After more than a year and a half of closure and having undergone a complete renovation Swanage Museum is finally preparing to welcome visitors in time for the summer half term holiday.
The museum, which is run by a board of trustees and a team of more than 30 volunteers, closed its doors in October 2019 so the building could be rewired and refitted.
Lots of books to browse
Pandemic meant it had to stay shut
It was initially intended to close the museum for the winter season but that became much longer as the Covid pandemic meant it had to stay shut.
At first all work had to stop at the museum, which is located in The Square opposite the Fish Plaice, but as restrictions eased and electricians and builders were allowed to resume working, the project was able to restart.
The final finishing touches are now taking place with the aim of opening on Bank Holiday Monday 31st May 2021.
Chair of Swanage Museum Trustees, Melvyn Norris
“Really needed a fresh lease of life”
The chair of the Swanage Museum trustees, Melvyn Norris said:
“The museum really needed a fresh lease of life and we wanted to give everyone something new to look at and explore.
“It’s a great museum, telling the story of Swanage as a fishing village, its growth due to the stone trade, through to its Victorian boom and the arrival of the steam train.
“There’s also plenty about the Jurassic Coast, as we’re at the start of the world famous coastline. So plenty to discover about the geology of the area and of course the dinosaurs!”
The Purbeck stone industry has played a huge part in Swanage’s history
The new welcome desk still under wraps
A one way system
While the extended period of closure was unexpected, it was fortunate that the new plans already included making it much easier to walk around the museum with a one way system, so little adaptation has had to be made to the original brief.
It was always intended to move the welcome desk and till point next to the window with a great view of the sea, but the main change due to the pandemic is that it will now have a plastic screen. They’ll also be hand gel at the entrance.
Lots of information to read
History brought to life in the old shop fronts
Victorian shop fronts restored
The display of Victorian shop fronts have all been completely restored and the information boards are now on wheels, so they can be easily rearranged.
Much of that work was done by former Swanage Town councillor, John Page, who sadly died before he could see it all finished. However his hard work will be appreciated by visitors and volunteers alike.
Some finishing touches still left to do including fixing this mannequin’s arm!
“All our volunteers are great”
“We may be a small museum but we’re packed with lots of information, fascinating facts and plenty to browse from souvenirs to gifts and lots of local history books.
“All our volunteers are great and will happily answer questions, so we’re encouraging residents and visitors to pop in once we’re open – you never know what you might learn about the town.”
“We may be in for a busy time – there’s 60,000 plus visitors that head to Swanage during the summer in a normal year and we’re not sure what to expect this year yet!”
Open the doors to visitors
There’s only one small problem – the museum doors have been closed for so long that they’ve got a bit stuck, so before they can literally open the doors to visitors, they need to get them fixed.
Melvyn confidently added:
“Don’t worry, I’m working on it!”
- More about Swanage Museum and Heritage Centre is on its website