Unlocking Huntingdonshire: Museums hoping to reopen in July

St Neots Museum

St Neots Museum PICTURE: St Neots Museum - Credit: St Neots Museum

Museums across Huntingdonshire are working out how they can reopen safely as lockdown restrictions ease in the UK.

According to the Government’s plans for the easing of the lockdown, larger arts venues, including museums and galleries, would fall under the bracket of “higher-risk businesses” due to the amount and proximity of people. The lockdown on these will continue until at least July 4, and even after this only some venues will be able to reopen.

The Hunts Post spoke to The Cromwell Museum, in Huntingdon, the Norris Museum, in St Ives, and St Neots Museum, to ask them about their preparations to reopen and also the challenges they have faced since the lockdown.

The St Neots Museum Shop has now reopened, but staff are still waiting on Government advice as to when they can reopen the museum.

Liz Davies, curator of St Neots Museum said: “On our first day of opening the shop we had one visitor, but we have had a lot more since and people were asking us when the museum is going to reopen.

“We have lost a lot of profit from the museum being closed for nearly three months now, we have been very fortunate that we were able to keep working, due to support from St Neots Town Council.

“This has allowed us to keep putting new information and videos on the website.

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“The profits we have lost from ticket sales came from when big groups of school children pay to come and look round the museum.

“We also would hold things such a paranormal investigations for parties of people, which we would normally charge £150, and these have all been cancelled. We are hoping in the autumn, we can gain more profit back. We have been fortunate to receive a grant from Huntingdonshire District Council for £25,000 and a grant from the Arts Council of £14,000.

“We are hoping to reopen the museum in July, with reduced visiting times from 11am till 4pm, from Tuesday till Friday, but we have to wait for the Government advice.

“While we are waiting we will be creating more online content and over the next four months all our online videos will be supported using public funding by the National Lottery through the Arts Council.

“We are delighted to have secured a grant from Arts Council England and are looking forward to sharing more of the amazing history of our area with everyone online, a big ‘thank you’ to everyone.

The Cromwell Museum is also hoping to reopen its doors at the beginning of July.

Stuart Orme, curator of the museum, said: “Being closed for nearly three months now has hit us hard financially.

“We received a grant from the Government of £10,000 and a grant from the Arts Council for £30,000.

“We usually offer free entry to customers and make our profits from holding special events, private tours and donations.

“As we are a small museum, we have made some preparations to get ready for the museum to reopen.

“We have ordered Perspex screens to use for the counters and we will have a maximum capacity inside the museum at any one time.

“We also aim to keep people safe by changing our open hours and limiting visiting hours to four days a week.

“We aim to clean everything in between each groups visit, which would be their social bubble or family household.”

The Norris Museum in St Ives is waiting for government instructions before preparing to open, although they have taken out risk assessments.

Sarah Russell, director of the Norris Museum, in St Ives, said: “We haven’t set an opening date yet but we are putting measures in place ready to open our doors once again.

“When we do reopen, it will be firstly for staff and volunteers, then for the public. We will take all precautions necessary to keep our visitors safe.

“We will ensure it is a safe space for the community as we also have a lot of vulnerable visitors that attend the museum.

“Within the market towns we are one of the biggest museums in the county, we usually welcome 40,000 visitors a year.

“Being shut for nearly three months has affected us financially in that we have not had any income from events and activities which help us to continue our varied programme. We did not apply for any grants from the government or the Arts Council because our sole trustee is St Ives Town Council and we had our annual grant from them.”