Fundraising appeal to be launched to help save Museum of Cambridge

PUBLISHED: 00:09 02 January 2018 | UPDATED: 00:15 02 January 2018

The Museum of Cambridge is facing financial difficulties

The Museum of Cambridge is facing financial difficulties

DavorLovincic

Castle Street attraction is battling to survive amid financial difficulties

The Histon giant's boot at the Museum of Cambridge. Picture: Keith HeppellThe Histon giant's boot at the Museum of Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell

A public fundraising appeal will be launched to help save the Museum of Cambridge, the Cambridge Independent can confirm.

The Castle Street attraction, formerly known as the Cambridge and County Folk Museum, is battling to survive amid financial difficulties.

Rumours that it was to close permanently surfaced on social media last month after four paid staff left, but the suggestion was quashed by a statement from the chairman of trustees Sarah Ingram and co-chairman Joe McIntyre.

In it, they said the museum is “facing significant challenges that threaten its future” and will close until February for a “deep clean and refresh”, adding: “It has been at the heart of Cambridge for more than 80 years but, like many small, independent heritage organisations, it is struggling to survive.

“Contrary to popular belief, the museum is not part of the University of Cambridge Museums and it does not receive any public funding for its core operation. It is wholly dependent on discretionary income and, while that income continues to dwindle, the daily costs of operation continue to rise. The board of trustees is taking all steps to try and ensure a practical future for the museum by seeking financial help from funding bodies, businesses and individuals.

“The trustees wish the museum to continue to operate as a viable concern and to that end we are undertaking a transition to a trustee and volunteer-led approach, which we believe will build a more resilient model of operation.”

The museum’s manager has been made redundant, while another employee’s contract has ended and two part-time staff have resigned.

Accounts for the museum lodged with the Charities Commission show it had an income of £143,711 in the year to March 31, 2016, and spending of £161,510. The previous year, however, it had a major cash injection of £212,837 and spent £128,616.

Over the five years to March 31, 2016, income exceeded expenditure by £51,067, but its grant money is tied up for specific projects and the picture is understood to have worsened this year. Cambridge City Council granted the museum £45,000 in 2015-16, £35,000 in 2016-17 and £35,000 for 2017-18 – but it was ringfenced for the museum’s Capturing Cambridge programme.

City councillor Richard Johnson said: “The council is aware of the challenges faced by the Museum of Cambridge and officers have been working with them to provide support for the past few months. The current situation is very difficult for all concerned and we will continue to work with the museum.”

The trustees’ statement added: “We are aware that this much-loved museum and its landmark building has been a familiar part of the landscape for many Cambridge residents throughout their lives. We hope that by working closely with significant stakeholders, including the city and county councils, we can navigate a clear path through a difficult financial situation.

“We believe there can be a future for the museum and look forward to working with all our supporters and friends to make sure that our future is sustainable.

“We are closing over Christmas and through January to carry out a deep clean and refresh of the museum and plan to reopen in February. Offers of help would be very welcome.”

It is hoped the reopening of nearby gallery Kettle’s Yard, which has been closed for a major refurbishment, will help drive footfall to the museum.

Sarah told the Cambridge Independent that a wider public appeal for funds would begin when the museum, housed in a 17th-century former coaching inn, reopens.

In the meantime, its website – museumofcambridge.org.uk – can be used to make donations and offers of help can be made to Sarah via chair@museumofcambridge.org.uk.

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