Expansion into the Community

Beaminster Museum is in the middle of a project to ‘extend’ the museum building and to ‘expand’ the museum activities to more involve the community. The extension has given us more room for display and has provided a multi-purpose room for teaching and research activities. The project is partly financed by the Heritage lottery fund and partly from a legacy and donations.

The building phase is now complete and the buildings are now being used to display a variety of exhibitions involving local responses to Covid; work from the schools; and some additions to our permanent collection.

We are now working on ways to make the museum a more integral art of the community, and we have set ourselves a number of targets where we think we can develop an active role in the community.

The Activities

  1. Courses for the community:

Initiate a variety of courses for small groups of interest to the community.

  1. Joint community group cooperation:

Be associated with other volunteer groups in the town in joint activities.

  1. Digital display development:

Use IT to a greater extent to allow the public to use our reference material, image and oral history collections effectively.

  1. Memory Cafe:

Provide a meeting place of a Memory Cafe, using the facilities available at the museum, and some of its artefacts to provide a congenial meeting place for such a group.

  1. School Holiday Museum Days:

Provide a series of ‘Museum days’ for children to have a museum experience during school holidays.

  1. Expand Oral History collection:

Develop an oral history group to collect more oral histories by interviews in the community, and provide a means of displaying these to interested parties.

Progress Blog 1/6/2022

Courses for the community:
There have been 3 in-house adult courses since Easter, both small, two being in the new Chesterman Room, including introductory website editing.

Joint community group cooperation:
We are officially a Beaminster Festival Venue and are hosting an art exhibition at Festival time. We’ve also collaborated with the schools and youth club to mount our current exhibitions in the new rooms. We are part of the Beaminster Earth Alliance Network, driven by the Town Council, and part of the Plastic Free initiative. As yet there has been no targeted interaction with community groups in terms of their visiting us as a group.

Digital display development:
Much of the work has been infrastructural, and now we have far more IT kit being used now than before the Expansion Project started. One obvious recent enhancement is the audio capability in the Meeting Room, access to oral histories and ongoing expansion of the interactive kiosk.

Memory Cafe:
The Dementia Champions, running this project, judge that it is still too soon to be bringing groups of vulnerable people together. We can do nothing until they deem it safe to start.

School Holiday Museum Days:
The two required pilot sessions have taken place. We demonstrated our ability to put on decent events, but the take-up was disappointing. It has been decided to extend the pilot with further tweaks.

Expand Oral History collection:
The Oral History work is ongoing with an active group steadily collecting recordings from our surrounding villages. All previous recordings have now been transcribed. The best way of presenting this work to the public has yet to be resolved, but at the moment they are accessible through the interactive kiosk, a link on the Museum computers, and can be selectively shared as a web page on the internet if there is specific interest.

CG (Courses Group)

CPG (Collection Protection Group)

FCG (Festival / Community Group)

ITG (IT Group)

LGOG (Life Goes On Group)

MCG (Memory Café Group)

SCG (Support Collection Group)

SHG (School Holidays Group)

1.10.2022      There having been no reportable action for two months, this blog is now suspended pending further developments.

1.8.2022         The decision is made to discontinue preparations for the next SHG holiday activity session in October owing to insufficient volunteer resource.

24.6.2022      The Nature of Music exhibition is mounted for Beaminster Festival.

20.5.2022      Website training is delivered as second CG offering to 4 students.

11.5.2022      Introduction to Collections is delivered as first CG offering to 10 students.

27.4.2022      The engineer comes to connect the alarms in the extension, but nobody in his office tells him to bring his long ladder, so he’ll have to make a second visit!

