The £868,000 total overhaul that has rescued the Wisbech and Fenland Museum building from the ‘at-risk’ register was celebrated on Thursday at the official opening of the new accessible entrance and courtyard garden which completed the six-year project.
Among 140 guests welcomed by museum chairman Steve McGregor were local financial supporters, museum staff, volunteers and friends, architects, and builders as well as representatives of the local, regional, and national bodies who support the museum through grant funding.
Museum treasurer David Ball who led the project from the outset, told guests gathered in the entrance garden that while the 1977 extension where the new accessible entrance has been made had been refurbished twice, the original 1847 building had never before been given the attention it needed and deserved.
He said when Historic England assessors declared it ‘at risk’ in 2017, the directors had decided that “for better or worse, the museum had stayed close to its Victorian origins and to abandon this would be wrong.
“A generous supporter and benefactor who could make our dreams of repairing the fabric come true was needed and in due course it became apparent that our white knight was Historic England.”
Historic England, represented by its East of England team leader for partnerships, Natalie Gates, paid the lion’s share – £667,500 – towards the whole project, and all other contributors who raised the full cost between them with a shortfall of just £3,000 are commemorated with a plaque unveiled inside the new entrance.
Every contributor was named and thanked as well as all the professionals who worked on the project by museum president Richard Barnwell, who officially opened the new entrance and the garden that was completed by a team of volunteers this month.
He said: “We are all here because we love and are inspired by our museum and its collections, which together form the memory bank of our ancient town’s history, which in turn gives us all a true sense of place.”
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