This grant is the icing on the cake for us” said Dr Rosemary Irwin, Chairman of Trustees of the Gilbert White & The Oates Collections “We have been working on fund raising for our exciting new development at the Museum for almost two years now, and this grant will help provide a much wider range of food to our visitors. Our tea shop has always been highly popular with visitors to the Museum and has won awards in the past. This grant will enable us to do even better in the future”.
Phil Gibby, Area Director, South West, Arts Council England, said: ‘This is an ambitious and exciting plan to transform the museum and make it a vibrant, sustainable business. We’re delighted to be supporting it through our Museum Resilience Fund.’
Visitor research has shown that a wider selection of food is a key factor in customer satisfaction, and a more varied catering offering is a central part in the ambitious plans to redevelop the Museum.
The Museum redevelopment plan – which starts this Autumn with work on the car park – is a two year project aimed at creating long term sustainability for the Museum by introducing more attractions for visitors and boosting visits. The new café will be located in Gilbert White’s Stable Yard – up till now closed to the public – which is being restored and will become the new entrance to the Museum. “We intend to use locally grown food, including fruit and vegetables grown in Gilbert White’s garden” says Rosemary Irwin.
A new shop will also be located in the Yard, along with a restored working Brewhouse, which will brew a beer based on Gilbert White’s original recipe. A new exhibition to Victorian traveller and naturalist Frank Oates is being created, as well as a new area for visiting exhibitions and better access to the Museum’s unique collection of books.
In March 2016 the Heritage Lottery Fund granted the Museum £1.687m to carry out the project. The Museum has also raised over £1m from other sources, including Hampshire County Council and a number of charitable organisations.
The Museum has ambitious plans to reach out to completely new audiences and will use the grant to expand its events, activities, learning and education work in a wide range of subjects including biodiversity, exploration and climate change.
“We believe that museums can change lives by encouraging critical thinking, and new experiences. We see Gilbert White’s house not just as a destination, but also as a launch pad for discovery and new ideas” says Rosemary.
“The memory of Gilbert White, and his world-renowned contributions to the literature of natural history, and to the village of Selborne, will be preserved by making the Museum sustainable in the long term.”