22.4.2022      CG offers a second training opportunity, an Introduction to Collections for beginners.

20.4.2022      SHG delivers its second holiday activity session, but only six children attend.

15.4.2022      The extension opens to the public for the first time with overwhelmingly positive feedback.

14.4.2022      The Preview Evening, with 50 guests, incorporates the official opening of the extension.

14.4.2022      CG offers its first educational offering in the Chesterman Room: a three-session website course for May.

13.4.2022      The Haiku display is mounted in the Rose Gallery

7.4.2022        The ‘Rocks & Fossils’ section is completed in the Rose Gallery.

6.4.2022        The Conflict and Educated in Beaminster sections are completed in the Rose Gallery.

6.4.2022         Beaminster School students visit to work with the Chesterman Room project managers.

6.4.2022         The  ‘Futures’ display for public consultation is installed in the Meeting Room by the Chairman of Trustees.

5.4.2022         The deadline for accepting our invitation to the Preview Evening has now expired. It looks as though we’ll have  a full house, but not dangerously so!

30.3.2022      The new multi-purpose wide screen is installed in the Chesterman Room.

28.3.2022      Electrics are completed, but the security company still need to connect the alarms. 

9.3.2022         Our local electrician arrives to finish off the heating, lighting and alarming of the new rooms.  

24.2.2022      Work starts in earnest on the Rose Gallery displays. 

23.2.2022      More carpeting is done; the whole floor area is now covered. 

19.2.2022      SHG initiate planning for the second session of the school holiday activity. 

18.2.2022      The committee starts planning for the Friends’ preview evening on Maundy Thursday, to include formal opening of the extension. 

15.2.2022      The first carpeting session occurs. It isn’t finished yet though. 

31.1.2022      A revised quote for carpeting the extension is accepted.  

28.1.2022      A serious start is made on decluttering the Chesterman Room.

17.1.2022      Crystal Johnson hosts a ‘futures’ workshop at the museum, discussing display/interpretation and marketing.

7.12.2021      SCG begin to rationalise the ‘library’ in the Chesterman Room, transferring books from boxes to shelves.

28.11.2021    Jo Willett’s talk goes well – full house.

24.11.2021    NLHF’s report and recommendations are received.  We, together with the NLHF team, are continuing to work on next steps for the project.

22.11.2021    There are just six seats left for Jo Willett’s talk.

8.11.2021      We are visited by NLHF for a ‘progress meeting’, which includes a tour of the building (old and new parts), a review of Activity Groups, and financial discussions. We tell it as it is, and await the official report. 

31.10.2021    Poster is designed for Jo Willett talk.

28.10.2021    Crystal Johnson, consultant, pays us a morning visit.

25.10.2021    The first pilot session of the school holiday activities takes place successfully, although in the end there are only three attendees, none of whom actually live locally.

22.10.2021    Electrician starts work in earnest on the ducting in the extension.

19.10.2021    Plan is drawn up of jobs for the ‘handypersons’ to tackle in the extension over the winter.

18.10.2021    Shelving is begun in the Chesterman Room.

7.10.2021      Jo Willett talk is confirmed: date set for 28.11.2021; lines of responsibility are drawn up for running this joint event.

23.9.2021      First new interview for Oral History is completed.

17.9.2021      Three new volunteers recruited.

1.9.2021        The Memory Café pilot has had to be postponed because of Covid concerns.

31.8.2021      Agreed a provisional deal with Lois to collaborate on a Jo Willett talk.

30.8.2021      The dehumidifier is extracting plenty of moisture, but mould continues to grow in unwanted places. A chemical solution will be attempted as well.

27.8.2021      It is agreed to repeat the cancelled school holiday session in October, but to broaden the publicity. A new member is recruited to the activity group to assist.

16.8.2021      The school holiday session scheduled for 23.8 has had to be cancelled owing to lack of interest. We must review our strategy.

12.8.2021      Dehumidifier is acquired and put into action immediately.

6.8.2021         Yet another new volunteer is signed up – this one unsolicited!

4.8.2021         New fire doors are installed into the Rose Gallery.

2.8.2021         It is realised that the Chesterman Room plus revamped Kitchen and toilet will take longer to dry out than anticipated, so special measures will be taken to dehumidify and protect contents.

