Gressenhall Farm & Workhouse Museum Report (Agenda Item 9)
Report by the Head of Operations and Learning.
Ms Hannah Jackson presented the report and circulated flyers of the programme of events for 2016. She explained the difference between major event days, which had a premium ticket price, and the smaller themed ‘Days with a Difference’.
There had been a mixed bag of event success over the report period. The Spring Fair had had to be cancelled for safety reasons, due to Storm Katie.
Councillor Ward suggested that a Steam Weekend might be a good event. Ms Jackson advised that steam machines were already included in events such as Apple Day and Fathers’ Day but his suggestion would be considered.
Councillor Smyth asked that an attempt be made to involve people with dementia in events aimed at older people. Norfolk County Council was adding impetus to the role of Culture, Heritage and Arts in supporting Wellbeing. The older population was increasing hugely in Norfolk and museums needed to work with other organisations to support activities targeted at this demographic.
The Museum had been undergoing a major redevelopment of its displays in the HLF-funded Voices from the Workhouse project. A soft opening had commenced over the May Bank Holiday which had given a chance to test the new displays before the formal launch which would be held on Friday 8 July 2016. The marketing campaign would link into Voices from Norfolk, working with other museums.
Project ‘Collaborate’ was exploring the ways that Gressenhall could work with a wide range of creative groups and display the skills of artists, photographers, writers, etc.
Mr Blackburn noted that the Shared Museums Art Project (SHARE) had a number of networks. One was for engineering and they could get involved with the project which dismantled, repaired and put machines back into working order.
Gressenhall made good use of Social Media and had recently received another Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor. They had started to use Pinterest, particularly to promote the use of the site as a wedding venue. They had already hosted their first wedding and had two more booked.
The Friends of Gressenhall supported a range of activities including the bookshop which continued to grow its income. It sold all sorts of books and also varied its offer to match events being held at the museum.
The exact number of hours worked by volunteers was difficult to measure, although a figure of 8,836 volunteer hours had been recorded for 2015. A more accurate recording process had been introduced to provide HLF contribution in kind match funding for the Voices from the Workhouse project.
The award winning Learning Team continued to deliver a broad and varied programme and school numbers remained strong. They also provided projects targeted at children in care and working with prisoners supporting mental health and wellbeing rather than training.
Councillor Ward asked if Gressenhall would be interested in working with the Medieval Mystery Play project being run by Norwich Castle and Ms Jackson said they would be delighted to be used as a venue and to work with other providers.
Councillor Ward mentioned that the Ghost events were also very popular and Ms Jackson advised that there were already a number of Paranormal Groups interested in the Museum.
Regarding providing events for dementia sufferers, Ms Jackson explained that the Museum had worked with Breckland Council on a range of activities for dementia sufferers and their carers.
The Chairman noted that in recent improvements at Breckland Council particular attention had been paid to dementia friendly signage and décor.
Dr Hanley explained that the Museums, Culture and Arts played a wide role in dementia. The Museum of Norwich was a registered dementia friendly site. They also worked with an access advisory group mainly for those with visual or physical needs, but they would be alert to making changes to improve access for all where possible.
Ms Jackson informed Members that NMS had been a finalist in the Norfolk Tourism Awards Golden Years Scheme 2015 and had worked in partnership with other organisations to provide a fantastic resource for dementia sufferers.
Councillor Darby mentioned the ‘loan boxes’ for Care Homes and said that demonstrations were well received by residents.
Dr Hanley said they worked with the Library Services to create ‘Reminiscence Kits’. There was funding available for out-reach work with groups, including care homes.
Ms Clarke said that she would be willing to work with local groups to create themed boxes to take to care homes.
Attendance figures for all Norfolk Museums were tabled; they incorporated schools’ visits. Nationally attendance figures were suffering but in Norfolk school visit figures were growing thanks to the Learning Teams.
Overall visitor figures at Gressenhall were down on the previous year but there were a number of reasons for that:
· Storm Katie had affected the Spring Fair which normally attracted a good number of visitors;
· The Easter Holidays had fallen at different times in those two years;
· The refit of the galleries at Gressenhall resulting in the temporary closure of some key galleries;
Councillor Smyth asked to be informed if there were any issues with school visits as he would then raise the matter with Childrens’ Services.
Dr Hanley noted that a key driver for the new galleries was to broaden the audience base and to attract tourists and older visitors rather than just families. The marketing campaign would be aimed at new audiences.
The Chairman thanked Ms Jackson and Dr Hanley.