Agenda and minutes

Venue: Gressenhall Farm & Workhouse Museum, Gressenhall

No. Item

Meeting Status

As only one Member from Norfolk County Council was in attendance, the meeting was not quorate. 


It was agreed by those Members present to receive the reports from Ancient House Museum of Thetford Life and Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse Museum, for information.




To receive apologies for absence.


Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Duigan, Bracey, Brindle, Clark and Rogers.


Councillor Joyce had been invited to attend as a Substitute but had been otherwise engaged.


Ancient House Museum of Thetford Life pdf icon PDF 274 KB

Report of the Curator, Ancient House.


Oliver Bone presented his report which covered the period October 2012 to January 2013.


The Mapping exhibition had concluded and the Hard Times exhibition had opened the previous week.  There was a selection of artefacts on display which related to the everyday life of the poor of the town, providing a non-nostalgic view of real life.  A highlight of the display was an album of photographs of characters of Thetford taken by Mr Chalk, and a collection of press cuttings relating to the pictures.  One of the photographs was of Harry Bensley, a Thetford resident who had walked round the world wearing an iron mask.


The exhibition would run until the end of July when it would be replaced by an exhibition on Thetford’s Lost Tudor Sculptures which would display the findings of a research project into the stone monuments of the Tombs of the Dukes of Norfolk and would include artefacts from other museums.  The project had been carried out in partnership with English Heritage and Leicester University and funding from the Arts & Humanities Research Council and others, allowing free admission to the exhibition which would run from 27 July until the beginning of October.  A new book, phone app and screen would also supplement the information provided at the exhibition.


Melissa Hawker (Learning Officer) was also involved in the Arts Award Scheme and was receiving recognition. 


Events in the past three months had included the Christmas Lights Switch-on.  The museum had stayed open in the evening and during the day there had been a busy programme of school visits.   The Big Draw event had taken place during October half-term week and had received national publicity.


In the autumn there had been a meeting with a group from Japan, keen to build a cultural exchange with the Thetford area and interested in school links.  They had shown slides of activities at the Obsidian museum.


Ancient House had also been able to assist English Heritage by answering enquiries about local history regarding Thetford Warren Lodge which provided information for signboards, etc.


With regard to the museum itself, there had been a problem with one of the display cabinets which had been fixed and the flint fossils were now securely held in place.  A new trainee (Sarah Cassell) had been recruited and would be working and learning about all aspects of the Museums Service.


The Friends had held a very good annual general meeting and Christmas Social.  Additional people had been recruited to the Friends Committee and they were able to support the museum in various ways.  They had recently purchased a badge-making machine which would be used to create rewards for children and also merchandise for the shop.


A new volunteer, Chris Samuels, had commenced work on a documentation project.


Mr Kybird asked about regional funding and was advised that the Museums Service had received a major grant from the Arts Council of England.  They were one of only 16 Services across England to receive such funding  ...  view the full minutes text for item 2.


Gressenhall Farm & Workhouse Museum pdf icon PDF 100 KB

Report of the Western Area Manager.

Additional documents:


Robin Hanley presented his report which covered the period from October to December when the museum had been mostly closed to the public.  It was due to open for February half-term week.  Following evaluation work carried out it would only be open from Monday to Friday that week (not the weekends).  The museum would open fully again from 10 March until November.


A new offer would be trialled for Museum Pass holders, who provided a vital income stream.  In an attempt to build membership there would be free or reduced admission events for Pass holders only.  Those events would be evaluated and if successful would be built on for the future.


Apple Day on 21 October 2012 had been a big event with lots of activities and about 2,500 visitors.  It would remain a big event in the calendar.  The 2013 event programme was attached to the Agenda.  It had been shaped by evaluations of last years’ events and there were three main types of events for 2013:


  • Main event days – with a full staffing establishment including the use of parking fields, (free for Pass holders);
  • Days with a Difference – smaller themed event days requiring less staff and utilising core parking (free for Pass holders); and
  • Ticketed events – pre-booked and pre-paid events such as Night at the Museum (reduced charge for Pass holders).


Some of the changes to the programme were highlighted.  There would be a new ‘History Alive’ event day on 27 May when visitors would step back into the Georgian period and a Victorian Family Christmas.  These events would replace the History Fair which had seen reduced numbers.  The ‘Workhouse Experience’ event was based on the successful schools programme.  Two new events were the ‘Gressenhall Garden Show’ and ‘Grandparents Day’.


The event programme was very important and a key driver for Museum pass sales.  If the weather was kind, Robin Hanley was confident that people would come to the museum and enjoy their visit.


Gressenhall would also be hosting the Breckland Festival event, which was organised and funded by Breckland Council, on Saturday 10 August, and built on the success of the Festival held at the museum in 2012.

Half of the cost of delivering and marketing the event programme was covered by funding from the Arts Council England (ACE).


The ‘Rediscover Gressenhall’ marketing event was targeted at local people using fliers posted in Parish magazines, delivered door-to-door and distributed in local schools.  It aimed to encourage repeat visits.  The campaign featured a reduced entry charge and hoped to capture e-mail details for use in follow-up electronic marketing.  Despite the bad weather in 2012 it had had a positive impact on visitor numbers and it was hoped to have an even greater effect in 2013 if the weather was kind.


There would be a lot of school holiday activities and additional marketing would take place before the school holidays, with fliers delivered to local schools in class size bundles.


Gressenhall had been successful  ...  view the full minutes text for item 3.


Next Meeting

To agree a date for the next meeting.


It was felt that there was insufficient time to rearrange the meeting to enable Members to provide input to the Joint Area Museums & Archaeology Committee on the Review of the Norfolk Museums Service.  The Members present agreed therefore, that the next meeting should take place on Friday 22 March 2013 in Thetford.  The venue would be confirmed.