MORE than 70 of the faithful folk who keep voluntarily-run Bexhill Museum going crowded its education room.
They were taking part in the museum’s first Volunteers’ Day, one of a raft of new measures designed to help the fully-accredited, independently-run museum’s fight against the effects of recession.
Both chairman John Betts and chief executive officer Tony Parker stressed in the opening session that the museum needs to increase its visitor numbers if it is to survive.
But the mood of the day was buoyant.
Helen Anson, who has been advising on volunteer training and has re-designed the museum’s ticketing and membership form, praised volunteers in a helpful closing session devoted to showing how they could improve the visitor experience.
“You have bucket-loads of enthusiasm…You are absolutely brilliant. This is what is going to make Bexhill Museum a success!” she told them.
Mentors who are working with museum officers under a short-term advisory scheme funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, which played a major role in the refurbishment and extension of the museum completed in 2009, were among those taking part.
Rother District Council owns the building; the Society of Bexhill Museums Ltd. the artefacts. Under this partnership, Rother funds curator Julian Porter. But the council’s annual grant barely covers the cost of utilities.
This, the chairman explained, puts Bexhill in the unusual position of being almost totally dependent on admission fees for its income.
To the original Sargent Gallery were added in 2009 the Costume and Social History Gallery and the Motor Heritage Gallery.
Lottery Fund mentor Alis Templeton has identified this diversity of material as one of Bexhill Museum’s key selling-points.
Diversity is certainly the keynote of the spread of special exhibitions planned for 2012. They range from an Olympics-year Sport In Bexhill look at the town’s sporting heroes, Bexhill’s Orientally-styled one-time entertainment centre the Kursaal and rare artefacts from Papua New Guinea to a display of gold discs designed by board of directors member Brian Hyams during his career as a recording industry graphic artist.
Volunteers man the museum’s front desk, act as custodians in the galleries, help plan its temporary exhibitions, undertake research and a myriad other tasks.
During a pre-lunch conducted tour they were shown the first of the season’s temporary exhibitions and the changes that have been made during the Christmas/New Year closure.
A day which provided a rare opportunity for volunteers and officers to meet and to exchange views and ideas, ended with a productive question-and-answer session.
It is hoped to make the volunteers’ day an annual function.