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Tribute to museum volunteers

PUBLISHED: 19:18 04 March 2008 | UPDATED: 10:46 08 July 2010

A Swaffham councillor has paid tribute to volunteers at the local museum who are generously giving up their time to keep the facility open, as well as help behind the scenes redecorating or undertaking research.

A Swaffham councillor has paid tribute to volunteers at the local museum who are generously giving up their time to keep the facility open, as well as help behind the scenes redecorating or undertaking research.

As the venue prepares to open for the new season later this month, councillor David Wickerson, company secretary for the museum, praised the “wonderful work” carried out by the 30 men and women who are working to keep the venue up to standards.

But he said the facility which houses an exhibition on the famous Egyptologist Howard Carter equally needed its paid curator and education officer for their expertise in running such facilities and insisted that money was needed to pay the wages of the two professional staff.

“Volunteers are doing a wonderful work at the museum. However, we also need professional staff and their knowledge to keep the venue up to scratch. We have applied for grants to the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation and the Foyle Foundation. Without these grants it would be difficult to keep our professional staff,” Mr Wickerson said.

Kate Ayres, the museum curator said the venue which became a charity in September 2007, received more than £300,000 in European funding for its re-development between 2004/07.

However, as funds are drying up, the museum is now looking to the two foundations as well as outside sources for help.

“An estimated figure of 27,000 visitors would sustain two full-time posts with a salary in line with the Museum Association recommended guidelines to pay museum professionals with a specified amount of experience and qualifications,” she said.

“The ultimate goal which we would like to achieve would be £50,000 to pay the cost of salaries. But we appreciate that as a small town museum we are unlikely to ever attract the high numbers of visitors to become sustainable at this level. So about 15,000 visitors is a more achievable figure and could easily sustain two part-time or one full-time post.”

The curator said last year alone the museum's education officer, Elaine Brown, reached over 700 primary school pupils, covering a 30-mile radius of the museum, through outreach teaching sessions, the museum-in-a-box loan service and also schools visiting the museum.

She said: “Last year we ran a series of Time Trails around Swaffham. These brought to life a number of local Swaffham characters such as the Pedlar, W.E. Johns, who wrote the Biggles books, and Howard Carter, the archaeologist who discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun. These were very successful and we plan to run more this year. We can build upon this success and this is why we need the professional staff members in post who have the time to spend developing the museum's future. However, it is important to bear in mind that even if the museum loses its professional staff it will not close.”

In 2007 the Museum attracted 3,962 visitors. The curator hopes that this year more people will visit the venue, as changes have been made in the displays so that more of the collection can be seen.

After a three-month spring clean closure, the Museum will re-open on Friday, March 21, in time for the Easter holidays.

Anyone interested to help Swaffham Museum can contact Kate Ayres on 01760 721 230.

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