Wisbech and Fenland Museum Options Appraisal

  • Wisbech and Fenland Museum

The Wisbech and Fenland Museum is a small independent museum in Cambridgeshire. It is one of the oldest purpose-built museums in the country.

Founded in 1835, its growing collections soon could not be contained in one premises. The current museum opened its doors in 1847, as a purpose-built site for the Wisbech Literary Society and Museum Society collections of ethnography, natural history, geology, archaeology, decorative arts and paintings. Significant exhibits are Thomas Clarkson’s chest of African goods, used by the Slavery abolitionist in his country-wide campaign, and the original manuscript of Charles Dicken’s ‘Great Expectations’, the bequest of Chauncy Hare Townshend. 

The museum operates a free admission policy and has a small staff team. It relies to a large degree for delivery on project officers, funded by national bodies, and volunteer support. Its income comes from a combination of sponsorship, donations, museum shop sales and grants, including from Wisbech Town Council.

In 2016 the Wisbech and Fenland Museum was awarded a £94,000 grant from the NLHF’s Resilient Heritage Programme, to make the museum ‘Fit for the Future’.

Tricolor was commissioned to undertake an options appraisal outlining the future direction and potential business activities. It provided a viable business model, highlighting where income could be generated towards the operational needs and service standards expected by the community. 

To do this, Tricolor led community engagement and a skills audit of the trustees/directors; research into the current Wisbech and Fenland visitor profile; consultation and data collection of over 200 responses from the general public; online surveys; visitor surveys; focus groups; interviews, and extensive comparator analysis. Importantly, this data showed that there was a strong demand from the local community to enhance museum services and audience engagement, delight visitors and share more effectively its important collections, including digitally.

Tricolor were able to use this information to create short, medium and long-term recommendations for the future. The decisions, based on these recommendations, have enabled the museum to better embed itself into the community, sharing cultures, promoting civic pride, greatly improving a wide range of family and education services, and enhancing digital provision. In this way the museum has stimulated an improved appreciation of heritage and local economic regeneration.

From the start, Tricolor shared the trustees/directors commitment and determination to revive this museum. As a result, funders recognised this new direction and had the confidence to award the museum with a significant number of grants, which have led to successful community outcomes and social impact, including community-curation, a successful response to COVID-19 and widening participation. 

Historic England and other funders and donors have enabled the 1847 roof to be replaced and work is under way on a new ground floor entrance, shop and café, to be opened in 2022 (the building’s 175 anniversary), enabling disability access and giving the museum a new lease of life.

Project timeline

  • 2017

  • 08/05/2017


  • 15/05/2017

    Start of the Market Assessment

  • 29/05/2017

    Market Assessment Complete

  • 05/06/2017

    Start of the Risk Assessment

  • 12/06/2017

    Risk Assessment Complete

  • 17/07/2017

    Delivery of Final Options Appraisal

Exciting futures ahead

Tricolor team

Meet the team behind this project...

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