Agenda item

Ancient House Museum of Thetford Life (Agenda item 7)

Report of Curator, Ancient House.


Oliver Bone provided the Committee with an update of the events and activities that had taken place at the Ancient House Museum from June to September 2014.


Thetford and the First World War Exhibition


A Role of Honour for Thetford was circulated with conscripts dating from 1915; gaps had been left so that others could be added.  This particular one came from St Cuthberts Church.


A local photographer had managed to digitalise slides belonging to the magic lantern.  The photographs were circulated. A card had also been restored with funding awarded to the Museum and this was circulated too.


The Museum display made use of the old kitchen and included a figure made by sculptor Dr Phillips representing Leonard Newton, a casualty of the war who once lived in Ancient House.  He joined the army in 1914 and was killed at Ypres in 1915.  Museum staff recently found out that Private Newton had been remembered at the Hooge Crater Museum at Ypres with a display of his cap badge and memorial plaque.


On the 11th November 2014, the exhibition would be enhanced with the opening of its second part of the display using the Museum’s exhibitions room.  On display would be objects and photographs to tell some of the local First World War stories including the experience of teenager Florrie Clark who took over from her father as town crier and bill poster when he went off to fight in 1916.  The exhibition would run until November 2015.


A book was being published on the First World War Experience and would be on sale at the Museum.


Museum staff had also produced pop-up display panels for visitors to see at the town’s Dad’s Army Museum and Charles Burrell Museum.


All the Fun of the Fete – Thetford Festival Finale Event


Oliver Bone conveyed his thanks to Thetford Town Council for allowing this event to be held in the King’s House Gardens.  The traditional garden fete was themed on the eve of the First World War including games, afternoon teas, an allotment show and a re-enactment of enlisting members of the public to join up which included a practice drill.  The event had been well received and more than 1,400 people had attended.


Art Exhibition


The art exhibition took place in St Peters Church in the town and had been a great success.


The Museum was looking forward to the publication of a new book called “A Small Fragment of the Great War”.  The cover was circulated. 


Toys and Games


The popular I Love Toys and Games exhibition had been extended until the end of the school half term period and would now close on 25 October 2014.




The Museum delivered a range of activities for children and families over the summer including a programme of engaging museum trails.  A loyalty scheme card proved a popular way for families to be able to experience a repeat visit.


Social Media


A strong social media presence remained for the Ancient House on Twitter and Facebook.  The Museum had already received favourable reviews on Trip Advisor.


Arts Award Work


Ancient House had been selected as one of 19 Arts Award venues across the UK as a Centre of Good Practice.  Melissa Hawker, Learning Officer led on the Arts Award work and her commitment to the scheme had been recognised by the announcement that Ancient House was the only Museum in the country that had been given this accolade.  This had encouraged media interest and had appeared on the front page of the local press.


Loan to Norwich castle Exhibition Wonder of Birds


The Ancient House had a collection of Victorian taxidermy, mostly donated in the early 20th century.  Amongst these were some specimens mounted as game trophies in oval frames and one of these had been lent to the major summer exhibition at Norwich castle.  The Wonder of Birds would be returning to Ancient House shortly.


Japanese Cultural Exchange and Breaking New Ground


The Museum was pleased to host a delegation from Nagawa, Japan in June 2014.  This formed part of a cultural exchange between Thetford and Nagawa, a town in central Japan close to prehistoric obsidian mines.  As part of the visit, a Friendship Agreement had been signed which should lead to joint working over the next few years.  The Teenage History Club provided the visitors with a very good tour of the Museum and translation was provided.


Teaching Museum and Skills for the Future Trainee Schemes


Emily Shepperson and Tabitha Runacres would be explaining their training schemes later on in the agenda.


‘Connecting Cultures’ India Travel Grant from British Council


A member of the Museum Team had been awarded a travel grant from the British Council to travel to Northern India to make connections with heritage sites and museum collections.  Opportunities around the interpretation of the Duleep Singh story would be explored. The visit was planned for spring 2015 and would last between a week and 10 days.


Friends and Volunteers


The Museum benefited from active volunteers, members of the Friends Group had been very helpful.


Visitor Numbers


Ancient House visitor figures for 2014/15 were looking good; thus far, over 4,700 people had visited the Museum between April and September.  This was a good testament for all involved.


Supporting documents: