Swaffham museum cash crisis

AN 11th hour cash appeal has been launched to rescue Swaffham Museum which might lose its professional staff when its funding dries up later this year.

AN 11th hour cash appeal has been launched to rescue Swaffham Museum which might lose its professional staff when its funding dries up later this year.

The venue, which houses a collection dedicated to the famous Egyptologist Howard Carter, is undergoing a major facelift after getting an EU grant of £384,000.

But because of to unexpected repair works, most of that cash was used to underwrite additional costs, leaving little funds to pay full-time wages for the museum's curator and an education officer.

Curator Kate Ayers said: “My colleague, Elaine Brown, and I are currently working part-time because there is no money to pay for our full-time wages.”

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“If additional funding is not found in the next three months, they will have to resort to volunteers to run it. This is not a desirable situation because the museum needs professional people.”

The bombshell comes in the week that the museum learned it has won a quality benchmark award which means it has met the same standards as some of the biggest cultural centres in the country.

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The granting of accreditation by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) - already held by places such as the British Museum and the National Portrait Gallery - will mean it stands a better chance of getting funding for improvements in the future.

Swaffham Museum was granted charitable status in 2005 which means that it can apply for funding from national organisations on top of what it already earns from entrance tickets for visitors.

But David Butters, who is chairman of the board of directors of the museum, said the facility needed at least 27,000 visitors annually.

However, with less than 3,700 people visiting the venue, Mr Butters fears that the facility would not be able to raise £50,000 to sustain itself.

But he said: “There are no talks about closing down the museum. However, we recognise that there is an urgent need for funding and would appeal to anyone who can help to get in touch with us as soon as possible.”

The museum re-opened to the public early last year after a two-year closure for improvements, but it had to close again later in the year to carry out additional repairs.

New display cabinets are being prepared and work is also in progress on a new exhibition room dedicated to Egyptologist Howard Carter, who lived in Swaffham and discovered Tutankhamun's tomb in Egypt in 1923.

Part of the improvements were funded by a £25,000 grant from WREN, Waste Recyclcing Environmental Ltd, and other grants have come from the Heritage Lottery Fund as well as the town council.

Anyone willing to help Swaffham Museum can contact Kate Ayers on 01760 721230 or e-mail her at enquiries@swaffhammuseum.co.uk

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