Bexhill Museum is launching its 2015 series of special exhibitions on a high note, having enjoyed record attendances during 2014.
Supporters at the independent, voluntarily-run museum in Egerton Road have been working under project manager Rachel Heminway-Hurst over the seasonal break, bringing out from storage treasures not normally on view to the public to stage exhibitions looking at world cultures and historic wedding dresses.
Meanwhile. curator Julian Porter, Rachel Heminway-Hurst and administrator Don Phillips are celebrating having attained vital renewal of the museum’s official Arts Council accreditation. This is the result of painstaking work over many months.
Julian said: “We are delighted to be able to report that Bexhill Museum has once more been awarded full accredited status by the Arts Council England (ACE). I would like to thank everyone involved who have worked so hard to achieve this important award.
“The Museum Accreditation Scheme is the national standard for museums and galleries and creates the professional structure within which we operate.
“It concentrates on three main areas - organisational health, collections, and users and their experience.
“Each of these is further subdivided to scrutinise every area of museum work in great detail.
“Museum Accreditation evolved out of what was the Museum Registration Scheme which began in 1988 and was administered by the former Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA). It was re-branded as the Museum Accreditation Scheme in 2004 and when the MLA was shut down in 2012 the scheme was taken on by ACE.
“The first time we achieved Museum Registration was back in February 1993. We have been able to maintain our registered/accredited status ever since even though the standards have been raised with every subsequent phase of the scheme.”
Accreditation helps to give clarity to the board’s policies and decisions.
Julian added: “Maintaining our accredited status means that we are eligible for grant funding as it demonstrates that we are a robust and well-run organisation. Now that we are turning our attention to new and exciting projects for the future it is very timely indeed.”
Last year’s success in drawing in visitors from home and abroad was based on special exhibitions commemorating both the museum’s own centenary and that of the outbreak of the First World War.
For 2015 the team has put together some exciting new exhibitions including Bexhill and Abroad – Exploring Our World Cultures Collections and Their Connections to Bexhill and Something Old Something New – Wedding Dresses from 1850-1980.
The world cultures exhibition is part of the ‘Uniques Project’, uncovering ethnography (the study of world cultures) in Kent and Sussex, funded by the Arts Council England.
Something Old Something New showcases the museum’s exquisite collection of wedding dresses.
Rachel, a freelance museum curator and Bexhill Museum’s audience development project manager, says of the Uniques Project: “The last stage of our regional project reviewing ‘world cultures’ collections is now taking place, this phase focuses on sharing skills with museums in the South East, and showcasing new objects to the public.
“In the autumn we ran a free training day for our partner museums and for museums in the South East who care for world cultures collection. Thirty-six staff, academics and volunteers attended the day. Ethnography specialist speakers shared their expertise with the group and hosted question and answer sessions.
“Lead staff from the partner museums visited national specialists to find out more about one area of their collections. I visited Pacific Specialists at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Cambridge, to find out more about our collections from Australia and Oceania housed at Bexhill Museum.”
Bexhill Museum’s new season opens on February 2 and runs until December.
Bexhill and Abroad will include exhibits that will be on display in the museum for the first time.
Exhibits will include exquisite beadwork body adornment from South East Africa as well as a rare Australian shell pendant, ceremonial patterned shield from Melanesia, and a carved paddle from Suriname, South America.
The museum’s education team will run complementary holiday activities for families to explore the new world cultures objects and stories. A display of African costume and jewellery, Uncovering Africa, will also be on display at project partner Hastings Museum from February 17.