Ancient House Museum of Thetford Life
Report by Oliver Bone
Oliver Bone presented his report covering the period between February to May 2010.
The number of visitors has continued to rise during the period and the total had exceeded the previous year. This was partly due to the increase in the number of school children visiting, March having been a particularly good month with school attendance topping 2000. Overall attendance by school parties was very pleasing and amounted to 20% of the total visitors.
The Moving Stories exhibition of the population growth in the Thetford area since Neanderthal times had been very successful and attracted new schools that had not previously visited. Mr Bone expressed gratitude to the team of volunteers, freelancers and staff particularly Learning Officer, Melissa Hawker, who had managed and co-ordinated the project.
The Museum had encouraged interest from the under 5’s by setting up a monthly Mini Museum Club, which attracted 25 children at the last event. Each child was given a tool kit to use to explore the museum and make interesting discoveries.
Other events organised by the museum included:-
- An Easter event which included making and decorating traditional pulpware eggs had been popular.
- A programme of activities around textiles, which had been an active industry in Thetford since Saxon times, provided a change for visitors. The event included spinning taster sessions, knitting, tie dying, felt making and embroidery
- Afternoon Talks had been popular and had included one about Norfolk Workhouses
- House Alive event included stories and demonstrations of how Victorian servants lived and worked. Also offered participation in preparing food, which was cooked on the kitchen range.
The textile day also gave the museum the opportunity to gather post code information from visitors to be used to monitor visitors and change the programme to encourage repeat business.
Future plans included an exhibition in June 2010 featuring Maharajah Duleep Singh, which hopefully would include his portrait. A book about the Maharajah would be on sale, part of the income would go towards Museum’s funds.
A Museum cleaning conservation programme was ongoing, advised by Sarah Norcross-Robinson, to encourage good house-keeping and environmental control. This would help keep up to date the collection care programme and included Insect traps as part of the pest management and control plan.
There had been active sharing of expertise with other museums e.g. Oliver had advised the Museum of Technology in Cambridge and officers from Bishop Bonner Cottage had visited Gressenhall to get ideas about lighting.
Commissioning had been received from the Thetford Area Partnership to set up a History Club for young people. The Museum was also looking at ways to contribute to the healthy living agenda such as heritage walking trails and encouraging cooking skills using the museum kitchen.
Oliver responded to Members questions regarding the recording of recent living history of Thetford such as the changes resulting from London overspill and the influx of Portuguese inhabitants, and agreed that it was important to collect memories and key objects. He gave the example of the recent oral record made with the retired Town Clerk.
He elaborated on the children’s activities provided at the museum during the Moving Stories programme when children had been enthusiastically involved in their creation of ways to trap mammoths. The History Club involved children in developing historical skills and researching evidence to verify if stories were true. The healthy living agenda included ideas such as providing schools with high-viz jackets to encourage walking to the Museum and assisting with risk assessments.
The Chairman thanked Oliver for his report and congratulated the Museum on its good attendance figures which was encouraging and set a high standard for the following year.