Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse, The Museum of Norfolk Life
Report of the Area Museums Officer, Dr Robin Hanley.
Robin Hanley presented his report for the period October 2008 to February 2009.
He told members the sad news of the death of a second Suffolk Punch on Sunday. George had died of colic, similar to Queenie (who died in November 2008) and although George had actually been expected to die first, it was no less of a shock to them all. Both had been just under 18 years of age.
A two-year-old Suffolk Punch called Jimbo had been acquired, just before Christmas, as a replacement for Queenie. He had been put in with George who was to act as a mentor and companion. It had been hoped that George would work alongside Jimbo during his training.
They were now looking at options to replace George. The intention had been to buy a new mare by December 2009, but this would need to be done sooner. However the market for Suffolk Punch’s was quite limited.
The press had been on-site just before half-term and had taken some lovely photographs of George and Jimbo. George would be missed and he had brought great pleasure to hundreds of visitors.
Apple Day in October and both Christmas Experience events had been well attended with figures up on all three from last year.
During half term over two and a half thousand visits had been made which was also an improvement on last year. It was too early to judge but it was possible that the credit crunch was having a positive effect on figures.
The site would re-open on 22 March for Mothering Sunday.
Over the winter there had been a major revue of events and this had shaped the programme for 2009. The core events would stay the same, but due to budget restrictions the number of events had been reduced. The Go Green days would not be running, but a green strand would be incorporated into all events. Robin was confident that the 2009 programme was affordable.
The new visitor parking arrangements were working well and would continue.
The new curator was working on supporting the 100 or so volunteers on-site. This was going well and individual work plans were being developed.
The AGM of the Rural Museums Network had been held at Gressenhall and colleagues from all over the country had attended.
A funding bid for a Women’s Land Army and Timber Corps Gallery had been placed and the outcome would be known in July. If successful the exhibit would look at the changing lives and roles of women in the 20th Century and would be the first in the country.
The Friends had been successful in raising the money to acquire Jimbo and the Horse Appeal was still running.
Renaissance in the Regions
This had brought additional resources to the area and was funding the Sustainability Project. Robin suggested that Hannah Jackson be invited to the next meeting to give members an update.
Various projects were taking place on-site and a survey was being undertaken of other opportunities available at Gressenhall.
Improvements to the cafeteria had worked well during half-term. They were now able to seat up to 120 (previously 80) and visitor flow was significantly better.
Low-level lighting was also being introduced in the car park to illuminate key routes.
An outreach officer was being recruited, and the events co-ordinator was supporting the delivery of the events programme. Both posts were funded by Renaissance in the Regions.
Up to the end of January there had been approximately 68,000 visits which was a drop of 8,000 on the previous year. Most of this drop could be attributed to the fact that there had been no Easter in the 08-09 year, whereas there had been two Easters in the 07-08 year. Bad weather had also played a significant part and better weather was hoped for this year.
The Chairman asked about a newspaper article concerning work on archives from Kew.
Robin said there was a team based at Gressenhall who were helping to transcribe digitised records of workhouse correspondence. Very exacting standards were required. Kew had failed in a funding bid and was therefore relying on teams at workhouse sites across the country to help with this work.
A Member asked why the number of events planned had been reduced and thought that in the current climate perhaps more should have been on offer.
Robin explained that the events did not generate additional income and that they had had to fit the programme to the budget. A larger budget had been available the previous year which had allowed them to do more, but this was not sustainable for the 2009-10 year.
They were concentrating their efforts on significantly increasing Museum Pass sales which would make them less reliant on event days.