Hastings Museum has joined forces with its near neighbour, Bexhill Museum, and not so near neighbour, the Fécamp Museum in Normandy. Courtesy Hastings Museum.
Hastings and Bexhill Museums are to receive £133,700 in European funding for a partnership project with Fécamp Museum in Normandy.
The grant, which comes from the European Regional Development Fund, will see all three museums made more accessible to foreign visitors.
Hastings Museum curator Victoria Williams told the 24 Hour Museum that there is a strong historical link between the sites.
“A large part of Hastings was owned by the Abbot of Fécamp before the Norman Conquest, and it is thought William the Conquerer arrived here from Normandy because of that. As well, Fécamp is a similar size, and like us the museum is undergoing major redevelopment work.”
The partnership will strengthen links between Upper Normandy and East Sussex, as well as improving accessibility for visitors from France.
Planned measures include sending front of house staff from Hastings and Bexhill museums to Fécamp to receive language training, as well as commissioning translations, new guide books and educational material. Training exchanges will also regularly take place.
One of the aspects of the partnership that Victoria Williams is most excited about is a complete bi-lingual labelling system.
“We’re going to be helping each other out, and we’ll be able to check each other’s translations to make sure they really mean what we want them to say.”
(Left to right) Victoria Williams, Jane Brumfield and John Futrall, all of Hastings Museum, show off their new plans. Courtesy Hastings Museum.
All three sites are in the process of major regeneration work. Bexhill Museum was awarded a £931, 500 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund in September 2005, while Hastings Museum received £1, 236, 200 for extensive modernisation and rebuilding.
Bexhill Museum was set up in 1914 by a group of dedicated enthusiasts to house a natural history and archaeology collection. Over the years this has extended, and now includes a celebration of the town’s Edwardian past and links with the Indian Raj.
Hastings Museum’s exotic collection includes china, paintings, fossils and a Native American gallery, as well as memorabilia relating to the Hasting-born conservationist Grey Owl, whose life was immortalised in a 1999 film by Richard Attenborough.
In Fécamp, a former fish processing plant is set to become the new home for the town’s fishing and social history museums, which can now be combined on one site.
Construction work is expected to be complete by the end of 2007, and exchanges will begin in 2008.
The funding is part of the Interreg III European inter-regional programme and is only available if you border with another country. Kent and East Sussex, despite the presence of the English Channel, are considered to border with Upper Normandy.
Olivia Laing is the 24 Hour Museum Renaissance Student Writer in the South East region. Renaissance is the groundbreaking initiative to transform England's regional museums, led by MLA, the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council.