Charity No 234800
The Council has today issued a press release which confirms that it has revisited the decision to close Lowewood Museum in December and intends to establish a trust to run the museum. It will be working together with the Friends of Lowewood Museum over the forthcoming months to do this. We will be continuing to closely support the Friends of Lowewood Museum as they do so.
This is a positive first step, which undoubtedly comes about as a direct result of the huge public response to the campaign (a depth of feeling the Council would have appreciated earlier, had it properly consulted on the closure).
However, it leaves a number of essential questions unanswered, even at this early stage - and the campaign does not end here.
Whereas trusts are able to attract funding sources that Councils cannot, the reality is (as is the position nationwide) that the bulk of the funding will have to come from the Council. Without a clear commitment by the Council to properly fund the museum, the trust will struggle, and will certainly not be able to offer the same level of services that it does today. We will continue to campaign for meaningful and adequate funding.
Undoubtably, as the press release indicates, there will be an important role for volunteers, which has always been the case. However, given the level of services provided, we envisage that the proper running of the museum will, at a minimum, require the funding of a professional curator who has the expertise to curate the collection, create relevant exhibitions and manage and run the invaluable outreach programmes.
The establishment of a trust, which will involve the Council advertising for and appointing professional trustees, will take time. If the Council now accepts, as it appears to do, that the services offered by Lowewood Museum are important to the Borough, then it should make sure that the museum stays open while the trust is being established - and we will be campaigning for this.
Surely, this is ultimately a question of funding and political will. The current museum running costs are currently in the budget till 2022. The Council could approach Epping Forest District Council to see whether it would be prepared to stay on for an interim period while the trust is established. It could also identify and appoint a new curator now, to take charge during the interim period while the trust is established.
25 February 2020