Lynn Museum is just one of the Eastern region museums that has gone through some major changes in the last year. © Lynn Museum
As spring arrives, there are a number of museum re-openings across East Anglia to help generate interest in local places and history.
In Cambridge work has been undertaken at the Folk Museum and the Egyptian Gallery in the Fitzwilliam and elsewhere in the region improvements have been made to the Cromer Museum, Lynn Museum and Diss Museum.
The improvements cover everything from re-displays and improved education facilities to new roofs and better public access, which means that the museums in the East of England are ready for another busy year.
The courtyard of the Cambridge Folk Museum has been re-vamped. © Cambridge Folk Museum
Cambridge Folk Museum is one of the oldest social history museums in the country and has been refurbished and redecorated over the past year. Improved facilities and access for visitors have also been achieved together with more storage space and an education room for school visits.
The building dates back to at least 1600 and many of the original features are still visible. It was originally a pub called The White Horse and still contains a bar, with beer bottles and pub signs.
“The museum has been transformed in the minds of our public,” said museum curator Cameron Hawke-Smith.
“There has been a tremendous response in terms of visitor numbers which are up about 40% on last year. Even more gratifying have been the comments of people, they like the fact that the museum still has that indefinable charm and character they are used to.”
The Folk Museum's kitchen is now even more welcoming for younger visitors. © Cambridge Folk Museum
It contains a fascinating collection of artefacts from across the county, including a full size, 200-year-old kitchen with hearth. Other rooms are also themed, showing different aspects of Cambridgeshire over the last four hundred years.
Another museum undergoing a major redevelopment is Cromer Museum which closed for improvements in September 2004. The re-opening was delayed by ground slippage in the gardens but went ahead without a hitch on March 29 2006. Increased access to the building and its collections was combined with improved displays and the addition of a brand new geology gallery.
“We are looking forward to hugely increased attendance over the coming months,” explained Del Styan of the museum. “The first thing people will notice is our brand new entrance which was previously a hole in the wall. It has been redesigned and now opens onto the main street in Cromer. The council has also landscaped the gardens in front so we are much more prominent now.”
Cromer is an area of outstanding geological interest and the new gallery showcases Norfolk Museums & Archaeology Service’s extensive geology collection.
Lynn Museum's favourite stuffed tiger now has some new surroundings. © Lynn Museum
Displays recount about the discovery of the West Runton elephant and hands-on interactive exhibitions to help younger visitors find out about fossils.
The £500,000 project was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, ERDF Objective 2, Norfolk County Council, North Norfolk District Council and the Friends of Cromer Museum.
Just down the road, a major re-development planned for Lynn Museum includes new displays that will tell the story of King's Lynn & West Norfolk in a lively and accessible way and serve as a gateway to the borough’s rich heritage.
The wonderful interior of the museum's historic chapel building will be revealed and there will be better public access to its collection.
There will also be a programme of community outreach, with museum services and collections being taken out across the borough. The museum is hoping to re-open on April 14 2006.
Cambridge's Fitzwilliam Museum - improvements have been made to its Egyptian gallery. © The Fitzwilliam Museum
A second phase of work at the museum is due to finish in summer 2007 and will include part of the 4,000 year-old Holme timber circle, popularly known as 'Seahenge', a find of international significance.
Diss Museum has acquired a collection of new items including a First World War demob box complete with uniform and items from the Anness family butcher’s business.
Basil Abbott, who gathered the items has also included dozens of newspapers and magazines from more than 100 years ago. Celebrated poet John Betjeman’s connection with Diss is also explored as this is the centenary of his birth.
Paul Dance is the 24 Hour Museum Renaissance Student Writer in the East of England region. Renaissance is the groundbreaking initiative to transform England's regional museums, led by MLA, the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council.