Stalham Broads museum prepares to sail into 2012 season

A team of volunteers are busying themselves behind closed doors in Stalham as they prepare a unique tourist attraction for the new season.

The dedicated team of workers at the Museum of the Broads have been dusting off artefacts, preparing new displays and polishing up as exhibits throughout the wintery weather as they get set for their Easter opening.

Visitors will be treated to several new displays this year - including a special event focusing on the museum's oldest artefact - but those behind the exhibits are already making plans for the attraction's long term future.

Robert Paul, museum president, said the 'biggest plan' over the next ten years was to replace one of the modern buildings on site with a new purpose built premises, which would boost displays and crucially increase storage space.

'We want to build something really special that will have more space inside and be able to house more of our exhibits. We're bursting at the seams and desperately looking for storage space,' he added.

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'It's really important that we keep rescuing these bits and pieces of the Broads; they've been around for a long time and there's so much interesting stuff out there and we don't want to start turning stuff down.'

The museum started life in 1984 with just a handful of collectibles but has boomed in size and popularity with dozens of artefacts being handed in.

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The attraction now has so many pieces of memorabilia it cannot show them all at the same time and displays are rotated each year, which is among the work volunteers are currently carrying out.

Staff have also managed to pull it back from the brink after it was threatened with closure, when it moved into its current location in The Staithe from a site in Potter Heigham.

'We really struggled because of a lack of funds and visitor numbers but with our work since then it has really gone from strength to strength. We're in a financially sound position, we had a major appeal to buy the site we're on so that gave us the security we wanted and we have got a sound volunteer base,' Mr Paul said.

He also praised the work of the 50-strong team of workers who are putting together the new displays, which include an exhibition of toilets found on board boats through the ages, and a mock up of a wherry's bows detailing the winch system used to raise and lower the mast on the traditional vessels.

Mr Paul added: 'Without the volunteers we probably wouldn't survive and we're always on the look out for new people. Those that come to us really get something out of it.'

The museum is also being fitted with solar panels and a new de-humidifier to help protect its precious pieces, such as its oldest exhibit Maria - a racing boat built in 1827, which will feature in 2012's programme.

A professional storyteller will be visiting the museum in May to tell her fascinating story.

'She's in amazing condition for her age, more or less with original woodwork, and the fact we know so much about her history makes it a really interesting story,' Mr Paul said.

? For more information, opening times and to find out about volunteering email or call curator Nicola Hems on 01692 581681

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