31.7.2021      Lois Pearson proposes a collaboration between museum and Beaminster Festival: a talk by Jo Willett. It turns out that Lois’s thinking is very sketchy, so there’s some way to go yet. Pete, as FCG leader, will attend the same talk at a different venue to report back on its suitability.

24.7.2021      Museum re-opens on schedule, and to favourable reviews – the new rooms are visible but out of bounds. Mask wearing is “encouraged”.

22.7.2021      Two more volunteers are recruited.

15.7.2021      Stairlift to Chesterman Room is installed.

6.7.2021         Two more volunteers are recruited.

3.7.2021         More intensive questioning reveals that three stewarding volunteers wish to stand down on age and mobility grounds. A hasty recruiting exercise yields five new individuals, so a net gain during the Expansion Project.

25.6.2021      The committee decide to “intend to re-open” on Saturday 24 July, subject to government guidance. This is due to sustained stupendous effort from a wide spectrum of volunteers.

15.6.2021      Reinstatement effort begins in earnest.

14.6.2021      Professional carpet cleaners give us a makeover. PM announces four-week delay to ‘Freedom Day’; we need to work through the implications for re-opening.

10.6.2021      Main painting effort is completed.

7.6.2021         Sarah meets with Dementia Champions to add more detail to Memory Café pilot session plans.

1.6.2021         SHG document is refined and two pilot sessions are provisionally established in August – subject to roadmap progress, of course.

27.5.2021      It’s clear that the painting will actually have to be staggered a little, but an excellent start has been made. We also complete some structural work required for reinstating the existing displays.

20.5.2021      Blitz Clean finishes successfully, so we can move on to ‘magnoliation’ (a major repainting effort) a little earlier than anticipated. More volunteers come forward to assist with that. Flooring in the new interfloor storage area is completed.

17.5.2021      Operation Restart is officially launched with the Blitz Clean. The entire operation is scheduled to last for seven weeks from this point.

10.5.2021      First attempt is made at de-cluttering to enable the ‘blitz clean’; instructions are sent out to the Blitz Clean Team.

6.5.2021         Dust sheets are removed; the project manager sends out his ‘last bulding report’, which effectively signals the end of the construction phases. There’s still plenty of work to be done before we can open the new rooms to the public, however.

30.4.2021      Yesterday’s renewed request for blitz-cleaning volunteers has borne fruit.

28.4.2021      Version 4 of the Operation Restart schedule is created, bearing in mind the latest situation and volunteer availability. 

23.4.2021      The main Phase II focus, largely on account of the good weather, has temporarily switched to outside work.

15.4.2021      The committee agrees that Operation Restart should commence on 17 May.

8.4.2021         Skirting boards are in place. The ground floor now has all its  lighting, leaving only the upstairs rooms’ lighting and the power circuits to finish the job.

6.4.2021         New steps installed up to raised Chesterman Room.

31.3.2021      The volunteer painters are now working 3-4 mornings each week – still guided by the Covid-19 risk assessment.

12.3.2021      The Essential Work Team report good progress with the recovery tasks in the kitchen and toilet, plus tanking. Fittings for the new rooms are placed on order.

11.3.2021      A committee meeting is called to review the unexpected verdict by the SW Fed officer respon sible for volunteering that volunteers officially have parity with workers for the purposes of the roadmap. In other words their status as workers overrides the constraints placed on other members of the public. This arguably legitimises non-essential work from 29th March upwards. It is resolved nevertheless not to schedule Operation Restart from that date, but to wait for wider vaccination coverage.

26.2.2021      Extensive electrical work is being undertaken by professional electrician.

22.2.2021      The Prime Minister’s ‘roadmap’ announcement reveals a pinprick of light at the end of the tunnel. The exact ramifications for the remainder of the Expansion Project, including Operation Restart, come under careful scrutiny. Much honest interpretation will clearly be required.

