Monday, 26 July 2010

Successful White Horses Family Day



200 people came to our White Horses Family Day on Sunday 25 July. Activities included bag painting, chalk carving, making White Horse pictures, and sand-pit excavations.

We also made a huge version of the John Piper-designed window in the Museum - the picture was cut into sections, and people painted their own section. The results were remarkable and lots of people (even adults) had great fun making their own section.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Public Spending Cuts and Wiltshire Heritage Museum

Amidst all the talk of the impact of public spending cuts on arts and culture, it is useful to talk about the position of Wiltshire Heritage Museum. We are an independent charity, and recieve £35,000 in grant aid from Wiltshire Council and £3,000 from Devizes Town Council. For each £1 in public fundng, we generate £7 ourselves.

We generate income from shop sales, fundraising, membership subscriptions, events and entrance charges. We also have capital invested to generate income, and a seperate endowment fund - and are therefore already running the plural funding model being trumpeted as being the solution for the forthcoming cuts in public spending.

Is this model working? 'YES' - in the sense that we are flourishing and have record visitor numbers, and 'NO' in that we have an annual deficit of £30,000 or more, depending upon the pitiful level of investment income in these days of a 0.5% interrest rate.

We are already part of the 'Big Society' - we could not exist without the fantastic support of our 150+ volunteers, who give us 6,000 hours of their time every year.

A useful comparison is the level of grant that we recieve. Our grant is about £1.30 per visitor, which also supports our education activities and the role that we play in preserving the archaeological collections that result from housing development in the County. This housing development then generates additional Council Tax income in the County. Compare this with the National Museums - my calculations suggest £7 in grant per visitor to the British Museum and £25 per visitor for the V&A - though I may have misunderstood the figures.

Are we unusual? As an independent museum - the answer is an emphatic 'NO'. Many independent museums across the Country work in very similar ways, including our partner museum in Salisbury.

What do independent museums need in these challenging times? Tax breaks to encourage philanthropy? Yes Please! But also a recognition that our impact on the local economy can be significant - we have estimated that we generate upwards of 1,000 bed nights in local B&Bs and hotels as well as spending in local pubs and restaurants. This represents an injection of upwards of £150,000 each year into the local economy. Perhaps not a bad return on investment ...

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

White Horses Day School this Saturday

Leading experts will be talking about White Horses and Hill Figures at Saturday's Day School that accompanies our exhibition. The programme is online and features
* Brian Edwards, Public Historian
* Paul Newman 'Galloping through the centuries: introducing Britain's hill figures
* David Miles 'The Uffington White Horse: A biography of an English icon'
* Bryn Walters 'New discoveries and thoughts on prehistoric monumental iconography'
* Professor Martin Bell 'The Wilmington Giant: A geoarchaeological perspective'
* Rodney Castleden 'Two chalk giants. who are they - and how can we tell?

Map of finds in the Devizes Area

We have just added a map of finds in the Devizes Consituency area to our website - on our page about the Portable Antiquities Scheme, this now displays a map of local finds.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Marking Lorna Haycock's retirement

We ae holding an event on Thursday lunchtime to mark the retirement of Lorna Haycock - our fantastic Librarian and Archvist. We wish her well in her retirement - that already looks to be pretty busy!

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Stonehenge Avebury Bus - linking the World Heritage Site

The Wiltshire Heritage Museum is considering launching a bus service to link Stonehenge and Avebury. At the moment, it is extremely difficult to travel between the two, and the Museum hopes to be able to boost tourism in the Vale of Pewsey and the Avon Valley.

The Community Bus Service would be operated by minibuses, and the route would take in a range of archaeological sites and monuments in the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site, including Silbury Hill, West Kennet Long Barrow and Woodhenge.

The 'hop on, hop off' service would include free entry to the Wiltshire Heritage Museum in Devizes, encouraging people to discover the collections excavated from the World Heritage Site. The service will also link to Amesbury - enabling visitors to the town to visit Stonehenge.

If the Museum is successful in raising funding, a pilot service would be operated this summer.

We are interested to hear what you think about the idea, and to hear your ideas on a name! The current front-runners are 'Henge Hopper' and Stonehenge Avebury Link. Please help us by completing the suvey form below!

Survey form

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Sat 17 July - Library Closed

Unfotunately, the Library will be closed on Sat 17 July. We apologise in advance for any inconvenience. Over the summer period, it may not be possible to open the Library fo a few days. If you are making a special trip to use the Library, then please telephone us in advance to check.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Devizes Food Festival - Secret Recipe for Devizes Cheescake

Find out about the secret recipe for Devizes Cheesecake at Dave Buxton's talk at the Museum this Sunday.

Davizes Cheescake was famous - Jane Austen wrote a letter to her sister Cassandra on in 1799, while she was staying in the town.

“Our journey yesterday went off exceedingly well; nothing occurred to alarm or delay us. We found the roads in excellent order, had very good horses all the way, and reached Devizes with ease by four o'clock. I suppose John has told you in what manner we were divided when we left Andover, and no alteration was afterwards made. At Devizes we had comfortable rooms and a good dinner, to which we sat down about five; amongst other things we had asparagus and a lobster, which made me wish for you, and some cheesecakes, on which the children made so delightful a supper as to endear the town of Devizes to them for a long time.”

Devizes Food Festival - TV Chef at Museum

We are looking forward to Devizes Food and Drink Festival! We are hosting a talk on the History of Grain by TV Chef Peter Vaughan this Saturday!