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Appeal by Museum of the Broads at Stalham

PUBLISHED: 06:30 10 February 2012

Voulnteers working at The Museum of the Broads, Stalham, in readiness for the coming season. Volunteers Barrie Mortimer (on ladder) and Tony Buxton give one of the display rooms a lick of paint.
PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Voulnteers working at The Museum of the Broads, Stalham, in readiness for the coming season. Volunteers Barrie Mortimer (on ladder) and Tony Buxton give one of the display rooms a lick of paint. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2012

A Broads visitor attraction urgently needs to find extra storage space - after outgrowing its success.

The Museum of the Broads, at The Staithe, in Stalham, has amassed 3,500 artefacts since it opened in 1984 and is fast running out of room at its water’s edge site.

Museum president Robert Paul said: “We can’t stop accepting artefacts for the collection so we are desperately looking for storage space - a dry, secure property as close to us as possible.”

A notable acquisition last year was Sir Timothy Colman’s early 1900s racing yacht, Dabchick, while recent smaller additions include a collection of 1920s comic postcards of Broads holidays and two crates of old bottles retrieved from the mud of Broads waterways.

The museum’s team of volunteers, led by paid curator Nicola Hems, are presently working on ways to boost publicity and attract coach parties so they can crack the 10,000 annual visitors barrier for the first time since the museum was launched in 1984 in nearby Potter Heigham.

Mr Paul said they were working on a new exhibition focusing on the Broads fishing heritage and were keen to receive donations of old angling equipment, such as split-cane rods and antique reels.

He said: “A longer-term vision of mine is to create a mock-up of a 1960s Broads holiday boats workshop so that important era is kept alive.”

In 2009, the museum rapidly raised £100,000 from local businesses and charities so it could buy its premises and its next big appeal, likely to be launched in the next two years, will be even more ambitious.

Mr Paul said: “Eventually we want to knock down two of our existing buildings and replace them with a purpose-built two-storey exhibition hall where boats can be displayed in a more suitable environment.”

As part of the project, for which they would be seeking Heritage Lottery Fund assistance, boat-building skills would be kept alive with a trainees’ workshop accessible to the public.

He said in the longer-term, the museum would also be looking to provide a bigger, riverside cafe and provide a suitable education space to attract more schools.

They were currently negotiating with local landowners to explore ways of expanding their site.

In the meantime, Mr Paul said they were content the museum had already become a real success story.

“After a few lean years we are proud to have become more or less self-sustaining nowadays,” he said.

This year, the museum season opens on March 31 with regular special events, including a visit by a professional storyteller on May 19 to recount the colourful history of Maria, the last Broads lateener, which has pride of place in the museum’s display.

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