19.2.2021      CPG check for pests, and fortunately find none.

8.2.2021         Essential work commences under Covid-secure conditions to complete Phase I without the builders.

5.2.2021         The builders leave.

1.2.2021         Progress continues to be made with the oral history activity.  The transcription exercise is well under way, and feelers are being put out to find potential interviewees in our satellite parishes.

28.1.2021      Ninth and final report in: Final plasterwork in progress; scaffolding being removed; remaining jobs relate to drainage and landscaping outside; carpets, walls, dust levels, etc, and all are probably better than feared, but the 25.10.2020 storm damage left its mark in the kitchen and toilet – the broken toilet and flooring have been replaced, but the room needs redecorating, and the kitchen cabinets need attention.

20.1.2021      Storm Christoph helps test the watertightness of the extension, and leads to the roofers being called back in to plug a hole. Better now than later!

14.1.2021      Eighth report in:The windows are in; the roof is almost completed; the inside is dry and the walls are being plastered; there is still more plastering and plasterboard ceilings to be completed, followed by the outside work of surrounding the whole building with gravel; completion date being set for 5th February.

5.1.2021         Electrician starts the work necessary to allow the builders to finish and depart.

4.1.2021         Entire country placed under Covid-19 blanket lockdown, probably until mid-February at the earliest. Given the basic stay-at-home message, this effectively rules out an Easter re-opening, because Operation Restart will take at least seven weeks to accomplish and isn’t ‘essential’ in lockdown terms.

30.12.2020    Beaminster upgraded to Covid Tier 3. It shouldn’t make that much difference in itself, but serves to make volunteers even more wary about offering their services for Operation Restart.

23.12.2020    Builders depart for their festive break, which should give the extension chance to dry out a bit.

17.12.2020    Seventh report in:The zinc roof is almost complete and the building is ‘virtually watertight’. One issue is the national shortage of glass which prevents completion of the windows. The Chairman adds that we are still within budget.

7.12.2020      Committee meeting concludes that a long stay in Tier 2 will endanger Operation Restart as well as any actual re-opening to the public – and that the situation may get worse before it gets better.

26.11.2020    Government announcement that Dorset will be in Tier 2 of Covid-19 restrictions puts Operation Restart under even more pressure. Clarifications urgently sought.

18.11.2020    Sixth report in:Builders, citing ‘difficulties at the beginning’, announce an irretrievable slippage of at least one week, which immediately scuppers Operation Restart; roof steelwork imminent, to be followed by timbering for pitched roof and zinc cladding for glass section; electrician engaged for Phase II work.

17.11.2020    Operation Restart, the plan for rebuilding the museum ready for 2021 opening, is launched. If the builders depart as planned by the end of January, we can just about be ready for Good Friday.

5.11.2020      Fifth report in:Ground floor walls completed; floor and beams of upper level in place; door to gallery extension created; ‘large army of bricklayers’ brought in to make up for lost time; second payment made to builders, making half-way point.

31.10.2020    Second major lockdown is announced. Fortunately the builders saw it coming and stocked up as best they could. Consequently every available square metre of floor space has been given over to storage of bulky items like bags of insulation and some ‘corridors’ no longer exist as such.

30.10.2020    Some unexpected readings on the environmental monitors – very difficult to interpret, but it is clear that we must beware of the potential for high humidity. Heaters to be turned up.

25.10.2020    Bad weather, and the temporary roof over the annexe comes adrift of its moorings, causing a flood in the kitchen. Weather like this obviously exacerbates the previous slippage in the schedule.

16.10.2020    Fourth report in:The big step of pouring the concrete foundations was done a week last Tuesday; depending on the weather, which has not been too kind, the walls should start growing quite quickly; meanwhile details of the glass tunnel between old and new are being discussed; roofing details are being decided, electrics are well in hand and the carpentry items are out for tender; the programme has slipped a week or two, but there is every hope that that can be made up in the next two months.

