Torquay Museum keeps busy during lockdown

A newly catalogued lantern slide depicting an image of King Henry VIII

A newly catalogued lantern slide - Credit: Torquay Museum

Gene Hackman once said: “Like a duck on the pond. On the surface everything looks calm, but beneath the water those little feet are churning a mile a minute.”

Despite Torquay Museum being currently closed to the public due to the lockdown, staff and volunteers are still being kept very busy.

Object photography for the exhibition guidebook

Object photography for the exhibition guidebook - Credit: Torquay Museum

A slide showing a snail among leaves - the museum is weekly posting a selection of lantern slides on its social media.

The museum is weekly posting a selection of lantern slides on its social media. - Credit: Torquay Museum

There are plenty of jobs to do and this is an ideal time to tick off those tasks that are difficult to do when we are open, alongside all the day-to-day maintenance that a grand old Victorian building and museum requires. 

Torquay Museum encompasses four floors and requires an ongoing program of maintenance and monitoring.

With more than 330,000 items here, objects have to be kept at the correct temperature and humidity to preserve them. 

The curatorial team are also working on the museum's 175th anniversary exhibition and guidebook which they hope to display in the coming summer months.

Facilities manager Philip and his volunteer team of Anthony, Gus and Steve have made sure the roof and gutters are all in ship-shape fashion after the recent bad weather.

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They are also putting the finishing touches to the wi-fi cabling that has been fitted around the museum allowing visitors to access the internet from anywhere in the building. 

The next job is to replace the old halogen lighting with energy-efficient LED, and the deep cleaning of the galleries.

Many staff are working from home. Education officer Heather has been posting activities for schools and families on Facebook which help keep children, and adults, busy. 

Carl, the marketing manager, has been working on transforming the usual face-to-face Museum Society lectures to an online format that can reach out to people in their homes and on virtual events for half-term holidays.

As the finance officer, I have been claiming all the gift-aid donations the museum receives from entrance tickets.

Although the public are currently unable to visit, this does not mean the museum is not still accessible. 

Staff are regularly putting out social media posts on diverse topics from our volunteer Finn’s ‘Object of the Week’ choice to local historical images from the museum's archive.

Staff hope that these are interesting, entertaining and informative. Even those of that work at the museum are continually surprised by the incredible stories behind the objects and archives the museum holds, many of which have a connection to Torbay.

The museum internet shop will never be a threat to the likes of Amazon but the front of house team were busy, pre-furlough, putting goods online on the Devon Museums website.

The orders will all put money in the coffers while the museum is closed.

Overseeing all of this - sometimes akin to herding cats - and keeping a keen eye on the finances is museum director Basil.

The museum is looking forward to re-opening in the spring with renewed vim and vigour. 

So next time you walk past the museum on your daily exercise, don’t be fooled by the calm exterior!

Torquay Museum 175th anniversary logo

Torquay Museum - Credit: Torquay Museum