A SPECIAL year at Bexhill Museum begins on Monday when doors open on a new season with a distinct difference.
Exhibitions will feature the centenaries of two events; one tragic and of global significance, the other a milestone in Bexhill’s history.
Volunteers have been researching the impact on the town of the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 – the year which also saw the museum open.
Museum chairman John Betts has been working on the definite account of how a small but dedicated team of enthusiasts headed by the Rev John Thompson and Kate Marsden, a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, battled local authority intransigence to establish a town museum in the Shelter Hall, a concert pavilion in Egerton Park.
A petition was submitted to Bexhill Borough Council accompanied by supporting letters from local residents offering exhibits. Miss Marsden gave a talk to the council in support of the proposal.
But it was to be nearly two years before the dream became a reality and the museum opened its doors to the public.
The chairman’s work, to be published by the museum in book form, will complement that of professional curator Julian Porter and volunteers who have put together exhibitions marking the two centenaries.
In a message to members this week, Mr Betts said: “During 2014 two very special anniversaries will take place, the commemoration of the outbreak of WW1 and the celebration of the first hundred years of Bexhill Museum.
“Bexhill Remembers, the WW1 project, will concentrate on the stories of those residents who were involved in the war effort and the effect that the conflict had on the town.
“The centenary project, titled ‘Movers and Shakers’, is aimed at 14-21 year olds, engaging them with the museum’s collections, research and the development of the key founders’ stories. This project would have been very dear to the hearts and minds of our founders, as time after time when the question about the need for a museum arose, the answer came back, ‘for the education and enlightenment of our youth’.
“That answer remains very relevant for us today.”
The museum’s directors are planning a series of events to celebrate its centenary.