1.10.2020      Third report in:The digger has gone, the site levelled and blinded with a weak concrete mix, all shuttered up, ready for the pumping in of the concrete; the annexe is now without a back wall or chimney; the kitchen is increased in size by the removal of the chimney, and the kitchen and toilet now have a cosy look with their lower ceilings, giving the museum a large area for storage above them; the annexe walls have been extended, ready for the glazed link between the old and new building; the electrical installation has now been detailed, with us working with a local electrician to get the power into the building when O’Briens have finished; we are about to send out our joinery work (a short staircase, balustrade and door) to tender.

16.9.2020      Second report in:the stone walls of the annexe are being built up to make the first floor of the building; more then half of the 100 tons of spoil have been removed from the site by wheelbarrow and it will soon be time to lay the concrete foundations; wall agreements have been successfully completed, and  the contract signed; the site has had its first visit from the building inspector; there is no need for underpinning of the garden wall, but we have found the annexe roof contained many asbestos tiles which required expensive specialist removal.

1.9.2020         First report in: wall in former Education Room demolished; annexe roof demolished; kitchen/toilet ceiling removed; surface stone in yard mostly removed; excavation begun. In a change of plan, kitchen chimney breast behind sink to be demolished and wall rebuilt – mainly for weightbearing reasons, but will also expand kitchen slightly (and require reconstruction of sink cabinet). 

28.8.2020      Bank Holiday rush is met with Beaminster’s unofficial traffic calming measures: a pick-up truck parked outside the emergency doors and a plank across the pavement for rubble-bearing wheelbarrows.

19.8.2020      Construction work begins in earnest.

17.8.2020      Builders arrive, block the entrance with their signboard and promptly disappear again.

7.8.2020         Preliminary meeting with builders is held on site.

31.7.2020      Preparation of the building in terms of clearance and protection is completed on schedule.

28.7.2020      Our own volunteer builders start work in earnest to ensure that the contractors (who won’t be looking after the electrical aspect) have minimal opportunity to damage our existing supply within the building. Their initial drilling into concrete causes an unforeseen dust storm and triggers the smoke alarm, just to remind us what we can expect when the contractors arrive!

18.7.2020      It is agreed that the builders will start work on August 17, a month earlier than the previous schedule – this is an indirect result of the earlier decision not to open to the public at all in 2020.

12.7.2020      One of our number, actively involved in the protection work, tests positive for Covid-19. All contacts are identified and informed. A second test is negative, so nobody has to self-isolate after all.

3.7.2020         The chairman’s attempt to free up storage space by disposing of our rationalised mannequins flounders when (a) his car full of naked ladies breaks down while illegally parked outside the museum, and (b) he’s turned away from the tip. Black comedy!

1.7.2020         Preparation plans are thrown into some disarray by the discovery of a moth infestation in the Agriculture section. Steps will be taken to eradicate as swiftly as possible.

28.6.2020      Plan B regarding preparation for the construction phase is released in its first draft.

17.6.2020      The sheds in the yard have now been emptied and dismantled. The storage dilemma has officially begun!

16.6.2020      A reply is received at last to our query seeking best advice for artefact protection.

13.6.2020      Volunteers are requested to confirm  their availability for socially distanced work in the museum to prepare for the construction phase.

12.6.2020      The momentous decision is taken not to re-open the museum in 2020. The main reason is Covid-19, but there are clear implications for the Expansion Project, the least the definitive realisation that the memory café and school holiday pilots will have to be deferred until after the construction phase.

3.6.2020        The SHG plan is further refined, despite there still being no indication that we’ll be able to host the activity days this summer because of Covid-19 restrictions.

27.5.2020      The LGOG plan for maintaining necessary operations and offering fundraising events through the winter is completed.

24.5.2020      The plan for improving our oral history collection and its accessibility is agreed.

23.5.2020      Draft SHG & LGOG project plans are issued for review and completion.

22.5.2020      A productive Zoom meeting is held by SCG with Matthew, their technology advisor. There are plans to use the Expansion Project as a springboard for further exciting initiatives.

