Lynne Ward tells us about how Laxfield Museum is coming out of the pandemic…
Last year after Government restrictions were lifted, the Laxfield & District Museum welcomed their first visitors on Saturday 29th May and as there was a late start to the season, we deferred our usual closure in late September till the end of October. Something which we are continuing this year along with opening on the Community Market mornings and the extra sessions over the Jubilee holiday.
The pandemic caused much concern but it also afforded us thinking and doing space. We had been planning to extend our gallery space downstairs, which would help to address some of the accessibility issues we have in our 500-year-old Guildhall in Laxfield. In conjunction with the ‘Laxfield Bells’ project to recast and add to the church ring, which was funded by the National Lottery, we were able to finance part of the new gallery and many local people helped with the transformation.
One of the two local public houses, The King’s Head, had produced a very comprehensive printed wall display on thatching, which was then gifted to us and was mounted in the new gallery along with an exhibition on the church bells. Evidence of more local support for the museum.
Comments in the visitors’ book and oral feedback were very encouraging:
‘Another gem in the Suffolk countryside – well done to the volunteers for keeping places like this alive.’
‘Lovely building, lots of information all very interesting and well presented, very helpful staff, excellent photos and drawings.’
‘This is just what a museum should be, thank you so much for looking after us.’
‘From Brighton, lovely place, so much to see! Lovely people running it, very helpful and knowledgeable. Thank you.’
Visitors spent a long time studying the exhibits, some promising to return and some bringing other people to visit. It seemed that emerging from lockdowns had given people a new way of seeing and valuing. The welcome they received from our stewards was greatly appreciated and this year our volunteer steward numbers have gone from 40 to over 60, thanks to the generosity of local people. Another positive outcome.
The repositioning of the stewards’ station downstairs in the Parish Room appeared to be more welcoming for visitors and the new gallery afforded them more to explore. The ‘Laxfield Bells’ project also provided funding for an extra computer downstairs, which has proved popular with visitors viewing our photo collection. With more to see downstairs, it has been possible for some less mobile visitors and stewards to access at least part of the museum.
The Museum has plans for 3 major events in the 2022 season again with support from the local community:
Laxfield’s Henry is our opening event in the Village Hall on April 29th. A group of local actors and musicians have written a piece based on a local story especially for and in aid of the museum.
The Queen’s Jubilee: For the month of June the Museum will be mounting a display downstairs of Royal memorabilia from the past. Again, thanks to those local people who have loaned objects.
Museum celebrations. Covid stopped our plans to celebrate the Guildhall’s 500th anniversary and the Museum’s 50th in 2020. So we will be celebrating with the help of The Companye of Merrie Folke, bringing the Tudor era to life, on September 10th and 11th. All are welcome and admission is free to both the museum and the event.