Venue: Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse Museum, Gressenhall
Contact: Members Services 01362 656870
To confirm the Minutes of the meeting held on 24 July 2009.
The Minutes of the meeting held on 24 July 2009 were agreed as a correct record.
The following points were noted:
Minute No 10/09 – Mr Kiddle-Morris had confirmed his acceptance of the role of Vice-Chairman.
Minute 13/09 – A letter of condolence had been sent to the relatives of Miss Rose Prior, with the help of Tony Jones of the Dereham Antiquarian Society.
It was AGREED that Christine Walters would be co-opted to replace Mrs Brenda Ravenscroft on the Committee as the Friends of Gressenhall representative.
Minute 14/09 – the thank you letter to John Weeks had been acknowledged and appreciated.
To receive apologies for absence.
Apologies for absence had been received from Mike Brindle, John Bracey, Stuart Dunn, Diana Irving, Robert Kybird and Mrs Ravenscroft.
The Chairman welcomed new Committee Members Cliff Jordan and Mark Kiddle-Morris to their first meeting. He also welcomed Mr Tony Jones, Chairman of the Dereham Antiquarian Society, who was in attendance.
Declaration of Interest
Members are asked at this stage to declare any interests which they may have in any of the following items on the agenda.
Mr Mark Kiddle-Morris declared a personal interest as a member of the Friends of Gressenhall, and asked that this be noted for all future meetings.
Report by Robin Hanley.
Robin Hanley presented his report.
The events programme had gone well over the summer with generally good weather and visitor numbers were on a par with the previous year. Robin particularly mentioned the successful Village at War weekend which had been supported by the Dad’s Army Museum and had included a group singing 1940s songs in the courtyard and a 1940s Guide Camp on the farm.
The improvements to the cafeteria continued to work well and the Catering Board were working on reducing the catering deficit. The café would be closed during the winter period to reduce costs.
Future events included the Apple Day and a programme of half-term activities. A Heavy Horse Day had been arranged on 10 October when a new way of delivering events with reduced staff resources would be trialled and if this was successful it would be used for relevant events during the 2010 programme.
The Friends were busy raising money to contribute to the funds needed to match the successful bid for £50,000 to the DCMS/Wolfson Foundation for the creation of a new Women’s Land Army Gallery. This new display would open for the 2011 season and would give the whole site a marketing boost.
The Friends had also completely transformed the bookshop which was now generating significant income.
Funding had been secured from Renaissance in the Regions for a Farm Apprentice for 18 months, in partnership with Easton College. Training would be given on a variety of skills including working with traditional breeds, farm and landscape management and customer care. It was hoped that the training could also be extended to some of the volunteers.
There would also be two six month placements under the Future Jobs Fund scheme. One would be based with the learning and skills team and the other would support the Curator and help with general site work.
Finally, Robin distributed the visitor figures and confirmed that there had been no ‘staycation’ surge, but also no apparent adverse effect, caused by the recession.
In response to questions Robin explained that the E-coli outbreak had not had any significant impact on the museum as they were not a ‘petting farm’ and did not encourage visitors to touch the animals. They also had good facilities for hand washing at the farm.
With reference to concerns about the potential candidates for the Future Jobs Fund (which were restricted to out of work young people fulfilling specific criteria), Robin confirmed that the museum reserved the right to interview and assess applicants for their suitability. They recognised the need to be flexible in identifying potential roles to suit the successful candidates.
The Chairman thanked Robin for his report, which was noted.
Report by Robin Hanley.
Megan Dennis, Curator of the Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse Museum, presented her report.
Megan gave a brief explanation of the way that the collections were categorised and the reasons behind the rationalisation process. This had to follow strict guidelines set down in the Acquisition and Disposal policy.
Currently the museum had a larger collection than they could deal with, leading to problems in accessing items and some items being stored outside due to lack of space. A number of these items had no relevance to the museum and would not be acquired if offered today. Ideally the rationalisation process would reduce the need for external storage and enable resources to be prioritised on relevant collections.
Megan asked the Committee to look through the list of items and agree for them to be de-accessioned. She also asked members to let her know of any other museums that might be interested in taking the items.
The list had already been approved by an internal NMAS Group and if agreed by Members today would then go to the Joint Museums Committee. Following approval each item would be advertised to other museums for three months before being disposed of in accordance with ethical guidelines laid down by the Museums Association.
