Agenda and minutes

Venue: Norfolk Rural Life Museum, Gressenhall

No. Item


Minutes pdf icon PDF 81 KB

To confirm the Minutes of the meeting held on 12 October 2007.  


The Minutes of the meeting held on a 12 October 2007 were agreed as a correct record. 




To receive apologies for absence.


Apologies for absence were received from Mr J Joyce and Miss Claire Salley.  



Chairman's Announcements


The Chairman announced that it was Rose Prior’s last meeting and thanked her for all her support for the Committee over the past 4 to 5 years. 


Following this, it was suggested that Mr David Blackburn, a Trustee for the Charles Burrell Museum, be nominated to become a co-opted Member of the Area Museums Committee. 


It was agreed that the Committee Officer would confirm whether this could be done under the Constitution. 



Urgent Business

To note whether the Chairman proposes to accept any item as urgent business, pursuant to Section 100(B)(4)(b) of the Local Government Act, 1972.


The Chairman welcomed the Norfolk Museums Development Officer, Mr Jamie Everitt, to discuss the accreditation received by three museums in the Breckland area.  The Museums to receive accreditation were Bishops Bonners Cottage in Dereham, Swaffham Museum and the Charles Burrell Museum.  Mr Everitt expressed his congratulations for all the hard work of everyone involved especially regarding Bishops Bonners Cottage. 


The Chairman expressed his delight regarding the accreditations and hoped that this would help to give the museums a great boost for the future. 



Ancient House, Museum of Thetford Life

Presentation by the Outreach and Audience Development Officer, Ellie Hill. 


The Outreach and Audience Development Officer, Mrs Ellie Hill, presented a report which informed the Committee on the Outreach Project June 2005 – January 2008 of the Ancient House Museum of Thetford Life. 


The Outreach Project deals with 2000 contacts per year involving groups of Families, Schools, Older People and Skills for life groups.  In addition, it has involved new groups including; Teenagers, Secondary Schools, Thetford Access Group, People in Rural Areas, Portuguese Community and USAF Families. 


Three Outreach display cases had been created that were all displayed in County Council owned buildings to display museum collections and linked to temporary exhibitions.  The Archae-bin was one of the display cases which was a plastic bin encasing a plaster mould holding items to depict Thetford through time and was a resource the Outreach project had used as a resource in schools. 


An Evacuation Evacuee Project was run in at least ten schools from September to December 2005 in Partnership with the Keystone Development Trust.  Work for this project involved gathering information from interviews with local people who were evacuees during the 1930’s, followed by running sessions in schools, to share the local history giving pupils a real oral history of the life of an evacuee during this era.  The Project was a great success which thoroughly engaged all the schools involved.  This project was helped to run by funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund. 


Seeking the Maharajah was a pilot project run during the museum closure involving 120 pupils in two schools.  The project ran a carousel of four activities – turban tying, bhangra dancing, chapatti making and the story of the Maharajah.  An Indian lady supported the project by attending the schools and teaching bhangra dancing to the pupils.  Mrs Hill confirmed, this project had been a great success and that all sessions for this project were already fully booked. 


During July 2005 a photography project involving Thetford pupils called ‘My Thetford’ had been run.  Local teenagers used museum archive photos as an inspiration, and then took their own modern views of the town.  Many of the pupils involved in this project used their work for their GCSE art coursework. 


Community Archaeology Week took place during August 2005 using funding from the Redcastle Furze School and the Local Heritage Initiative. The excavation involved 160 local people and was carried out in partnership with the Thetford Society.  The items found by the excavation produced a small touring exhibition which was enjoyed by many local people. 


Reminiscence Work had been carried out at Burnham Grove in partnership with the Library Service where items from the 1940’s and 1950’s were taken as an exhibition for people to examine and this work is still ongoing.  In addition, during May 2005 VE Day in Thetford took place where 150 older people took part and volunteered to give their memories, this was such a success it was repeated in Diss.  Funding for this project was received from the BBC People’s War Project. 


Mrs Hill  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.


