Agenda and minutes

Venue: Norfolk Rural Life Museum, Gressenhall

Contact: Julie Britton 

No. Item


Minutes pdf icon PDF 89 KB

To confirm the Minutes of the meeting held on 2 February 2007.


The Minutes of the meeting held on 2 February 2007 were agreed as a correct record.



To receive apologies for absence.


Apologies for absence were received from Mrs S Howard-Alpe, Mr C W Armes, Mr C B A Lloyd Owen and Mr R Key.


Chairman's Announcements


The Chairman welcomed Mr Michael Fanthorpe as a new Member of the Committee and congratulated him on his recent marriage. The Chairman also welcomed Mr Stephen Howard, a representative from MING, to his first meeting.


Developments at the Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse pdf icon PDF 58 KB

Report of the Head of Museums and Archaeology – Stuart Gillis.


Visitor Response (1.1)


Mr Gillis announced that visitor numbers had steadily increased since 2001.  The latest annual visitor figures, as at 31 March 2007, represented a 44% increase on the previous year; 84,000 people had visited the Museum during 2006/07.  The increase had been due to the growing numbers of school visits to the Museum together with the organised events for the over 55s.  Visitors to the Museum were prominently Norfolk based and there was a high tendency for those people to return and visit more than once in the same year.  The Museum would continue to work on attracting visitors from beyond Norfolk.


Business Planning (1.2)


The consequence of increasing visitor numbers was that Gressenhall had been able to grow its earned income and use this to further promote inspiration and learning about the Norfolk countryside.  Whilst this was helping to enhance the appeal of Gressenhall for all audiences, it was also allowing the Museum to tailor its work to targeted audiences including travellers, older people, foster carers and schools.  Much of this work was being carried out in partnership with other organisations such as the public and private sectors.


One event, specifically targeted for local people aged 55 and over, had already taken place and had attracted many visitors.  Due to its success, a further date had been set for 16 July 2007.  Another successful specialist event held was the Foster Carers day where over 600 people had attended.


The basis for a sustainable approach to business planning for Gressenhall was one of growing visitor generated income and re-allocating revenues towards targeted enhancement of product, marketing and contribution to wider strategic initiatives. If this approach could be consolidated, Gressenhall would be in the best position to maintain the upward trajectory of visitor figures, whilst making an increasingly meaningful contribution to wider social, economic and cultural agendas.


Future Capital Development


The emerging drivers for Phase 4 re-development were as set out in the report.  One of the initiatives was to increase the number of school visits from 10,000 to 20,000 per annum.  Another initiative was to re-configure the Museum/visitor attraction to place heightened emphasis on sustainability.  This theme would cut across all aspects of operations including: interpretation of collections, public programming, management and interpretation of the site’s environmental landscapes, management of buildings, construction of appropriate new build and visitor behaviour.  Consideration in each of these areas was to be made in terms of energy, materials, waste, transport and bio-diversity.


In response to a question about an article in the newspaper that had stated that Gressenhall was going to be the next “Eden Project”, Mr Gillis explained that the statement had been misconstrued; it should have read: “Gressenhall Museum was thinking of doing something similar to the “Eden” project”.  A Member advised that the Ecotech Centre was holding a similar event and that there could be some cross referencing there for ideas.


The Museum had just appointed a consultant as co-ordinator for the Go-Green event being held on 30  ...  view the full minutes text for item 11.


Ancient House, Museum of Thetford Life pdf icon PDF 75 KB

Report of the Curator, Ancient House – Oliver Bone.


RICS Award


The Curator of Ancient House, Mr Oliver Bone, introduced the report and was pleased to announce that the Ancient House Museum had won an award for the best building conservation project in the Eastern Region.  The Museum would now be going through to the national final in October of this year which was being held in London.  The publicity arising from the award had helped to bring in extra visitors to the Museum.


Museum Club


There was now a waiting list for the Ancient House’s children’s club.  One initiative being considered was to train a group of children as Museum consultants to assist museum developments.


Volunteers and School Visits


The best day to visit the Museum was on a Friday where an excellent team of volunteers would dress up in replica costume.  The volunteers were also helping at special events such as group visits to the Museum and outdoor events such as the Weeting Steam Rally and the Norfolk History Fair at Gressenhall.




