If you want to save Herne Bay Museum, it’s time to make your voice heard. That’s the message from campaigners, who are hoping to set up a Friends group to fight for the museum’s future.
Crucial meetings with council bosses are due to take place in the next few weeks and campaign spokesman David Cross said it was vital to demonstrate the strength of feeling for the service. Officials still plan to use it as an “education space”, rather than a public museum. Mr Cross, who used to work at the museum, said:
“It is hard to read the council at the moment. They are trying to put together a proposal which squares the circle and pleases everyone, which will be very difficult. Our next move is to form a Friends organisation so we have an official body to negotiate with the council. Then they can see how seriously people in Herne Bay take this threat.”
Initial meetings have already taken place. Officials told Mr Cross they believed the museum had to either focus on visitors, or residents and school groups. But he disagrees with their conclusions:
“It is crucial schools can still walk their pupils to the museum and still keep a measure of drop-in public access. I refuse to accept a display about the bouncing bomb isn’t equally of interest to local children learning about their town, and people coming here to visit. The same applies to the Roman displays and to the items dug out of the sand. The museum is for everyone.”
The museum was earmarked for closure in this year’s budget debates, but given a year’s stay of execution by council bosses, after thousands of people signed petitions calling for it to stay open.
Canterbury City councillor Darren Ellis announced at a meeting of the ruling executive committee on Thursday that consultation with interested groups had started. The announcement sparked a wave of concern among campaigners, who feared time was running out. But Mr Ellis, who is responsible for museums, told the Times a final decision would not be made until the end of the year. He praised the idea of a Friends group, but ruled out a proposal to run the museum with volunteers to save costs. He said:
“The idea is the museum should be more of an education space, but we are not saying 100 per cent that is what we are going to do. It is a process which could run into next year.”