Surrey Heath Museum – the council says it wants your views

The borough council is considering making substantial changes to the local museum, and it says: “We are keen to work with the community on this exciting project, and welcome ideas and input from interested parties on how we can improve our services even further.”  However, it’s noticeable in the recent announcement that the council doesn’t say how interested parties might communicate their views…..

The announcement also says: “The proposals include adopting a ‘museum without walls’ approach”.  Since no competing proposals are mentioned, it seems reasonable to assume that this reveals the council’s preference.

Now some people strongly defend the idea of a ‘bricks and mortar’ museum.  The Eye isn’t one of them.  In this day and age, the internet provides a much more appropriate way of making information and illustrations widely and easily available.  Indeed, last year we wrote about this in an item titled ‘Should the museum be in a museum’

As the council doesn’t say how residents should feed back their views, why not add them here as comments?  We’ll make sure that the council becomes aware of them.

Of course, if no-one cares enough to provide a comment, that itself will be relevant information.  So it’s up to you!

And a final word.  The council’s announcement says: “Our overall aim is to raise the profile of Heritage Services in the Borough, increase engagement with the local community, and make them fit for the 21st century.” But it’s now 2017, so, give or take a bit, the 21st century is 17 years old.  What’s more, the century’s arrival was hardly unexpected!  So why on earth aren’t the council facilities already fit for purpose?



25 thoughts on “Surrey Heath Museum – the council says it wants your views

  1. One side of me favours the traditional style of museum where the artifacts are up close. In reality, however, a virtual facility would be way more accessible and if well designed could offer much more information. If it is a choice between one or the other then a good virtual facility is the way to go.

    • A musem MIGHT succeed by remaining as a bricks and mortar organisation, and defying the trend towards virtual reality. (A bit like vinyl records in an era of downloads and streaming). But the odds are against it. However, I’ve not seen a comparison of costs – creating a virtual museum won’t necessarily be the cheaper option…

  2. Pictures don’t quite convey the sense of history. If it was a virtual museum,what would they do with all the artifacts they have now?

    • But if no one sees them – which is the case at present – what’s the point of keeping them at all?? And, to be fair, putting simple photos and scans on-line isn’t difficult; it just takes time.

      • It’s a lot more fun actually being there! Following your logic, why go outside at all? Why go for a walk in the countryside, when you can walk up and down a staircase for exercise and look at a picture of the countryside on the internet.

        The last time I went to the museum with our daughter, she drew some of the pictures she saw, and she tried on some Victorian clothes. She is going to remember that far more than looking at a few images online. Virtual museums are lazy. People deserve more than that. By all means, use the internet to spice up real life museums, but don’t replace the real thing with the internet, that would be horrible.

      • That’s a value judgement, Dominic. Lots of children prefer playing on their tablets to walking in the countryside, so why shouldn’t they do the former? (You might cite health arguments but that’s a different issue.) Most of what we know about the world has been learned through newspapers and TV. Few of us have met Trump or May in person, few have been to Syria or Iraq, few of us have been in space to see how small the world is (the earliest photos of the earth taken from space are deemed to be the most influential ever – and they helped kick start the green movement). So why do ‘old artifacts’ have to be viewed directly? (I’m not saying they SHOULDN’T be viewed directly, or that there aren’t benefits to children in trying on Victorian clothes, but I’m trying to put things in perspective. The internet is no more horrible than a newspaper, a magazine or TV. Lots of adults like WATCHING cooking and gardening programmes; they don’t have to be in the studio to appreciate them. Watching a concert or an opera on TV might not be as good as being in the actual audience, but there’s nothing wrong with it. You probably have a few audio CDs which are nothing like the same thing as being physically present at a performance, but you probably play them and get enjoyment from them? You might even listen to them through headphones – how synthetic is that!)

