Hello, Can you tell me how to save a museum? I don’t know what to do. There are petitions, and letters, questions to put to councillors, concerns and worries, but does any of this work? Budget cuts loom large, councils have to make savings. I don’t know the figures, I don’t know where the savings can be made. I don’t know how to save my museum.
I know things about my museum, they are the emotional, well being, happy things about my museum. They are not the costs, expenditure and salaries. I don’t know how to speak the words that councillors understand, reduction, cost cutting, savings.
But I do have something to say, I wish they would listen, but sadly I don’t think they are. I have written letters, I have attended many meetings I have asked difficult questions but I don’t think it is enough. Finally I turn to a blog. Tonight the council decide on the future of my museum, I will be there and I hope they will read my last plea to save my museum. Below are the things that you can’t put a price on, you can’t quantify easily, but they are the things that matter.
1- How do you put a price on finding a place to volunteer? When you already have a good career, but family circumstances mean you have to take time out. When you find a museum that welcomes you and nurtures you and keeps you sane.
2 – How do you put a price on meeting new people? Meeting lots of other volunteers, young and old and some just like you. You hear about what it is like to do A-levels these days, what it is like to try and find a job. How in retirement it is great to find something useful and interesting to do. How do you put a price on helping all these people, their careers, their social skills, their mental health, their well-being?
3 – How do you put a price on connections? Meeting Museum of London staff, going on new projects, being inspired to write a blog. Learning new skills and bringing those back to your museum. How do you put a price on that first door opening that opens all the others?
4 – How do you put a price on school children learning? On giving them a twisted piece of metal, putting it in their hands and then telling them it is part of a V2 rocket that fell just down the road. Giving them a piece of Roman pot from the villa just down the road. How do you put a price on learning? Not just learning the big things, but the little things too. The Romans lived here, and the Saxons and yes, they really found a mammoth tooth in Green Street Green.
5- How do you put a price on summer holiday activities and half term fun? Making a mammoth scene, a Halloween pumpkin, a Princess Mary Tin, a WW2 cross stitch letter, a war poem with poppies. How do put a price on inspiring hundreds of children, making them feel safe and welcome? Helping them learn new ways of making, talking to them and their families, giving them wonderful memories.
6- How do you put a price on preserving your local history? On catalogues and inventories, on collection care. On preserving the everyday stuff, the hairdryers and hats, the old toys and clothing that spark memories of recognition. On preserving the rare and important, the John Lubbock collection and the Ernest Griset paintings. Keeping these things for future generations, keeping them accessible so when today is a distant memory, it is still a memory that can be grasped.
7 – How do you put a price on keeping a beautiful old building open to the public? That special feeling when you first see it. That moment you walk into the great hall, the glint of the flint, the warmth of wood panelling, the crisp moulded ceiling, the grand Tudor fireplaces. On that feeling of years of stories whispering to you, the walls thick with tales to tell, that sense of a different place and time.
8 – How do you put a price on making people aware of their ancestors? On taking objects to the local Tesco and letting people touch a Roman pot from the 3rd century AD, feel the smoothness of neolithic flints, objects from under our very feet. On hearing time and time again, I didn’t know there was a Roman Villa in Bromley, I didn’t know there was a Saxon settlement in Bromley.
9 – How do you put a price on seeing my daughter happy and enjoying herself, when she struggles with so much? When autism makes her anxious and nervous and stops her enjoying life, but at my museum she is happy and having fun. How do I put a price on that?
I feel like I am going round in circles, I say the same things, I don’t know what makes a difference, I don’t know the magic words to make it all better. But please, save my museum, don’t sell the Priory, don’t sack all the staff, don’t put a display case in the library. That is not a museum, that is not my museum. It won’t be a museum for the future, it won’t be a museum that teaches, it won’t be a museum that is fun and warm and friendly. It will just be a display case.
The petition to save the Priory can be found here – http://www.thepetitionsite.com/792/180/878/