New project to showcase Dereham’s history

A two-year project to research and document the fascinating stories behind some of Dereham's best known families and characters has been launched.

The custodians of the Bishop Bonner's Cottage Museum are searching for old photographs, postcards, historical documents and interesting memories for a special celebratory exhibition.

From stories about local families to photographs of the museum itself, the team hopes some as-yet undiscovered treasures will help to bring the town's history to life for an exhibition celebrating the museum's 50th anniversary and the 60th anniversary of the Dereham Antiquarian Society.

The team of volunteers, who are busy preparing for the museum's new season on May 3, are starting the massive task of gathering new items so that everything can be organised into displays and archived ahead of the special exhibition in two years' time.

Museum chairman and trustee Ray Fraser said: 'We're sure that many people have photographs and documents hidden away in drawers and attics which give a glimpse of life in Dereham in the past.

'We have a large archive of material as well as items on display in the museum, but there are big gaps in local history which we'd really like to fill.

'We're giving ourselves lots of time to get all the information so that we can be sure we've got everything which is available to us, and to give our volunteers enough time to make the special displays as good as they can possibly be.

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'We'd love to hear about established Dereham families, like the Fanthorpes and the Craskes and well-known local characters like One Armed Jack.

'The museum building was used as a house until the mid-1960s so we'd love to hear from anyone with photographs or memories of the people who lived here.'

One Armed Jack is thought to have owned the thatched museum, the town's oldest domestic building, in the 1950s.

Volunteers have spent recent weeks getting the museum ready for the 2011 season, including some internal changes and work on new displays including historical toys and dolls and Dereham's original town bell.

Mr Fraser said: 'We have changed some of the exhibitions for this year, and will probably continue to make some changes throughout the summer.

'We have enhanced our collections with items borrowed from the collections at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse, so there is something for the whole family.'

As well as planning for their anniversary exhibition, members found out more about ideas for the future of the museum at a well-attended development day at the end of March.

A day of workshops and presentations was held at Dereham Assembly Rooms to give the Museum's members and volunteers the chance to discuss how the attraction can develop.

The museum, in St.Withburga Lane, opens from May to September. It is open from 2pm to 4.30pm on Tuesdays, from 2pm to 4.30pm on Thursdays, from 11am to 2.00pm on Fridays and from 11.00am to 3.30pm on Saturdays.

Entrance costs �1 for adults, and 50p for children aged from five to 16.

If you have items or memories which you would like to be considered for inclusion in the anniversary exhibition, contact Ray Fraser on 01362 853453 or pop into the museum.

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