study resources, principally Key Stage 2 study packs on Tudors, Victorians, and Maritime History.

After being bombarded with requests from families, the museum created a programme of online content for children, which saw online engagement increase by 179 per cent.

True's Yard Museum is currently closed due to the coronavirus outbreak
True's Yard Museum is currently closed due to the coronavirus outbreak

The programme is divided into Treat Tuesdays (historical recipes), Messy Wednesdays (fun activities), Word Search Thursdays, Fact Fridays and Potluck Saturdays.

Meanwhile, Lynn Museum has been making online exhibitions for the museum Arts and Culture Google platform including an exhibition on the history of whaling.

Museum curator Oliver Bone said two more exhibitions are in the pipeline, while content has also been shared via social media.

Mr Bone added: "We are about to start a new project linked to an exhibition for 2021 called Our Gardens which will offer a history of public and private gardens, and connect with people’s experiences of gardening today including growing house-plants, window boxes and allotments."

Lynn Museum has also been working in association with the Lynn News to record people’s experience of the current lockdown period with a 'Journey through a Pandemic Postcard Project'.

Swaffham Heritage Museum closed at the end of March and has since posted videos online during the lockdown.

Manager Dr Sue Gattuso said: “Online galleries are in the pipeline. We are on a steep learning curve.

“Our grant from the Lottery Fund for our Conflict and Consequences Exhibition seems very apposite. When this time is over we will be picking up coronavirus as a theme.

"We have been unable to continue with our interviews for VE Day. We will pick those up again and add them to the website when we can. Fortunately we already have some in our archive and we are working on how best to make them available online."

Swaffham Heritage Museum manager Sue Gattuso shows Dame Stella around a new World War One exhibition back in May 2018
Swaffham Heritage Museum manager Sue Gattuso shows Dame Stella around a new World War One exhibition back in May 2018

True's Yard is applying to the National Lottery Emergency Fund for aid and some of the staff are being furloughed.

Speaking about the lockdown, True’s Yard manager Lindsey Bavin said: “The closure is a blow to the museum financially- we had a big fundraising event planned before lockdown was announced which had to be postponed.

“We are concerned for our 50 volunteers, many of whom are elderly and are now isolated from the community. We look forward to reopening so we can see them again, when it is safe to do so.”

The Friends of True’s Yard donated £1,500 to support the museum during the pandemic period.

A donations page for the North Street museum has been set up at https://northendtrust.charitycheckout.co.uk/donate#!/ and the museum are also appealing for cheques which should be addressed to The North End Trust and posted to True's Yard Fisherfolk Museum, North Street, King's Lynn, PE301QW.

Dr Gattuso of Swaffham Heritage Museum added: “Naturally we are suffering a loss of income. Schools have had to cancel, plus booked guided walking tours of the town.

“Fortunately our staff are all volunteers and the museum is supported by the Town Council, so we will survive.

"We are very much looking forward to welcoming visitors again and to continuing our work on the heritage of Swaffham."

True's Yard has donated Nitrile Gloves to workers in vital services via the Norfolk Tactical Co-ordination Group. Staff have also signed up to donate blood due to a fall in donors during the lockdown.

And Lynn Museum has been assisting colleagues at Norfolk County Council in order to support vulnerable residents during the lockdown.

County councillor John Ward, chairman of the Norfolk Joint Museums Committee, said: "While the temporary closure of our 10 museum sites is a difficult time for the service, our museums staff are adapting magnificently to working digitally, developing a huge range of new online resources to engage our audiences, and ensuring work on existing projects continues.

"We know from the response to our social media feeds and increased digital engagement in other areas, that our communities really value our museums and collections, even when they can’t visit them.

"We have a role to play in supporting communities, helping people to feel less isolated and bringing some pleasure and interest to them while we live through this crisis together.”

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