Museum wins praise from Arts Council

bexhill museum - julian porter, rachel heminway-hurst, and arts council michael cooke
bexhill museum - julian porter, rachel heminway-hurst, and arts council michael cooke

Bexhill has an “exemplary” small museum which “punches above its weight,” says the Arts Council England’s museums relationships manager, Michael Cooke.

He was guest of honour on Saturday at the launch of the independent volunteer-run museum’s new season.

Mr Cooke said he looked forward to the Arts Council “playing a part” in the museum’s project to build a new gallery to home important archaeological finds from the link road construction site.

He was speaking before an audience of museum members and volunteers and in the presence of Town Mayor Cllr Brian Kentfield and his wife and mayoress Susan.

The Arts Council has given generous support to Bexhill Museum projects in the past including the two new galleries opened in 2009 with the help of Rother cash and the museum’s own funds.

But he warned: “I think this museum has the capacity to do development work itself. Public funds are getting smaller...and we don’t support where the local authority does not also support.”

Mr Cooke had been introduced by museum chairman John Betts who, putting the new gallery project in context, predicted that it would be 8-10 years to completion.

The chairman said museum audience development project manager Rachel Heminway-Hurst had “done an immense amount of work” to stage Bexhill and Abroad. The exhibition drawing on hitherto unseen material from museum storage is part of a regional project involving five museums in looking at their world cultures collections.

It is complemented by Something Old Something New, a display of wedding dresses from 1850 to the present day. Among others praised were curator Julian Porter and the museum maintenance team volunteers.

Bexhill and Abroad features world culture items collected by the likes of Annie Lady Brassey in the 19th Century and Dutch-born Bexhill citizen Hans Heetveld in the late 20th Century.

Mr Cooke has oversight of 300 museums and stresses the importance of the world cultures project. Globalisation was not a new phenomenon, he said, but began when people began bringing cultural collections from overseas. He hoped the public would visit partner museums and enjoy their exhibitions.

The importance of the joint project lay in the immense amount of research and documentation that had gone into it, and the collections were of immense value in terms of what they teach us.

He told the museum’s volunteers: “I am very pleased that Bexhill was able to be part of this project – not only a part of it but leading it. One of the small museums in the region has the capacity to lead it and we are very pleased about that.”

He added: “I cannot praise Bexhill Museum enough. I always say when people are talking to me that it always punches above its weight. It is a small museum; an independent museum. There are very important things which it has done. It always wants to experiment and do things.”