Ancient House Museum Report (Agenda Item 8)
Report of the Curator.
Mr Oliver Bone presented the report which covered the period from September 2015 to June 2016.
The Thetford Remembers Project, originally planned over two years, had been extended to October 2016. Events linked with the Charles Burrell and the Dads Army Museums. The Somme Anniversary had just been marked and a future event to mark the end of World War One in November 2018 was being considered.
Councillor Darby had attended a commemorative service for the Desert Rats at High Ash where there were still parts of the base which could be toured. He asked if that information was publicised.
Mr Bone agreed that more could be done.
The Chairman mentioned that Peace Day in July 1919 would be celebrated during the Dereham Carnival and Ms Hawker confirmed that it was on the Agenda for the Thetford Carnival that year as well.
Councillor Clarke was interested in the Teenage History Club as he felt it was important to capture young people’s imagination early to ensure their future involvement.
Dr Hanley said that Ancient House was exemplary for their engagement with young people which was a credit to Ms Hawker. They also offered the Arts Award accreditation scheme.
Mr Bone suggested that a young person could be invited onto the Committee. After some discussion and due to the fact that young people tended to move on to further education, it was agreed that a nominated member from the History Club should be invited to attend the next meeting held at Ancient House.
Mr Bone then spoke about the Flint Rock exhibition and the museum’s links with the Archaeology Museum of Obsidian in Nagawa, Japan. A group of Japanese teenagers would be visiting the following week and a programme of activities had been arranged to show them things connected with the heritage of Norfolk.
Councillor Ward informed Members that he had visited Nagawa with Ms Hawker for a short visit to the big obsidian mine and the museum and they had both been made very welcome.
Ms Hawker explained the events organised for the three day ‘East Meets West’ conference to be held in Thetford. Thursday 14 July would be for schoolchildren, with activities led by university groups. The sites of Grimes Graves and the Obsidian Mines in Nagawa would be twinned. On Friday 15 July there would be speakers from Japan and from the UK and then on Saturday 16 July there would be a Families Day with costumed characters, demonstrations of flint and obsidian knapping, and recipe testing linked to the pottery project. All the activities would be free, thanks to money from various funding streams.
Mr Bone went on to speak about the origins of the museum. Ancient House had been a gift from Prince Frederick Duleep Singh and due to that connection it received visits from Sikhs from around the world. The museum had featured in a recent Sikh Heritage documentary which been shown of Sikh channel TV on 25 May 2016. A future project would be to change one of the upstairs rooms to create a Duleep Singh Gallery.
Another upcoming project was an exhibition of Thetford Pulpware which would run from December.
The Teenage History Club had been invited by the Mayor of Thetford to lead the countdown for lighting the beacon for the Queen’s 90th birthday. They had also helped to entertain people by showing off the flint artefacts now on display in the Flint Rocks exhibition.
Councillor Smyth asked about the teenagers in the club and Ms Hawker advised that they were a diverse group with at least 60% being made up of lower educational achievers. They worked hard and it was a great opportunity for them to succeed and gain the Arts Award Accreditation certificate.
Ancient House had been awarded ‘Best Norfolk Attraction (under 50,000 visitors) at the 2015 EDP Tourism Awards. They had been nominated by a member of the public. The museum had been ‘mystery shopped’ by a visiting family and found to meet all the requirements. The only small thing they had been picked up on was that the volunteers did not wear badges. That omission had since been rectified with badges provided by NCC.
The Chairman thanked Mr Bone and Ms Hawker for their presentation.