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29 June 2018

Volunteers needed to help run 'fabulous' museum

By Julie Williams

Volunteers needed to help run 'fabulous' museum

One of the UK's oldest purpose-built museums at Wisbech is going strong two years after it was threatened with closure – but it needs new volunteers to keep it alive.

Wisbech and Fenland Museum is inviting people of all ages to come forward.

Fenland District Council's withdrawal of funding with a final payment of £70,000 towards running costs last year was a blow many feared the museum would not survive.

But Wisbech Town Council has upped its annual revenue grant this year by 400 percent to £20,000.

A bold 12-month rescue plan funded by the Heritage Lottery from last April has won £42,750 support from Historic England towards getting further grants for essential roof repairs to the 1847 building.

And Cambridge University Museums has stepped in with a partnership deal to boost Wisbech's profile as a foremost contributor to Cambridgeshire's cultural heritage, beefing up the museum's ability to generate income and attract further outside grant funding.

Assistant curator Robert Bell said: “The staff is cut right back and we could not have continued to operate without our fantastic volunteers. As long as we stay open with their help the development work put in hand last year can continue to bear fruit.”

Museum volunteers co-ordinator Sarah Coleman, said: “If you can spare a few hours every week, or once a month, we’d love to hear from you.

“It's a great place to volunteer - where else could you see Thomas Clarkson’s anti-slavery chest, Dickens' manuscript of Great Expectations and Napoleon’s breakfast set alongside a mummy’s hand?’

New volunteer Judith Williamson said: “It’s a fabulous museum, with so many different aspects to it, like a mini British Museum but on our doorstep.'

Sara Hawkes said: “It's fun, interesting and you're always learning new things!”

And Aukse Antanaviciute said: “I've made new friends through it.”

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