GRESSENHALL FARM AND WORKHOUSE REPORT
Report by the Operations Manager (West), Hannah Jackson.
Hannah Jackson presented the report to Members which covered the period July-October 2017.
The museum had now closed for the Winter and would re-open in 2018 for School February half term (12th – 16th) and then daily from Sunday 11th March 2018.
During this reporting period the major events were “Village at War” and “Apple Day”. Apple Day continued to be a popular event and 2585 visitors attended this year. A smaller scale “Days with a Difference” style event, entitled “Story Festival” was based on Alice in Wonderland. It included performances from touring drama companytrange Fascinations and attracted 419 visitors. “Workhouse after dark” offered free admission to players of the National lottery and gave the opportunity to view the Museum after dark by LED candlelight. 761 visitors attended over the two nights. Activity programmes ran for the School summer holiday and for October half term.
Planning had begun for the 2018 programme. The popular “Horse Power” and “Victorian Family Christmas” would both be held during 2018. A preview day of the Museum would be held on 10th March 2018 for Friends, Pass Holders and Lottery Players. The preview day would invite the family volunteers that took part in the Family Volunteering days within the Collections Gallery.
Events continued to attract Norfolk Museum Pass Holders and it had been recorded on Apple Day that 44% of visitors were pass holders and a further 27 were sold on the day.
The “Voices from the Workhouse” project was ongoing with the second phase in the Collections Gallery being completed during the Winter Closure.
To help families access the Collection Gallery a number of Gallery Challenges had been created. Aimed at Key Stage 1 and 2 children, they encouraged children to interpret and explore the objects in a different way.
A new temporary exhibition space had been created within the Collections Gallery to house an annual display. In 2017 this had been “Rural Lives” and had included photographs of Norfolk People. The exhibition planned for 2018 was “Beer and Brewing” focussed on the changing roles of pubs and the history of brewing.
Partnership development of the digital offer at Gressenhall had continued. There was an increased desire for electronic displays and tablets were available for families to borrow to go round the site.
Gressenhall’s curator, Dr Megan Dennis, continued to develop links with the Digital Humanities Forum at Carleton College, Minnesota. The college had created a 3/D virtual model of the workhouse as it was in 1779. Megan would return to America in the new year and hoped to work with the students to generate additional material for the in-gallery projections and handheld tablet devices used by visitors.
The new projectors allowed visitors to “meet” real people from the Workhouse history. It had been found that some visitors found these to be sensory overload. A programme had been piloted which allowed families living with Autism an “earlybird” opportunity to visit the Museum without these projectors in use. Visual storyboards were available in advance for parents to talk their children through the site so it would be familiar to them when they visited. Gressenhall visitor services, back of house staff and volunteers had been trained on the best way to engage and support families during these events.
The Norfolk Collection Centre had opened in recent years more frequently to support the major events held by the museum. The “Shine a Light” project had enabled a reorganisation of the collection. During 2017 season there had been chargeable events held at the Collection Centre which included behind the scenes tours, themed tours and West Runton Mammoth tours. Members of the committee were invited by Hannah to visit the Collection Centre prior to the next meeting.
There were now four Social Media Champions on site ensuring a Social Media presence on Twitter and Facebook.
A range of commercial activities continued to be developed which included room and venue hire. A means of generating income any such bookings did not detract from key museum activities.
Friends of Gressenhall had agreed to support a project to restore the Farmers’ Foundry engine boiler. This was in addition to a grant from PRISM fund to make
the boiler fully operational.
The second hand book shop run by The Friends of Gressenhall was now manned on a daily basis.
There were currently 120 active volunteers, some worked in teams and some more time specific and volunteered from home.
The Gressenhall Learning Team had worked with members of the Norfolk Virtual School Sensory Support team (NVSSSt) to offer the opportunity for pupils and families to explore the site. 275 people of all ages attended the event, engaged in the range of activities and evaluated the new displays and galleries for those with sensory support needs. They had the opportunity to meet specialists (teachers,rehabilitation officers, education audiologist, child psychotherapist) in a relaxed atmosphere.
The format of the NVSSSt event mirrored the event held in partnership with the Norfolk Fostering and Adoption Services. Options were being explored by the Learning Team to use the model for a special day aimed at young people exploring issues surrounding mental health.
The Chairman commended the Museum and felt the special event days showed sensitivity with communities and dedication to work with all different sectors of the community.
The latest visitor figures showed a total of 58,370 had visited this year up from 51,365 last year.
Cllr Bambridge queried if the School figures were included in the total, which they were.
Cllr Kybird queried if the Autism and Sensory Support days were specifically funded. Ms Jackson confirmed that the Autism “earlybird” was self funding as it took place on a normal open day, visitors were allowed in earlier than the general public opening time. Dr Hanley advised Children Social Services had worked the Sensory School day as part of their calendar.
Cllr Duigan suggested as a lot of work had been in partnership with Adult and Children Social Services it would be beneficial for the information to be given to both
committees to alert them and for them to encourage the work of the Museums.
A summary of the sensory day had been sent to the Directors of Children Social Services.
Cllr Eagle suggested that with regard to publicising the “Horse Power” event, the Rare Breed Survival Trust were this year highlighting the heavy horses. The Go Native campaign could therefore assist with publicising.
Cllr Kybird queried what information the Museum was collating for the “Beer and Brewing” exhibition. It was explained that the Curators were speaking to local pubs and restaurants for stories and photographs about how the role of the Country pub has changed over the years.
Members suggested to contact David Osborne a local Thetford historian, who had written about the history of Thetford pubs. Kitty Lynn, a Dereham historian, who had published pamphlets on the pubs in Dereham giving facts and census reports and were aware a group in Swaffham had completed a project on Pubs and Brewing in the local area.