Ancient House Museum of Thetford Life Report (Agenda item 6)
Oliver Bone, the Curator of the Ancient House Museum of Thetford Life presented the report and provided Members with a detailed overview of the exhibitions and events that had taken place since November 2017 which included:
· Handmade, Millennia of making Exhibition;
· Pulp, pin trays, pails and pots, the story of Thetford Pulp Ware exhibition; and
· Thetford Remembers, 1914 – 1918 – Commemorative events.
Councillor Kybird asked about the poppies that were being knitted for the ‘Battle’s Over’ event taking place on 11 November 2018 to mark the centenary of the Armistice. He knew of other people who were knitting poppies but did not know who to send them to. Mr Bone said that he would keep everyone informed accordingly.
It was noted that the Thetford Remembers project had recently been chosen as a case study by the Heritage Lottery Fund for a publication about projects that it had enabled. A meeting had been arranged to take this forward.
The forthcoming displays were also highlighted, one of which was the Thetford and Punjab Festival and Exhibition. There would be several weeks of activities in July 2018. Included in these festivities would be a Maharajah Duleep Singh exhibition and a painting from the National Museums of Scotland would be loaned to Ancient House for this occasion from July until the end of November 2018.
Feasibility work continued for making a new display at Ancient House to make more of the unusual connections between the Museum and the Maharajah Duleep Singh and his family. A recent gift of a portrait of the Maharajah was planned to be included in the display. On the bank holiday Sunday in August, up to 10,000 people were expected to visit Thetford to commemorate the death of Duleep Singh.
The Museum once again took part in the town’s Christmas Lights Switch and in the recent half term there had been a good turnout for the Anglo Saxon event; unlike the Silver Social Partnership event that had been poorly attended.
The Museum was filmed for the BBC’s Antiques Road Trip in August 2017 and the programme was broadcast on 22 January 2018. Ancient House was also featured in a news item for ITV for the 150th birthday of Prince Frederick Duleep Singh, broadcast on the evening news on 20 January 2018.
Referring to other Museum developments, Mr Bone highlighted the fact that during 2017-18 the Museum had been and would be hosting a 12 month traineeship provided through the NMS Teaching Museum programme funded by the Arts Council England. Sam Belotti, the Museum’s current trainee, was doing very well and wold be undertaking a range of museum work to gain experience for his future career.
The visitor numbers were circulated and showed that year to date attendance figures were on track as the previous year. Dr Robin Hanley was very pleased with the visitor numbers and felt that all sites were making a valuable contribution with excellent programming.
The subject of marketing future events was discussed. The way events were marketed was changing for example a Wildlife weekend at Norwich Castle was advertised through Facebook which cost nothing and attracted over 3,000 visitors.
Councillor Darby had noticed that the Time & Tide Museum had attracted more visitors than previous years in September. Members were informed that this was the Titanic exhibition that took place in the summer.
Councillor Duigan questioned the visitor numbers in November for Ancient House which was less than previous years. Mr Bone explained that other events in Thetford at the same time had an impact on the Museum.
Councillor Richmond asked if the trainee was just based in Thetford. Members were informed that these trainees got a taste of life and were involved in all activities at all the Museums across the County. It was noted that other trainees had gained permanent jobs in the Museum sector. Dr Robin Hanley pointed out that there had been a really good success rates from those placements.
The Chairman felt that all credit should go to Mr Bone for the trainee system and he thanked him for his report.