Agenda item

Ancient House, Museum of Thetford Life

Report of Curator.


Oliver Bone presented the report from Ancient House Museum.


As part of the Thetford remembers project, funded by Heritage Lottery there have been several events looking at Thetford experiences of WW1. The final event was the opening of the commemorative garden in Kings House gardens. Ancient House had been invited to be part of the Beacon lighting event in 2018.


The last main exhibition had been “Flint Rocks” which showcased the different aspects of flint. It received support from other groups donating objects to display.


The current exhibition focussed on the story of Thetford Pulp Ware. This distinctive local industry worked in a very green way, using power from the river it pulped recycled materials to produce new products.  This exhibition would run through to December 2017. The new exhibition will be “Hand Made” where a lot of different types of material will be displayed.


Work was currently underway on a feasibility study to redevelop one of the rooms located upstairs to incorporate displays relating to the Maharajah Duleep Singh and his family.


Melissa Hawker presented the Learning section of the report.


As part of the Learning Activity programme for the summer holiday a variety of Museum trails were used to encourage exploration of the museum on a particular theme. Upon completion of the trail the visitor received a small prize. A Loyalty card was available to promote additional visits and a free trail was given upon completion of the card.


There are many different clubs at Ancient House. A “mini museum club” was held for the under 5s monthly on a Thursday, History Club for children in Year 1 and above was held on a Wednesday after school and Teenage History Club aimed at 12-19 year olds was held on a Friday after school. In addition Discovery Day family activity events were held on certain Tuesdays during school holidays. These focussed on different areas of the museum and included costumed characters.


As part of the “Flint Rocks” project the teenage History Club had been working with teenagers in Nagawa in Japan. In 2015 the group went to visit them in Japan and in 2016 15 Japanese teenagers visited Thetford as part of the East meets West project.


Takeover day – This gave young people a taste of adult life and jobs. Ancient House had been awarded a Gold Commendation for participating in the Children’s commissioner’s Takeover Challenge. The Museum also took part in the “Teen Twitter Takeover day” teenagers were responsible for “tweeting” throughout the day, connections were made with the Time and Tide Museum, The Oriental Museum in Durham and followers in Canada.


Talks on a variety of subjects organised by the “Friends” were ongoing. An event was held each month with the exception of August and December. Some of these talks were already fully booked.


It was hoped the Textiles group that meet at the Museum would be involved in the new “Handmade” exhibition. It was hoped the Spinning and Knitting group at Ancient house can link with the sheep and volunteer dyers teams at Gressenhall.



The Museum was very reactive to the needs of teachers and proactive in their delivery of events. To date there had been 1500 school children visit the museum, Some Year 9 students from Thetford Academy took inspiration from the “Flint Rocks” exhibition and created their own interpretation in clay, textiles etc. this formed part of their Art GCSE studies and the work was displayed at the Museum.


Cllr Ward queried if group visitors were recorded as individual visitors.

Melissa Hawker confirmed each visitor to the Museum is recorded as an individual visitor.

Cllr Clarke asked if a Loyalty card was something worth exploring at other sites. Dr Hanley confirmed a number of sites had their own scheme, the “real” loyalty card was the museum pass. However each site had their own initiatives and flexibility to work locally.

MH advised the Trail loyalty scheme was beneficial to visitors as the trails were an additional fee to the entrance fee.


The Museum had featured on Look East as part of the Grimes Graves report. The Thetford 100 Artefacts remained a monthly feature in the Thetford and Brandon Times, which was a fantastic opportunity to publicise events.  Social Media is also working well, currently with 2338 Twitter followers and 534 likes on Facebook. The Museum took part in the Museum Mash up day, an American initiative that saw museums linking up globally.


The Museum was awarded the 2015 EDP Tourism award for Best Norfolk Attraction for under 50,000 visitors.


It was noted that the small team of volunteers continued with the behind the scenes work and learning delivery.


The current Museums trainee, Imogen Clark, was coming to the end of her traineeship/ A new trainee would be based at both Ancient House Museum and Lynn Museum, Kings Lynn from April 2017. The Teaching Museum trainee programme was funded by Arts Council England.


In August the Museum hosted its first Civil Partnership Ceremony.


As part of the Norwich Castle exhibition of Dolls Houses Dan Morgan had worked with the afterschool club to help make a contribution. “Small Stories” allowed the children to design their dream rooms. 23 were exhibited in total and from all the entrants Mitchell’s room based on Norwich City Football Club was chosen, Dan helped to create a 3d model of the room. 


Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man – The Museum had acquired the 1791 edition of Rights of Man. A striking and powerful book that survived the French Revolution. The Portuguese ambassador joined the presentation party.



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