Museum Review of 2017 …..
Thus endeth my first full year as Chairman of the museum.
2017 has proved to be another good year for the museum. Feedback from visitors consistently record us as four or five star on Google, Tripadvisor and more recently on the Suffolk Museums “Families in Suffolk Museums” initiative where over half of the returns were for this museum.
Financially the year was also a success with initial figures showing a healthy surplus in line with the trustees’ aims on maintaining our reserve plus adding enough to cover inflation each year.
One of the biggest changes to our collection has remained invisible. For many years the Vickers Valetta aircraft has been on loan to us from the Norfolk Scouts. During this year they formally handed the aircraft over to us. Several smaller items have been donated across the year and most are now on display around the museum.
One low light was in respect of grant applications. A friend of the museum applied for a grant to repair the boardwalk which is sadly currently mostly closed and will remain so for the foreseeable future. This application was unsuccessful as we were unable to raise enough votes for the project to take it into the shortlist. Another unsuccessful bid was to the Heritage Lottery Fund to employ an education development officer and build an education centre. We are currently looking at how we might be able to obtain alternative funds for these. If you know of anyone….
The Chippies have been hard at work over the year and have built several push planes, both for sale and to use around the museum. Work on the Auster continues and we have sourced some of the components that we need. Two of our buildings have needed emergency work to maintain their weatherproofing, which has been carried out. The paint team have repainted the Gloster Javelin which now looks really good. The Link team have been working on a helicopter sim, they look forward to being able to land a helicopter without a virtual crash at some point. The Electricians have installed new, more energy efficient, lights in the NAAFI area, these have the additional benefit of increasing the light in the area. The Archive team continue the vital task of recording the whereabouts of our collection.
The museum has continued to welcome school visits and fifteen schools have had visits learning about World War II and the history of flight. We have held two Scout days with over 80 youngsters attending each day to learn about different aspects of air activities. We know from the feedback forms that these visits are an important source of re-visits, many of the children attending persuade their parents to bring them back again.
A new initiative this year was our Junior Engineering Day in October. Thirty youngsters aged 9-14 took part in various activities such as Metalwork, Woodwork, Electronics, Engine Maintenance and Flight Training. This scheme, like the Scout days, has been recognised by the Children’s Universities in Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex.
The museum has become a partner in the government scheme “Year of Engineering”. We will be running further Junior Engineering and Scout days this year. We are open to further suggestions for other initiatives of this type.
At the Annual General Meeting I introduced my idea that the museum is four things. It is a collection (i.e. we have a lot of “stuff”), it is a museum (we make this collection available to the public to view), it is a business (we need to make a profit, or at least break even, in order to continue to exist) and it is a volunteers club (a place where retired people can work and socialise together). We need to ensure that we balance these four aspects as we move forward. I will be expanding on that theme during the year.
We owe a great debt to the volunteers, without whom this museum would simply not exist. We need to continue to build on the team, in particular we need far more front of house volunteers. People who will engage with visitors and help to make their visit even more enjoyable. That is not to say that we don’t need more behind the scenes volunteers, they are always welcome, but it is front of house where we have a shortage.
I would like to finish by thanking everyone that has helped the museum have such a successful year, volunteers and our dedicated Museum Keeper/Employee. Our committee of trustees who steer the museum throughout the year also deserve mention, they are responsible for ensuring that we stay on the straight and narrow.