Thursday, 12 September 2013

Criticism For Political Point Scoring? No Thank You...

I am writing in response to Charmaine Morgans column of 12th September ("Labour councillor Charmaine Morgan criticises museum volunteers" ).

During my time as Chairman of Grantham Museum I have received various criticisms from the public about the way in which the museum is run and suggestions for how we can do things better. That feedback is always welcome, and it is partly thanks to these suggestions that the museum proudly gained it’s Arts Council Accreditation last month. 

There are also times when the museum and my team of hardworking volunteers (and to avoid any doubt, myself and the Board also fall into the category of volunteers) have been in my opinion, unfairly criticised by people who either have a personal or political axe to grind, and seem to freely offer at times quite nasty criticism without suggesting alternatives. I have remained silent on a number of occasions, because I would prefer to spend my time concentrating on improving the museum, however Ms Morgan's column warrants a response. 
Instead of spouting inaccuracies and criticism for reasons known best to herself, it would have been professional and sensible for Ms Morgan to have asked me for the facts before writing her column, however as that was not the case I have no option but to publicly reply.

Firstly I would like to agree with Ms Morgan that the Mallard event was a great success and the organisers should be rightfully proud of the visitor numbers it attracted.

The decision was taken by Grantham Museum very early on, with advice from experts in the field, that we unfortunately don’t have sufficient Mallard exhibits to be able to display an exhibition worthy of the occasion. It is unfortunate that The George Centre was used for additional public displays and the Museum was not contacted with a view to us housing it, which we would have certainly liked to have done.
That aside, the museum was open on Saturday as normal. We were unfortunately significantly quieter than a typical Saturday, primarily and understandably because visitors were either at the station seeing Mallard or at the George Centre enjoying the additional displays. Those visitors we did have were lost and looking for directions to both of the aforementioned locations.
As a result, the decision was made that the museum would not open on the Sunday. It costs us money to open each day and if we cannot justify the cost versus return then I have to make that decision. If we fail to run the museum like a business then we become unsustainable - unfortunately, unless Ms Morgan knows something I don't, money doesn’t grow on trees.

In addition to opening the museum on the Saturday the volunteers had a stand up at the station itself on the Saturday and the Sunday in order to promote our towns great heritage. It is thanks primarily to Terry & Margaret Musson, Gordon Beech, Vanessa Chivers, Megan Bailey and Tracey Smith along with members of the board, that this was possible. It was also thanks to the organisers who allowed us to be there, so my thanks goes to them also.
Unlike the museum itself, the stand was a bustling and exciting place to be, and in addition to talking to visitors about our heritage we also made money through donations and merchandise sales that will be invested back into the museum. Thank you to everyone who visited our stand and supported us in this way.

In direct response to Ms Morgan’s question of what happens if you’re not happy with how things are being done at the museum? Well, you come in and tell us, you send an email, or you give us a call. Even better you could come up with a solution or offer to volunteer a few hours a week to help improve things.

My final point references Ms Morgan’s end comment “given what has happened to our museum.” Given what has happened? I wonder if she is referring to the hard work and dedication of our volunteers who prove that communities can come together for the greater good. Possibly the positive feedback from The Dam Busters exhibition, or perhaps the Arts Council Accreditation that we have achieved where so many others fail. Maybe she is referring to our significant increase in visitor numbers in recent months, or possibly the relationships we have developed with local schools to help bring Grantham’s history to our children.

I am under no illusion that despite our recent successes the museum still has a long way to go before we get to where we want to be, and I am committed to working hard to make that happen. I am happy for people to criticise in a constructive manner because it will make the museum a better place, however don’t complain in such a public way when you know nothing of the facts or reasoning behind the tough decisions we have to make.

Helen Goral
Chairman, Grantham Museum

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