Councillors decide that district museum should offer free admission

Leading councillors from Chichester District Council have decided that the council’s museum ‘The Novium’ will be made free for everyone from Monday 17 November 2014.
Since the museum opened two years ago, the council has been looking for ways to offer free entry. A new business strategy that explores ways in which this could be achieved was discussed by councillors at their Cabinet Meeting today (Tuesday 9 September).
“We have listened to our visitors and have been working on ways that would enable us to make the museum free for everyone,” says Cllr Myles Cullen, Cabinet Member for Commercial Services at Chichester District Council.
“Our museum team has been carrying out a great deal of work behind the scenes and has put us in a position where we can explore alternative forms of funding. They have also taken on board people’s comments and made significant improvements and so now is the time for us to offer free entry to everyone.
“We now want to encourage people to support their local museum by making a donation; using our shop; or even using our new tea and coffee facilities. This will make a big difference in helping the museum to go from strength to strength. This approach has worked for other museums across the country and so we believe that this will work for our museum. We are also planning to offer lots of exciting activities for the whole family – including crafts, games and expand our special events – many of which are already sold out.
“We want to encourage our local residents and visitors from outside of the area to explore the rich history of the district and use the museum as a key community location in the city, where people can meet and gather. We hope that providing free entry to the museum will mean that our visitor numbers will increase and that people will want to return again and again.”
The report suggested that if the admission fee was removed, the museum could explore other funding options. These include improving the shop, introducing touring exhibitions from some of the national museums which would be charged for; encouraging people to make donations; and holding more events including wedding hire of both the museum and The Guildhall. The Tourist Information Centre, located within the museum, would also expand the services it can offer.
Cathy Hakes, the museum’s new manager, is excited about the new developments and has already designed an action packed programme to welcome people through the door,
“We have so much to offer local residents. We now have a location where people can meet, do business, have fun as a family – all while rediscovering the area’s rich history. So you can pop in for a coffee and cake, while looking over the Roman Baths; have a business meeting while accessing our free WiFi; or join in one of our many events and activity sessions.
“We have an army of volunteers who can tell you all about the history of the district, while pointing out some of our more unusual artefacts. Plus, you don’t know who else you might bump into – from a Roman soldier to a Victorian gentleman.
“We are constantly developing the museum and what it offers and feel that it has already come a long way since it opened two years ago. We have new exhibits, interactive activities, events and information boards. The museum team are also offering regular lunchtime and evening lectures. The galleries are constantly changing so it’s definitely worth returning if you haven’t visited for a while. Popular events such as ‘The Night at the Museum’ have sold out – which is brilliant. Plus, we’ve held some fantastic events for a variety of businesses across the district. The museum is also a key asset to local schools and we have one of the largest handling collections (where people can touch exhibits) in the country.
“We’re also looking at attracting touring exhibitions from some of the national museums in the future. These would be placed in the upper galleries and there would be a fee to visit them. We’re also expanding what we can offer the local community and we are even hoping to hold weddings in both The Guildhall in Priory Park and The Novium Museum – so watch this space!
“We are really looking forward to welcoming our local residents and hope that the museum will become a key community facility that everyone enjoys.”