2020 has been a very challenging year.
Much of what we had planned, including two major exhibitions, a programme of school holiday family activities, and a series of events planned to mark the 400th anniversary of the voyage of the Mayflower, has had to be curtailed or totally cancelled.
We were unable to run cave tours at all this season, though we did manage to re-launch the walks programme in the later part of the year.
However, the Museum has still had a very busy and productive year, focussing more on what we can offer online than on site so that we can still serve our community and our wider audiences.
Very many of our volunteers have worked harder during the current crisis than ever before.
In 2020 year we have:
- been nominated and recommended for the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service
- welcomed over 800 visitors to the Museum, despite having to close in mid-March
- Put on a new temporary exhibition: ‘Topographical Paintings’’
- preparing two new exhibitions ‘Forster@50’ and ‘Dorking 1620’ that will be installed in 2021
- researched and created replica ‘Pilgrim’ costumes for display and an increased range of children’s dressing up outfits
- run 28 guided walks in Dorking, at Betchworth Castle and on the Deepdene Trail
- produced and published a new illustrated Cockerel Press publication: ‘Forster in 50’ to coincide with next year’s exhibition
- Delivered 3 zoom lectures, including one for the Alden House Historic Site in Massachusetts, USA
- produced 2 editions of Dorking Heritage
- produced a calendar featuring Dorking and its surroundings
- relaunched the schools loan box programme and developed a new archaeology loan box
- run a Mayflower themed children’s treasure hunt in collaboration with local businesses
- produced a film, ‘Virtual Voyages: Dorking’ in collaboration with the national Mayflower400 project.
- produced a short film on historic Dorking with the Mullins Coffee Shop for use at the the Alden House Historic Site
- worked with Ashcombe School to produce extensive online themed resources to enrich the experience of pupils in lockdown
- worked with the Ashcombe School to develop a First World War memorial project for pupils using online resources from our Dorking War Memorials biography project
- designed and produced a downloadable model of the Mayflower for construction by children
- designed and produced a model racing car track and game for download and construction by families
- collaborated with the Arts Society on entries for their forthcoming publication ’50 Treasures of the Surrey Hills’
- provided an interview on BBC Radio re the Mayflower 400th anniversary
- provided an expert to speak on television for a programme on Box Hill fort’s part in Second World War defences;
- featured in BBC’s Bargain Hunt, talking about objects relating to the Dorking Mayflower connections
- worked with the Dorking Men’s Shed to produce a scale cross section model of the Mayflower for installation in 2021
- received confirmation of our eligibility for Accreditation status with the Arts Council, and are now officially recognised as ‘working towards accreditation’
- welcomed a new Facilities Manager, Accreditation Coordinator and curatorial assistant to the team, as well as a large number of new volunteers, ranging from school age to the recently retired.
- launched an online interactive photo resource and mapping project using social media and Google Maps
- hosted regular research visits to the archives and answered 60 online archive queries
- launched an appeal for Covid related material for the archive so that we can reflect this period adequately for future researchers
- acquired several new paintings for the collection
- placed 25 articles in the Dorking Advertiser and InYourArea online, monthly articles in 16 parish magazines and Vantage Point magazine, and three major features in Surrey Life magazine;
- put the first oral history recordings online with supporting documents, photographs and resource links
- added 56 new biographies to our First World War Memorial project web pages; every soldier on local war memorials or with a strong connection to the area now has a biography online and an online map has been created to start to plot their residences
- welcomed Horizon Mastering to film in the South Street Caves for an educational film on mental health issues and Heresy for a fashion shoot; a new sci-fi film will be shot in the caves next year
- participated in Heritage Open Days, offering 8 free walks, and two films
- welcomed over 12,000 visitors to our website;
- set up a Covid blog on the website
- run Facebook pages attracting 1,500 followers
- been followed by 2,500 people on Twitter
- been followed over 1000 people on Instagram
- attracted 1,700 visits and 3,100 views a month on Pinterest
- sent regular e-newsletters to over 800 subscribers
- added new vintage sections to the online shop selling postcards, local interest books, Surrey Archaeological Collections, sales particulars and other local items of ephemera
- processed 320 orders through our online shop and 50 through our ebay shop
- supplied regular batches of The Weaver, the Shoemaker and the Mother of a Nation to the United States and supplied local bookshops with a range of Cockerel Press publications;
- re-opened the Museum shop in the run up to the Christmas period for the sale of books, gifts and cards;
- worked on new publications due out in 2021 including a children’s activity book, a book dedicated to the pubs of the surrounding area, a book on the Dorking Foundry, and a book on Betchworth Castle;
- reviewed our Education and Learning policy, put in place a Documentation Policy and set up a team to deal with Accreditation documentation
- hosted two volunteer training and consultation evenings
- made all necessary preparations and conducted all necessary volunteer training in readiness for re-opening of the Museum Gallery.
So many people have come forward over the course of the year to offer their services and with ideas for new initiatives.
The cave tours and guided walks will recommence next year, and plans have been reviewed, PPE is in place and volunteers have been trained in order to welcome back visitors in 2021.
We look forward to welcoming everyone back to the Museum next year.
The Museum committee would like to thank everyone who has contributed and to wish all our volunteers, members, supporters and audiences a “Happy New Year”.
The last word goes to Professor Richard Selley, who sent this photo into us for our COVID-19 archive.