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Museum’s future safe thanks to campaigners’ work

Herne Bay’s under-threat museum is set to remain open, the Gazette can reveal. A year-long campaign to save the William Street venue looks to have been a success after the city council announced this week that it will not be closing.

HERNE Bay's under-threat museum_1The museum had been ear-marked for the axe in drastic budget cuts announced last November. But a campaign led by a newly formed support group and a petition which collected 2,000 signatures appear to have swayed the mind of those in control of council coffers.

The decision was made after lengthy talks between The Friends of Herne Bay Museum, the Historical Records Society and the council. The Museums, Libraries and Archives Council – a government body – also proved instrumental after producing a report on the council’s museum policy.

It means the museum will remain open, with admittance free to all children and holders of a residents’ card. Other visitors and non-residents will pay a £2 entrance fee, with visiting schools also paying for access. Campaigners are lobbying for free entry for schools in the town.

David Cross, secretary of Friends of Herne Bay Museum, said:

Now the fun starts. The true purpose of the friends is not to be battling constantly for the museum’s very existence but to help improve the relationship between the museum and the people and visitors of Herne Bay.

One of the reasons Herne Bay Museum was vulnerable was a reduction in visitor numbers over the past few years. To counter this we can now look to coming up with creative ways for people to get more directly involved in their museum.

We will be working with museum staff to devise activities and opportunities that can radically improve the museum and make it truly a town museum that everyone feels involved in and proud of.

The council hopes to meet budget reductions by driving commercial income and implementing a more realistic retail policy. It will also look at attracting exterior funding across museums in the district. Mr Cross said:

It is vital that people who feel it is important for the town to retain its museum join us. The budget position is not going to improve quickly and it is increasingly likely that community involvement will become more and more important.

Our job is to make sure that the fall in visitor figures is reversed. The council has taken notice and deserves credit for that, but they cannot do it all. Herne Bay must build on the terrific effort it made last year and take possession of its own museum.

Executive member for culture and sport Cllr Darren Ellis said:

HERNE Bay's under-threat museum_2Last year we faced some very hard choices, because we planned in advance for the possibility of significant budget reduction this year. Many councils around the country are now having to consider similarly difficult choices, including the closure of local museums.

We listened to the concerns of the community and our partners, and in response we were able to take an extra year to consider ways that we might be able to keep our museums open while still making the necessary budget savings.

We are very pleased to say that we have achieved this and our budget proposals – which include retaining Herne Bay Museum – are currently out for public consultation.

We know, however, that the budget situation will continue to put pressure on discretionary services and we will continue work with our heritage partners, including the Friends of Herne Bay Museum and Herne Bay Historical Records Society, to find ways to sustain the museums service.

Kentish Gazette, 9th Dec 2010

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