Wisbech and Fenland Museum, one of the UK’s oldest purpose-built museums, has been saved from closure after a group of supporters pledged £34,000 towards its running costs.
Eleven individuals, one business and six local charities have all committed to giving the museum at least £1,000 every year until 2026. Wisbech Town Council will increase its annual grant to the museum from £5,000 to £20,000.
The museum launched its ReFounders fundraising campaign - which requests ongoing funding commitments from donors - after the losing an annual £60,000 grant from Fenland District Council towards its running costs, leaving it in a potentially unsustainable financial situation. The scheme will close to new donors at the end of the month.
More than 80 friends of the museum, trustees and volunteers recently joined the group of donors to celebrate the efforts to save the museum.
David Ball, the vice-chairman of the board, said: “We thank the organisations and individuals who have been so generous but even with this help and the pledges we have so far, we won’t cover our day-to-day expenses from 2021, when the Fenland District Council monies run out.”
“We do bid for and receive grants, but all are restricted to specific projects. We cannot use that money to pay wages, keep the lights on and the doors open.”
He announced that a patrons’ scheme – involving a lower level of contribution than those of the ReFounders – will be launched in April 2019.
The museum houses an eclectic collection of items, including the original manuscript of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations. It was recently awarded £47,750 by Historic England for a full building survey and immediate roof repairs, and was added to its Heritage at Risk Register.