Ancient House, Museum of Thetford Life pdf icon PDF 83 KB

Report by the Curator, Ancient House – Oliver Bone.


The Curator of Ancient House, the Museum of Ancient Life, Oliver Bone, presented the report which outlined the work of the Museum from October 2007 – Jan 2008. 


Media Coverage

The Museum appeared on the Bygones TV programme just before Christmas in a feature about Thetford Pulpware.  Other press coverage has included coverage of the Chaucer event at the museum, ‘Thetford Treasure returns to Thetford’, and pieces in the Thetford Community Newsletter and About Thetford.  The Museum would be receiving a loan from the British Museum of Roman pieces including gold jewellery and silver spoons found in Thetford which would be exhibited during May 2008. 



A successful training session was held at the Ancient House with the conservation department focussing on cleaning objects on open display and parts of the historic structure of the Ancient House.  Andor Vince from the NMAS (Norfolk Museums & Archaeology Service) conservation department demonstrated the use of brushes and Museum Vac cleaner.  Following the day the Museum have produce a site-specific cleaning manual. 


Exhibitions – ‘Collectamania’

The Museum’s collector’s exhibition opened on the 20th October.  It will run until late April 2008.  The project has generated interest in the subject of collecting and involved local people in the work of the museum.  Two of the collectors have generously offered their services as volunteers to assist with events.  One of the exhibits includes toys from Thetford of a lorry and a tortoise, the tortoise being made of a Pulpware helmet.  The exhibitions have created a lot of interest. 


Thetford Treasure

As part of the Museums preparation for the Roman ‘Thetford Treasure’ coming to Thetford in May, Mr Bone and his Team visited the British Museum and spent time with education staff, curatorial staff and Kusuma Barnett, volunteer coordinator in charge of their handling stations.  The visit included history coordinator teachers from Thetford schools. 


Mr Bone advised that the Museum were working on case layouts, picture research, writing text panels and labels and designing interactives.  The exhibition would open to the public on 12 May and stay until 13 December.


Finds from other Norfolk sites; Kilverstone, Brampton, Thetford and Hockwold would also be included in the exhibition. 



Rosalind Leake was to stay on at the Ancient House until the end of May to complete the work on the ‘Thetford Treasure’ exhibition and other curatorial tasks.  In April the Team would be joined by Laura Matthews who will be working with the Curator on the New Communities project.


Thetford Growth Point and New Communities Project

The Ancient House was to lead a project in 2008-9 to look at the role of museums and heritage in the new growth points and growth areas in the east of England.  With funding from Renaissance in the Regions, they would be aiming to work with other museums in the region and to put together case studies of work in the area.  They were looking to provide a conference later in 2008, a publication and an exhibition,  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.


Developments at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse: The Museum of Norfolk Life pdf icon PDF 54 KB

Report by the Area Museums Officer, Stuart Gillis. 


The Area Museums Officer for Breckland, Mr Stuart Gillis, presented the report which informed the Committee of operational and development issues at Gressenhall Farm & Workhouse. 



Visitor figures for 2007/08 were likely to be on a par with the 2006/07 performance.  This follows a six-year period of sustained visitor growth, which has seen annual visitor numbers rise from below 40,000 to over 80,000. 


Behind the headline figures for 2007/08, it was possible to see that school visits have risen to a record level and that this information had formed part of a national study of quantifiable evidence that attendance to museums had produced a rise in school attainment.  Mr Gillis and that more people were attending Gressenhall event days (the museum has also significantly expanded this programme in recent years).  By contrast it is possible to see that general visits to the museum have declined slightly.


The museum has also experienced a decline in visitor income during 2007/08.  Whilst this shortfall has been addressed from within NMAS budgets, it has been appropriate to review Gressenhall business planning with a view to budget setting for 2008/09. 


The matter has been addressed in the following ways:

  • Budgets
  • Further Renaissance Funding
  • Staff Changes
  • Other Issues



A budget has been set for Gressenhall that prioritises front line services for all audiences.  Vacancy management will allow a period of reflection for NMAS managers to consider other actions as may be appropriate. 


