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Wisbech museum ‘home’ to Great Expectations faces financial crisis

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Admission is to be charged for the first time to visit Wisbech and Fenland Museum as an appeal to “keep it afloat” is launched.

The museum has also launched a plea to residents, businesses, and organisations “to pledge what each can spare monthly or annually” to support it.

The 1847 building is one of the oldest purpose-made museums in Britain.

Wisbech & Fenland Museum is the custodian of Charles Dickens' original manuscript of Great Expectations (shown here). It was bequeathed to them in 1868 by the Rev Chauncy Hare Townshend.

Wisbech & Fenland Museum is the custodian of Charles Dickens’ original manuscript of Great Expectations (shown here). It was bequeathed to them in 1868 by the Rev Chauncy Hare Townshend.

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“It has never been in better shape to serve the community since its major refurbishment last year largely funded by Historic England,” said museum chairman Steve McGregor.

“But quite simply, even with admission charges, we cannot survive in our present form beyond this financial year.

“We have won one-off grants for capital projects like the recent magnificent refurbishment, but we cannot use a penny of that money to keep the lights on, our collections curated, or staff paid.

“To keep going after April 2024 we need businesses with local customers and employees, charities and individuals who recognise the treasure we have and what damage its loss would do to the town to join our new Patrons’ Scheme by pledging £1200 or £600 a year, paid monthly or annually.

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“And for most people who can’t spare that much but could afford to commit £5, £10 or £20 per month to keep a precious resource for the whole community, please join our Supporters Circle.”

GE Inscription: Dickens inscribed the manuscript as a gift to his friend Chauncy Hare Townshend, who bequeathed it to Wisbech and Fenland Museum.

GE Inscription: Dickens inscribed the manuscript as a gift to his friend Chauncy Hare Townshend, who bequeathed it to Wisbech and Fenland Museum.

He said visitors of all ages from Fenland and beyond are flocking to school holidays and seasonal events, craft workshops and two current exhibitions. One is of art by local under-25s and the other the museum’s precious manuscript of Great Expectations on special display to coincide with the new BBC One classic series.

 

“Yet ironically the museum itself, an independent charity, is facing a £60,000 a year shortfall on income needed to pay annual running costs of £90,000 from next April,” said Mr McGregor.

Wisbech and Fenland Museum

Wisbech and Fenland Museum

“For the first time in 100 years, while under-16s and anyone in full-time education will continue to be admitted free, from May 1st adults will be charged £5 on entry, which buys a season ticket to return free each subsequent visit within the year.”

He said that when the museum lost its annual Fenland District Council grant five years ago, it was saved from closure by a small generous band of supporters (individuals and local charities mainly) who pledged a total of £35,000 each year for five years through its Refounders Scheme.

See Great Expectations manuscript in Wisbech as BBC new series airs

“That scheme’s time is up, and the new subscription schemes will need to almost double what it produced,” said the chairman.

* To find out how to support the museum through either the Patrons’ Scheme or Supporters Circle, ask at its new downstairs Reception Desk in open hours 10am to 4pm Wednesday to Saturday, online via www.wisbechmuseum.org.uk, by email at info@wisbechmuseum.org.uk or by telephone on 01945 583817.

 

 

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