The Museum was negotiating with the British Museum to exhibit items from the Roman ‘Thetford Treasure’.  Prior to this display the Museum was hoping to mount a community exhibition featuring local collectors.


Thomas Paine 2009 Anniversary


Mr Bone informed the Committee that he had recently been in contact with Sir Richard Attenborough who was very keen to attend the Thomas Paine anniversary.  The Museum was hoping to exhibit a portrait of Thomas Paine and a draft programme of events had been put together with costings and fundraising ideas.




A season of heritage walks had been planned with the involvement of Frank Meeres from the Norfolk Record Office.  One recent walk that Mr Bone had attended involved comparing the differences between old photo scenes of Thetford with the modern scenes of today.




Jane Bennett, the Museum Development Project Manager, had moved on to pastures new at the Museum of London.  She was now the Project Officer for the Museums major ‘Capital City’ refurbishment of the displays and facilities.


The Museum had welcomed back Ellie Hill, the Outreach and Audience Development Officer, from her maternity leave.  Ellie would be assisting with the children’s consultancy programme on a part-time basis.


A Member asked whether the Ancient House had had its insurance re-evaluated since the refurbishment.  In response, Mr Bone advised that this was being looked into.


A Member suggested writing to the BBC to arrange a “question time” event with professors of politics in attendance particularly with regard to the Thomas Paine anniversary taking place.


The report was otherwise noted.


Thetford Duleep Singh Portrait Collection pdf icon PDF 89 KB

Report of the Curator, Ancient House – Oliver Bone.


Mr Bone circulated an illustrated catalogue of paintings in public ownership in Norfolk which included a section on the Thetford collection.


In 1926 Prince Frederick Duleep Singh bequeathed a collection of 90 portraits to the Corporation of the Borough of Thetford.  They had been displayed in the Guildhall for many years; however, in the 1950s the rooms at the Guildhall had been used for dances etc and it was realised that the paintings were no longer safe and were moved to the attic. Lack of proper care and temperature fluctuations led to further damage and in 1983 the portraits were moved to a basement store following which they were moved once again from Thetford in 1995 for safekeeping in a Norfolk Museums Service store.


Since the publication of the illustrated catalogue a light had been shone on the portraits once more.


Some of the portraits, including the ones that were in a poor condition and the ones of unidentified sitters and artists, were illustrated via a power point presentation.  Mr Bone hoped that, with the distribution of the catalogue, someone might be able to furnish the Museum with the names of the unknown artists and sitters.


Future capital development of public facilities in Thetford could potentially include space for housing the town’s portrait collection.


The report was otherwise noted.


Overview of Arts Development in Breckland pdf icon PDF 73 KB

Report of the Arts Development Officer – Claire Salley.

Additional documents:


The Arts Development Officer, Claire Salley, introduced the report which aimed to inform Members of the progress of Arts Development in the district to date and to outline future plans and opportunities (a draft Arts Development Work Programme – Overview had been attached to the report).


The Cultural Strategy, endorsed and adopted by the Council and the LSP in October 2006, highlighted eight clear priorities for arts development.  These were: the improvement of arts facilities and venues; support for a programme of live performances; the importance of creative industries in terms of economic regeneration; adopting a strategic approach to arts investment; an integrated approach to marketing the arts; improving community engagement; developing funding opportunities; and improving key partnerships with relevant arts and heritage agencies and organisations.


Strong partnerships had been established with other agencies and a further partnership had recently been established with the Norwich Theatre.


Arts Development had been involved in many events that had already taken place this year including the over 55s days at Gressenhall Museum.  It would also have a role in this year’s Dereham Festival, and the school holiday activities as well as hosting an arts competition at the new Leisure Centre in Dereham.


Members were informed that, over the forthcoming year, more generic support for community arts and heritage groups would be available through networking events, equipment hire, email and web-based information.


A Member was very interested in the forthcoming programme but was concerned that there was a lack of the arts for the older generation.  He also felt that music was just as important and should also be supported.  Claire Salley advised that she was looking to increase music activities and pointed out that there was a Norfolk Wide programme of events for orchestra music this year.


A Member felt that youth support should be top priority this year but suggested focusing on other activities, such as music, for another year.