The success of NMAS (Norfolk Museums & Archaeology Service)in fulfilling the role of lead hub for Renaissance in the Regions for the East of England has been rewarded with a positive settlement following the government’s Comprehensive Spending Review.  It was hoped that Gressenhall would benefit directly with new funding for 2008/09 that will see the recruitment of a Gressenhall Events Co-ordinator, together with a supplemented budget for school holiday programming and event days e.g. Village Day, Food Fare. This approach is likely to be matched by a further enhancement of marketing support for Gressenhall.  This is all dependent on the Renaissance business plan being approved by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council in March 2008.


It was noted that they would not be getting funding if they did not show their intent and that their objectives were in line with the priorities of the County and District Councils and Central Government. 


These initiatives are part of the NMAS strategy to ensure that Gressenhall was operating at its optimum level.  They were part of the customer-focused approach to running museums that has served NMAS and Gressenhall well in recent years.


Further Renaissance Funding

Renaissance funding has also been secured, subject to approval of the business plan, for an additional 12 month fixed term post – that of Sustainability Officer.  This post-holder would be based at Gressenhall and support initiatives at Gressenhall and the Museum of East Anglian Life, Stowmarket, to explore and interpret environmental sustainability in relation to farming, the countryside and rural museums.  It was noted that a budget would  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.


Charles Burrell Museum Thetford

Presentation by the Trustee, Charles Burrell Museum. 


Mr David Blackburn, a Trustee of the Charles Burrell Museum, presented a report which informed the Committee of progress and development at the Museum.


The idea for the Museum was conceived in 1987 and during 1991 a group of people started the Museum however, during 2003 it nearly ceased to exist.  Mr Blackburn advised that the problems occurred when the Friends, (a group whose main interest was to rescue, restore and demonstrate engines) had different ideas regarding the Museum to the Trustees.  Unfortunately the Friends were not sufficiently interested in running a museum. 


However, successful steps were made by the Trustees to reconcile the situation.  Since this period, funding of £217,000 was received for the years 2004 to 2006 inclusive.  The funding has lead to the employment of 1 and ½ people at the Museum, for a period of three years (a Museum Professional and Administration Assistant).  The success has continued, and has seen an increase in visitors, it was reported that in 2005 the Museum had 1177 visitors and in 2007 this had increased to 4592 visitors. 


The project has developed since the Museum Professional has been employed with the support of the admin assistant by reviewing, developing and maintaining the People, Building and Collection.   The Volunteers, Trustees and Friends are all now co-ordinated and plans are maintained all improving the sustainability of the museum. 


An architect’s Condition Survey and 5 year Plan was shown to the Committee which displayed a full inspection of the building providing extremely valuable information for the Museum development.  


A logo had been designed and created which enabled the Museum to have a visual impact and branding.  Following the creation of the logo branded material for marketing the Museum has been created e.g. banners giving visual impact at events. 


Local Thetford Historian, David Osborne, has been providing training days at the museum to impart his knowledge to local people helping to develop people’s knowledge.  In addition, a Teachers Resource Pack and an Interpretation Plan for the Charles Burrell Museum had been created together with other plans to enable continuing development.  


The Museum has very recently received full accreditation and their application attracted a commendation particularly because their Forward Plan has already been used as a best practice model by others. 


Following much discussion regarding the importance of e-marketing of the Museum regarding, for example, information on opening times and events, the Committee were advised that the Museum did not have its own website, but used the nationally promoted “24 hour Museum” website to advertise its events.  However; they have planned to look into having their own site in the future.  Mr Blackburn advised that he was aware of the benefits to having website pages and was also aware of organisations where he could host the Museums information.  However; the Museum would only want to run a website or have web pages if they were properly maintained.  At present they did not have the resources to create pages, take ownership of them or write  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.


Date of Next Meeting

To agree a date and venue for the next meeting. 


The date of the next meeting was agreed as Friday, 27 June 2008 at the Charles Burrell Museum (subject to David Blackburn checking the venue room).  The time was still to be agreed.