      • Dominic is correct I’m afraid. The virtual option is cheap in the long run IMO and just lazy. Another way for SHBC to slash services. The online museum will be a flop with very few visitors so the next step will be for them to eventually scrap it. I wonder what spin the Tory council would put on it then… “Due to falling visitor numbers, the online museum has seen a reduction in numbers of visitors over the last 2 years so the council has decided to scrap it completely and spend the money improving heritage services elsewhere for the benefit of the council tax payers”?? All the artefacts in the museum will be taken out of their boxes and scrapped at the local dump – probably at no cost the council whilst by that stage we will all be paying £5 / bag to dump our garden waste and other recyclable waste. I’m not saying the museum is fantastic but it is a resource that is used by schools, etc. Could you have a school class day out to a virtual museum??? I did get to see once an original Olympic flame torch and at the most recent version, both used for the London Olympics one day when I wandered round after visiting the library. Incidentally, Bracknell Forest are about to introduce unmanned libraries (sometimes with volunteer staff in them) but with longer library opening hours. Are SHBC not missing another trick to reduce services before they scrap them completely???

      • You know that I’m not a great fan of the council. So we’re on the same wavelength there. But perhaps those artifacts have already been dumped? I’ve never seen most of them and I never will. An on-line digital copy might not be quite as good as the item itself, but it would be a lot better than the current black hole.

  3. Although I’m an enthusiastic supporter of virtual museums, SHBC is suggesting a Museum Without Walls as well, and this would bring more of the collection to more of the residents, for more of the time. This is an excellent idea.
    BTW important local history documents can always be donated to the Surrey History Centre who archive them and provide an online catalogue for researchers, as well as reading/research facilities. I have sent some of my own collection there, in order that it can reach a wider audience than Surrey Heath museum can achieve at the moment.

  4. I work for a local community group for adults with varying support needs. We use the museum regularly to learn about local history. It is a brilliant resource for those people or children who aren’t computer savvy yet. To lose it all online would be a shame. There is something great in taking the group over and engaging with the objects and displays to hand. We have worked in partnership with the museum to do history workshops for our group. This was great for the group but also great for the museum staff to work alongside people they normally wouldn’t have. Is a great small space that is probably overlooked.

  5. I believe it is important for museums to have a physical presence in the real world, while also acknowledging that they can reach a wider audience by also having an imaginative online presence. However, as is the case in Camberley, there is much more in storage than on display. In many cases, that’s simply because what is not visible isn’t “interesting” for most people, while being of the utmost importance to historians and other researchers. I would therefore prefer to see the museum being retained, while also developing an overlapping online museum.

    I don’t visit the museum very often (after all, Camberley’s history isn’t quite as fascinating as, say, Rome’s), but seeing something online might prompt me to want to find out more, and might encourage me to go to museum and ask questions.

    • It’s dangerous to use others’ statistics, but, taking the risk, I reckon that over 95% of the borough’s population don’t visit the museum at least once a year. We either say that’s about ok or we make substantial changes. (For clarification, I do believe ‘everything’ should be retained and made available for research, but that needs an environmentally controlled warehouse, not a museum. For the rest of us, photos of what’s in the warehouse would be sufficient for us either to pursue or move on. ) Bricks and mortar displays can then be aimed predominantly at children, to whet any appetites. Put them in shopping centres and change them often.

    • Denise, if you think about it, I’ve written a couple of thousands items, plus photo(s) for each, about Camberley for my blog. For free. I THINK the museum has 14000 artifacts (I’ll try to check that. [UPDATE the museum says that it has 16500 objects]), Based on simple arithmetic (but maybe naively) I don’t see a problem. Of course, there’ll be gaps in the information, but the best is the enemy of the good. I can live with gaps; they’re better than nothing at all.

  6. The museum is hardly taking up much space in the council offices, so I’m not sure what the savings would be. I understand that the huge majority of the artefacts are in store and would surely continue to be preserved. Also, photographing, scanning and creating an online experience that satisfies both casual visitors and dedicated researchers will not be cheap. Do we suppose the council is looking for space and money savings in both the current site and the Mall adjunct? I assume this is all about short-term cost cutting. If, however unlikely, our dear council realises the value of its museum and is looking to make its content more accessible, why not use the Mall space for temporary exhibitions, alongside a guaranteed plan to create and complete a full online facility?

    • David, I’ll leave the council to say why it’s proposing change. But do see my reply to Denise. Also, as I showed in the blog item, Hungerford’s on-line museum is the work of volunteers.

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