17.5.2020      The museum receives a donation from a funeral collection specifically towards the ‘Memory Café’.

14.5.2020      After much soul-searching it is resolved that we cannot be ready for an earlier-than-planned start by the builders without breaching government guidelines on self-isolation and social distancing.

7.5.2020        Dilemma! Out of the blue, the builders offer to start work on 15.6, less than six weeks from now. Some say go for it; some say that the preparation work is impossible during ‘lockdown’.

6.5.2020        The assumptions list is returned to CPG, demonstrating that some assumptions were mistaken. So it was clearly a useful exercise.

3.5.2020        FCG is completed with the addition of two further members.

2.5.2020        The eighth activity group leader is agreed. One to go!

30.4.2020      Volunteers are asked to join MSG.

29.4.2020      An assumptions list is completed by CPG to be checked by PSG. This is designed to give CPG a better idea of what needs to be protected and what space will be available for storage.

26.4.2020      SCG create a high-level plan for their remit, including enhcancing our Oral History offering.

24.4.2020      A reply from the local Dementia Champions seems to indicate we have a basis for creating the memory café, even though there are issues to resolve on both sides. Advice is sought from our museum mentor regarding artefact protection.

23.4.2020      Volunteers are asked to join the LGOG and ITG.

20.4.2020      A seventh activity group leader is agreed. Two to go!

16.4.2020      An exploratory letter is sent to the local Dementia Champions, suggesting a partnership to run the memory café pilot.

14.4.2020      Recruitment to the CPG is completed. An ‘initial thoughts’ document, including a draft set of assumptions is sent out to members for information.

7.4.2020        We’re informed by the builders that there’s no reason to assume that the construction phase will be delayed by the backlog resulting from the coronavirus crisis.

6.4.2020        Alec is announced as Contract Administrator. He will work with the Project Steering Group and PCRM to focus on the success of the first construction phase.

4.4.2020        … and a sixth leader is identified. Three to go!

2.4.2020        A fifth activity group leader position is filled. Four to go!

1.4.2020        Our press release starts to show up in local publications. The first appearance is in the coronavirus-enforced electronic version of the Marshwood Vale magazine.

31.3.2020      We commence recruiting for the Collections Protection Group (CPG), whose job it will be to ensure maximum protection with minimum disruption when the builders move in. There are, naturally enough, different views as to the extent of, and best approach to, the task.

26.3.2020      Four of the activity group leader positions are filled. The vacant positions are re-advertised for a further week.

25.3.2020      We hear that the first (50%) instalment of our funding is on the way. There are no immediate bills to pay, but it means we can press on with confidence.

23.3.2020      HMG’s latest pronouncements regarding coronavirus undoubtedly make life even more difficult. Advice regarding self-isolation and social distancing is totally at odds with the spirit of volunteer engagement in the project.

19.3.2020      We’ve advertised for activity group leaders in the weekly volunteers’ newletter. Much of any early work required will clearly have to be done without physically meeting.

17.3.2020      Two mad, mad days as the coronavirus crisis deepens. We’ve gradually had all our events for the first half of the summer cancelled, have announced that the season’s opening will be delayed until June 20 at the earliest, and have decided to suspend volunteer mornings. By adhering to government advice as we interpret it, this puts in serious doubt some of the plans we had for delivering the Approved Purposes for which the NLHF grant was awarded. Our funders have been made aware of the general issue, but we need to come up with revised timescale proposals as soon as we can.

15.3.2020      We’ve been hit amidships by the latest coronavirus developments. If, as seems likely, the over-70s are going to be asked to stay at home for a long period of time, then our volunteer resources will be decimated. But we don’t know the details yet.

14.3.2020      The Project Plan is launched to cover all aspects of the months ahead. It divides the bulk of the effort required between nine activity groups, each with a specific focus. The first task is for the PSG (Project Steering Group) is to appoint a leader for each activity group.

13.3.2020      Friday the thirteenth, and we’re off! We learn we have ‘permission to start’ and can begin the project in earnest. Bid has notified the local press accordingly.

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