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Wisbech Museum forced to charge for admission and launch rescue appeal in funding crisis





Wisbech and Fenland Museum is in such dire straits that it will have to charge admission for the first time in 100 years and has launched an appeal to keep it afloat.

It has been forced to take drastic action in the face of a £60,000 a year shortfall on the income needed to pay its annual running costs of £90,000 from next April.

From May 1, adults will be asked for £5 admission and the museum is making an urgent appeal to local individuals, businesses and organisations to pledge what each can spare monthly or annually for it to survive.

Wisbech and fenland museum
Wisbech and fenland museum

The 1847 building, one of the oldest purpose-made museums in Britain, has never been in better shape to serve the community since its major refurbishment last year largely funded by Historic England.

Visitors of all ages from Fenland and beyond are flocking to school holiday and seasonal events, craft workshops and two current exhibitions – one of art by local under-25s and the other the Museum's precious manuscript of Great Expectations on special display to coincide with the new BBC One classic series.

Yet, ironically the Museum itself, an independent charity, is facing a five-figure shortfall on running costs.

Young art at Wisbech museum
Young art at Wisbech museum

Under-16s and anyone in full-time education will continue to be admitted free but adults will be charged £5 on entry, which buys a season ticket to return free each subsequent visit within the year.

Museum chairman Steve McGregor said: “Quite simply, even with admission charges, we can't survive in our present form beyond this financial year.

“We have won one-off grants for capital projects like the recent magnificent refurbishment, but we can't use a penny of that money to keep the lights on, our collections curated or staff paid.

“To keep going after April 2024 we need businesses with local customers and employees, charities and individuals who recognise the treasure we have and what damage its loss would do to the town to join our new Patrons' Scheme by pledging £1200 or £600 a year, paid monthly or annually.

The beginning of Great Expectations, as told by its hero Pip. The novel was written and published in instalments between 1860 and 1861
The beginning of Great Expectations, as told by its hero Pip. The novel was written and published in instalments between 1860 and 1861

“And for most people who can't spare that much but could afford to commit £5, £10 or £20 per month to keep a precious resource for the whole community, please join our Supporters Circle.”

When the museum lost its annual Fenland District Council grant five years ago, it was saved from closure by a small generous band of supporters (individuals and local charities mainly) who pledged a total of £35,000 each year for five years through its Refounders Scheme. That scheme's time is up and the new subscription schemes will need to almost double what it produced.

Young Art at Wisbech Museum
Young Art at Wisbech Museum

* To find out how to support the Museum through either the Patrons' Scheme or Supporters Circle, ask at its new downstairs reception desk in open hours 10am to 4pm Wednesday to Saturday, online via www.wisbechmuseum.org.uk, by email at info@wisbechmuseum.org.uk or by telephone on 01945 583817.



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