Newly refurbished Swanage Museum to reopen after pandemic delay

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.

Inside Swanage museum during refurbishment

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.

Mel Norris Inside Swanage museum during refurbishment

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!”

Inside Swanage museum during refurbishment

The Purbeck stone industry has played a huge part in Swanage’s history

Inside Swanage museum during refurbishment

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.

Inside Swanage museum during refurbishment

Lots of information to read

Inside Swanage museum during refurbishment

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.

Inside Swanage museum during refurbishment

Some finishing touches still left to do including fixing this mannequin’s arm!

“All our volunteers are great”

Melvyn said:

“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!”

Further information

  • More about Swanage Museum and Heritage Centre is on its website

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