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Herne Bay Museum: can you help as it moves into new era?

The Seaside Museum Herne Bay
The Seaside Museum Herne Bay

A new dawn for Herne Bay Museum

The running of Herne Bay Museum is to be transferred from the city council to a trust.

The local authority has agreed to transfer its operation to the Herne Bay Museum Trust, the charitable organisation formed after a series of meetings in the autumn. A report by the council said that the bid from the trust, which has seven trustees, to run the museum in William Street reflected “a serious amount of enthusiasm and desire to make the venture work for the people of Herne Bay”.

It is intended that the museum opens for summer in July, although the trust will have access to the building from the start of June. Trust chairman Ian Tittley said:

“The hard work starts now. We’ve got a meeting on Friday at which we hope to enthuse people about the museum. We estimate we will need about 80 volunteers giving about half a day a month – we don’t want to overburden people.”

David Cross, secretary of supporter organisation Friends of Herne Bay Museum, is similarly delighted with the decision. The detailed financial arrangements of the agreement are confidential, but the city council will pay the trust a management fee of £20,000 a year for the first three years, while there is also a £15,000 grant from Arts Council England to refresh the venue. David Cross said:

“Considering the situation and the move to transfer management of the coastal museums away from the city council, this is the best outcome we could have hoped for. The £20,000 is enough to keep all the basic services of the museum running, but it won’t be enough for the creative aspects of what we want to do. That will have to be found nationally and locally – as a charity we could be getting money not available to local-government bodies.”

The trust will be set up as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) and regulated by the Charities Commission. This will see some expenses waived and there will not be tax on income, for example. Mr Cross explained the thinking behind the decision to switch control of museums away from the council:

“This is not novel – it’s happening across the country for years,” he said. “It just started to become common sense in the 1990s when there was the explosion of interest in heritage and the growth in that industry, so it was not feasible for councils to keep on all these institutions.

So Mr Cross understands the reasoning behind the council’s decision to transfer management?

“I wish they’d done it much earlier. With time we think we can do this better than the council – and that’s not a criticism of the council. It all depends on the number of volunteers we can get. Everything depends on a lot of people doing a little rather than a few people doing a lot.”

The trust is proposing to change the identity of the museum – this will entail a new name and colour scheme, reflecting the change in management. Joanna Jones, the council’s director of museums and galleries, said:

“A lot of hard work has been put into this bid and it has been heartening to see that the trustees recognise the role the museum can play in the life of Herne Bay. There are some very strong proposals for temporary exhibitions and learning and outreach work. We will now be working with the trustees to ensure a smooth transfer, so that they can get started as quickly as possible. There’s an exciting future ahead.”

All are welcome at a meeting for volunteers and interested groups tonight (Friday, March 27) at 7pm in the Retreat Hall (formerly British Legion Hall) at 41 Central Parade. If you cannot make the meeting but would still like to get involved with the running of the museum, e-mail Phil Rose at hernebaymatters@gmail.com

Herne Bay Times 27th March 2015

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