The Chairman thanked Claire for her report, the remaining items on which were noted.


Development Strategy for Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service pdf icon PDF 117 KB

Report of the Head of Museums and Archaeology (NCC) – Vanessa Trevelyan.


The Head of Museums and Archaeology, Vanessa Trevelyan, presented the report which highlighted the Norfolk Museums Advisory Services (NMAS) current plans for the development of museum services and capital projects throughout the county.


A Member asked about whether there was any funding in the pipeline for Bishop Bonners Museum in Dereham. In response, Members were informed that the NMAS was there to provide support and advice to all independent Museums.  A small grant fund was available through the Museums Development Officer.


Another Member asked about accreditation status.  It was explained that accreditation was a minimum standards scheme for museums.  Accredited museums were eligible to apply for a range of public funds, including Heritage Lottery grants.  Bishop Bonners Cottage was registered, the precursor of the Accreditation Scheme.  Mr Gillis pointed out that Bishop Bonners was, in fact, preparing for accreditation; further to this Tony Jones had just been appointed the new Chairman of the Museum and many changes were imminent.  Members were informed that small independent museums found the accreditation process an enormous task and the timing of it was always at the busiest period.  The Head of Museums and Archaeology agreed that the timetable that had been set for accreditation status was unfortunate.


The report was otherwise noted.




The Norfolk Heritage Explorer (

Presentation by David Gurney – Principal Archaeologist.


The Norfolk Historic Environment Record (NHER) was the County’s database of more than 50,000 archaeological sites.  Developed over many decades by and for professional archaeologists, it was one of the largest and most comprehensive records of its type in the country.  The Norfolk Heritage Explore Project would make this wealth of information held on the NHER easily accessible for the first time in the history of the NHER, including data and mapping.

Mr. David Gurney, the Principal Archaeologist, introduced the team that had been responsible for the development of the Norfolk Heritage Explorer (NHE) website.  The team was still only midway through the project but it had been considered that there was sufficient information to “go live”. The records were being added by parish from A to Z, and the full dataset would not be available until early 2008.

The website provided the public with access to thousands of records for Norfolk’s archaeology. 

The Norfolk Heritage Explorer Project had been supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund, by the Norfolk Museums & Archaeology Service and by Norfolk County Council.

The project had commenced in July 2005 and currently employed a team of three Records Assistants, two of whom were present at the meeting, Miss. Ruth Fillery-Travis and Mr. Tom Sunley.  Ruth and Tom had taken all the records from the NHER and had transferred the information onto a database making all the records accessible.

Another employee was an Outreach and Education Officer, Megan Dennis.  One of Megan’s many tasks included the production of the NHE leaflet that had been circulated at the meeting.  Further to this Megan had concentrated on developing internet sources that would accompany the online database.

Ruth and Tom provided Members with a step by step guide of how to access the website. 

Members felt that the NHE website was an outstanding piece of work and all the staff responsible for the project should be congratulated.

A Member asked whether the heritage walks could be downloaded into a map format.  In response, Mr. Gurney explained that he would certainly explore the possibility of printing hard copies of these maps particularly for those persons who had not any access to a computer.  A Member felt that this would be a good idea as the maps could then be made available to the Tourist Information Centres.


Another Member compared the NHE to the E-Map Explorer that had been the winner of the Local History Awards in 2005.  He felt that the NHE was very well placed to do the same.

The Chairman thanked David, Tom and Ruth for attending the meeting.



Archaeological Excavations and Finds in Breckland in 2006

Presentation by David Gurney – Principal Archaeologist.


Mr Gurney circulated a leaflet that illustrated a selection of important archaeological finds, from an estimated total of around 27,373 objects, found in Breckland during 2006.  Members were informed that there had been more finds and more treasure found in Breckland than any other area.


All the records of these particular finds could now be found on the NHE website.


Date of Next Meeting

Members are asked to note that the next meeting has been scheduled for Friday 12 October 2007 at 2.00pm.  Venue to be confirmed.


The date and time of the next meeting was agreed as Friday 12 October 2007 at 2.00pm.  The Assembly Rooms, Swaffham was the preferred venue for the next meeting and a tour of the recently refurbished Museum at the Town Hall would be incorporated.