The Huguenot Museum in Rochester has announced that will close in early October due to a funding shortfall “exacerbated” by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The museum was set up in 2015 by the French Hospital, a 300-year-old almshouse charity in Rochester, following a £1.3m National Lottery Heritage Fund grant.
As well as using items from the hospital’s collection to tell the story of the 50,000 French protestants who settled in Britain to escape religious persecution, the museum ran an exhibitions and events programme, ran a volunteer-run family history service and hosted local organisations as a venue-hire space.
In a statement, the museum’s director Dinah Winch said that it had been working to develop a sustainable business model but was “hit hard” by the onset of the Covid pandemic in March 2020 before this could be achieved.
It reopened for periods in summer 2000 and 2021 and has received a £59,400 emergency grant from the Heritage Fund as well as support from private donors. However, it has been unable to raise enough funding to continue in its present form and will close in October while trustees work to put together a rescue plan.
It is hoped that a review of the operations and new income streams will enable the museum to open again in spring 2022.
The word refugee was first coined to describe the French Huguenots, and the museum has always worked with charities to support young refugees and raise awareness of contemporary refugee issues.
“This is absolutely devastating news for many of us working in the refugee and migrant sector,” said Bridget Chapman from the Kent Refugee Action Network.
“The Huguenot Museum has been a tremendous supporter of us and the young people that we work with. They have partnered with us on various initiatives that have developed the confidence and the skills of young refugees, and have always sought to amplify the voices of lived experience.”
The museum will open for the last time this year on Friday 1 and Saturday 2 October.