AS WE entered 2020, Haslemere Museum’s diary and exhibition spaces were full – and it was expecting a busy year featuring a wide variety of programming and supporting many of the town’s and indeed the country’s festivities.
But the shock news that one of the first people to be identified with Covid-19 lived within the area meant the museum was among the first institutions to be impacted by the fallout from the virus, and had to immediately cancel its special fundraising St David’s Day Lunch on March 1.
What happened after that is well known.
By the end of the month, the UK was in total lockdown, the museum was closed to the public and bade its volunteers farewell and to “stay safe”.
The majority of its staff were furloughed and the task of looking for support from local authorities and national grant funding began – but with no success.
Given the special nature of the museum and the vital need to properly care for its collections, it remains vital to retain a permanent staff presence whilst the museum is closed to the public.
Therefore, its curator and premises staff are working hard to maintain everything in preparation for the museum’s reopening which is hoped will be later in the summer.
Currently, it is understood the reopening of museums will be part of step three of the government’s Covid-19 recovery strategy.
The earliest step three can begin is July 4, but this will depend on scientific advice and whether the government’s five tests for easing lockdown measures are met.
Melanie Odell, the museum president, said: “With the lack of financial support from official authorities, the trustees contacted its members with an update on our operations and appeal for financial help.
“Not only was the members’ response amazing, but the accompanying notes and letters of support demonstrated the high regard for the museum, its staff and volunteers.
“At a time when things are so uncertain, it is so very heart-warming to receive such words of kindness and support.”
If anyone wishes to contribute to the Museum Appeal, they can do so by forwarding any contribution to Haslemere Museum, 78 High Street, Haslemere GU27 2LA.
Mrs Odell said: “At the moment the trustees and staff are busy making plans for some opening events and the return of some of our volunteers and more staff.
“Our website (www.
haslemeremuseum.co.uk) has details of our Glad Rags project which when complete will be a patchwork record of this extraordinary time.
“Using materials such as recycled fabrics, offcuts and yarns, the community is asked to record what they did, felt and experienced about this extraordinary time.
“Photographs of the patchwork squares are requested to be sent to the museum and they will be collated and put on to our website.
“When we can reopen, the actual work will be transformed into a giant patchwork and displayed in the museum as a historical record of this time for future generations.”
As soon as the relevant regulations are lifted, the museum has vowed to reopen with some new ideas and events.
Many of the planned exhibitions and events scheduled for 2020 are being rescheduled into 2021.
Mrs Odell added: “You may be assured that as soon as we are able, we shall follow all of the guidelines to provide a safe environment in which to welcome all of our visitors back to the museum for an enjoyable and safe experience.”