South East (Eastern Counties) Regional Day – August 2019

The SE (Eastern Counties) Regional Day was held on Saturday 16th August at Norwich Castle, hosted by Friends’ of Norwich Museums. The topic of the day was “The Future Role of Friends’ Groups”.

Friends’ of Norwich Castle Chair, Chris Sanham, welcomed the group and spoke of common difficulties for groups in recruiting younger committee members – in order to continue functioning and supporting their museum

The first speaker was Dr Robin Hanley, Assistant Head of Norfolk Museums service. He suggested that Friends’ are an enormous asset and critical to many museums – not only in financial terms including match funding, but also in contributing to museums’ targets for strong communities, promoting health and wellbeing and social activities. This is borne out by statistics from Heritage Alliance.
From a Museum perspective he advised:-
– not replicating work others do;
– not trying to influence museum acquisitions: &
– be friendly!

He explored how to attract a different demographic, & suggested:-
– museums broadening approach (which many are doing);
– removing barriers (how?); &
– being alert to new opportunities and ways of working.

His thoughts on the future for Friends and the general decline in membership of societies/groups:-
– address how the changes to how social time spent can be addressed;
– raise awareness; &
– use web/social media/social event/all variety of ways to get people involved.

The second speaker was Dr Tim Pestell, Curator of Archaeology.
His presentation was on the transformational project underway at the museum. Friends made the largest ever donation of £35k, match funded by HLF to commission a new 18m long tapestry.
He also explained that Nationally important acquisitions such as Bronze Age objects were impossible without financial contributions from Friends (eg Wingfarthing Pendant with a value of £154k)

After lunch there was a “what’s been happening with you” session, hearing news and issues from each delegate. These included:-

– attracting younger members;
– problems and advantages of new technology;
– let’s get groups into the 21st century!; &

– remember to ask for Legacies!

The day was rounded of by a tour of Strangers Hall- wonderfully hosted by friendly and very knowledgeable volunteers – and including tea and biscuits to finish!