Members were then shown a slide show of the items, many of which were duplicates of others already on display or in such a poor state of repair that it would not be economic to restore them.
The background of each item was explained and the reason why they were no longer required.
At the end of the presentation Members were asked for their comments and one noted that the only ‘rare’ item was the Austin Gipsy which might have some value. Another member asked why this had to go through the process when it had not been accessioned and it was explained that although the vehicle had not been accessioned the log book had – this was also the case with the Allis Chalmers combine harvester. The fact that the items had been donated ‘in good faith’ was another reason for following the strict ethical procedures set out.
RESOLVED to agree that the objects listed in Annex 2 of Agenda Item 7 be de-accessioned.
Report by Oliver Bone.
Oliver Bone presented his report.
The Thomas Paine events continued until the end of November and would include two performances of a community play in the Carnegie Rooms which would involve a large number of the community.
Local schools were being encouraged to walk to the museum for their visits and one local school had held a staff meeting at the museum. The children’s After School History Club would be concentrating on Harry Bensley this term. He was a local man who had reputedly walked around the world, pushing a pram and wearing an iron mask, for a wager.
There would be various opportunities in next year’s calendar to benefit from partnership working with other museums, especially during the World War II week in June 2010 when a statue of Captain Mainwaring would be unveiled.
The museum was trying to get out into the community more to publicise itself and next year it was hoped to hold ‘roadshow’ events in Shipdham and Watton.
A Member asked if there had been any progress in Watton getting its own museum. There had been a wartime collection in Watton at one time and Oliver agreed to contact Julian Horn to see if they would be interested in linking in with the World War II event in June 2010.
David Blackburn reiterated the benefits of partnership working; saying that the Charles Burrell Museum was very grateful for the professional support they had received, which had enabled them to extend their schools programme.
The Chairman congratulated the museum on their visitor figures, which had been very impressive in 2008 and showed no decrease in the current year, despite the market conditions.
Regional Sustainability Project
Illustrated verbal update on the Regional Sustainability Project based at Gressenhall Farm & Workhouse, followed by an optional tour of the site looking at sustainability work implemented and planned across the site (verbal update & tour led by Hannah Jackson, Sustainability Project Officer).
Members are advised to bring appropriate footwear/clothing as the tour will include a visit to the farm.
Hannah Jackson gave a presentation on this project which had initially run as a pilot between July 2008 and March 2009. Resources had been focussed on Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse and the Museum of East Anglian Life (MEAL) based at Stowmarket. The partnership now included Stockwood Discovery Centre in Luton and The Farmland Museum and Denny Abbey in Cambridgeshire. Seminars, workshops and access to Green Action grants would enable other museums to become involved with the project.
At Gressenhall there had been a lot of work ‘behind the scenes’, identifying areas for improvement such as water and heat. Work was on-going to improve facilities and produce savings.
There were plans for three eco-buildings on site. One would provide ticketing and compostable toilet facilities. The toilets would also serve the adventure playground. The two other buildings would provide outdoor classrooms, one in the wood (providing shelter during inclement weather, particularly for the younger children that used that area) and the other adjacent to the river.
It was hoped that staff could be involved in the construction of these buildings which would help develop valuable skills.
Recycled aluminium message boards had been erected around the site to inform visitors of the sustainability issues and focus attention on environmental concerns. A green stream ran throughout all event days and included the promotion and support of local produce through the Produced in Norfolk shop.
Hannah explained that following her presentation she would lead a tour of the site to show Members the other elements of the project, including recycling/ composting, the bio-diversity action plan and links with other agencies such as Planning and Transportation – promoting local walks; and Children’s Services re climate change.
Finally she mentioned the forthcoming conference in July 2010 at Norwich Castle Museum on Museums, Sustainability and Growth.
The Chairman suggested that the Council’s Green Agenda Development Panel might be interested in hearing Hannah’s presentation and he agreed to speak to the Panel’s Chairman.
To agree a date for the next meeting.
It was agreed that the next meeting would be held on Friday 12 February 2010, at 2.00pm, in the Council Chamber, King’s House, Thetford and would include a visit to the Dad’s Army Museum if this could be arranged.
Following the close of the meeting, Members were taken on a tour of the Farm and Workhouse by Hannah Jackson.