The museum revisited

The title of this item is quite significant.  If you want to revisit the borough’s museum in Camberley, you’d better do so soon.  The decision has been made to close it ‘permanently’.

We wrote about a discussion paper that recommended closure very recently.  Last night a meeting of the council Executive Committee agreed with its recommendations.

It’s hard to argue that, as a visitor attraction, the current museum is worthwhile.  It is estimated that only two members of the public visit it each day.  The aim is therefore ‘to take the exhibits to the people’.  As we’ve written before, we’re less opposed to closure than are the museum’s champions.  But we do believe that the museum’s entire collection should be readily assessible on-line, and be presented in an interesting and informative way.  The meeting completely failed to address this, and merely vaguely talked about a website.  (The meeting was assured that the museum’s catalogue of acquisitions was available on-line.  It may be, but the meeting should also have been assured that the on-line catalogue is virtually useless.  Thousands of items are listed without any means of searching them.  You’ll find the catalogue here:  See if you can find references to that well known figure, Camberley Kate.)

What the meeting did agree was that, as well as continuing with the existing outreach activities (a decision which we fully support), static displays would be established in the Contact Centre and in the Square.  We reserve judgement about this.  GOOD displays would be good;  BAD displays would be, well, bad.  The word ‘static’ isn’t so different from ‘stagnant’, after all.

Interestingly, the main questionning about accreditation was raised by a non-Executive councillor.  As we questionned in our recent article, is it possible to obtain accreditation without a bricks and mortar museum?  This wasn’t answered – and probably wasn’t answerable – at the meeting, so a major element in the proposals put to the committee was largely meaningless.  Nevertheless, the meeting voted unanimously to approve the paper.

(The meeting did acknowledge that, when the town redevelopment gets underway, it might be possible to set up a new permanent museum in the centre.  Whether this was a positive suggestion, or whether it was just a way of kicking the issue into touch, is a matter of opinion.)

10 thoughts on “The museum revisited

  1. 1. The “Search the archival reference catalogue” link returns a “page not found”, so that does not work.
    2. The “Access our collection online” link does not show the Camberley Bowling Club 1928 minutes and other history documents that I gave them on cd several years ago, so that information seems not to be available.

  2. It seems that the council is as useless at running a museum as they are at everything else they are involved with.

      • Camberleyeye, me, too. I can remember the excitement, generated in me as a child, every time a visit to our local (or any) museum was promised. Even today’s children, eg. my grandsons and their friends, love visiting museums of any kind.

  3. My name is Arthur Brend; I lived in France Hill Drive from 1969 until 1998. Some 25 years ago the Camberley Museum was at risk of being abandoned by the Council. At that time the museum was housed in a converted house which was due to be demolished for the new council office development. To make sure that the Council’s policies included maintaining a museum the Museum Users’ Group was established; this comprised local historians and others who understood the need for a local museum. I was appointed Secretary to the Group, and in this capacity I wrote a constitution which provided, inter alia, that the Group automatically dissolve upon the appointment of a museum curator, and this constitution was adopted . Over the ensuing years the Group maintained pressure by correspondence and meetings with the Council and eventually space within the new offices was allocated for the Museum of Surrey Heath, and a curator was appointed. A further development was the formation of the Friends of Surrey Heath Museum, of which I was Treasurer for the first 6 years of its existence.

    I now live 100 miles away in Dorset. I am desperately sad that the Museum is once again under threat. Do the Friends of Surrey Heath Museum still exist? I was a member of The Camberley Society; does this still exist? Anno domini and distance mean that I am unable to help influence events in Camerley. I can only pray that good people will again rise up and ensure a common sense answer for the common good.

    • My understanding, Arthur, is that the space in the council officers was only a ‘temporary’ arrangement – albeit that it’s lasted for thirty or so years. Your specific questions – the Friends do still exist. At least, they did until the recent announcement that the museum would be closed. Whether they continue, and in what form, is, I think, still undecided. It’s difficult for them to work on behalf of a museum that doesn’t exist! The Camberley Society certainly still exists, but as far as I’m aware it’s not played any part in the latest museum ‘saga’.
      You may gather from what I’ve written in recent weeks that I’m not a total fan of the bricks and mortar museum. It has very few visitors, and few people pass it on foot. So it’s in the wrong place unless it becomes substantially more appealing. As yet, no-one has come up with a strategy for achieving this. Yes, we need facilities so that the dedicated few can carry out research, but this doesn’t mean a public-facing facility. Yes, we need to help the public appreciate the artifacts that the museum holds, but a physical place can only show a small proportion of what’s in the store. A well-run on-line facility can show and describe ‘everything’. What this lacks in terms of seeing artifacts in the flesh, it can – in my view – more than compensate for by showing items that would otherwise never see the light of day. Sadly, I doubt that the borough council will provide sufficient resources for what is an ambitious exercise, so we’ll get the worst of all worlds.

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