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New team and re-branding boosts visitors to museum

Sunday 26th September 2010 (Andrew Griffiths)
New team and re-branding boosts visitors to museum

From the Uttoxeter Post & Times

VOLUNTEERS at Redfern’s Cottage say efforts to revive the former Heritage Centre have proved a success.

The historic building was re-opened by Uttoxeter’s MP Andrew Griffiths in June after months of fund-raising to keep it afloat.

The future of the timber-framed building remained uncertain when its owner, Uttoxeter Town Council, ran into financial trouble.

But following months of negotiations, Uttoxeter Heritage Trust, a group formed to take over the running of the building, signed a 25-year lease to take it on.

Now, curator at Redfern’s Cottage Laura Wigg-Bailey said there has been a noticeable increase in younger visitors to the museum and hopes this will continue to improve.

She said: “It was a running joke with us for a while about how we had become an example of the Prime Minister’s ‘big society’ initiative – but that is really what has happened here.

“We are a community group which has taken over the running of a public service with success.

“A lot of people still think of us as the Heritage Centre, we are trying to re-brand ourselves and I think once we have done this, we will see even more people coming to visit.”

Visitor numbers have jumped in the last two months, although figures have not been made public.

The 30-year-old added: “All of our hard work has paid off and it was definitely worth to re-open the building but we do still have a long way to go.”

Mrs Wigg-Bailey admitted that it is important to maintain good relationships with Uttoxeter Town Council.

She added: “We need to keep up the good communication in order for future projects to become possible. We have big plans.”

Once the building has been accredited full museum status, Redfern’s Cottage will be eligible for bigger grants to allow improvements to electricity, security and disabled access.

Councillor Geoff Morrison, who volunteers at Redfern’s Cottage, with his wife and fellow councillor Pauline, admitted that the re-opening of the building was the best thing that could have happened.

He said: “The museum has proved to be considerably more popular than it was when it was the Heritage Centre.

“We have a professional group of people who have, together, built it up in to what it is today. We still have a long way to go but I am positive that the success will continue.”

The Carter Street building has hosted a number of craft days throughout August and volunteer Jane Naylor believes such events are the reason for the museum’s increased popularity.

She said: “The whole place has been given a breath of fresh air since its re-opening, events like these are just what the place needs to make people aware of us still being here.”

While the museum has 25 volunteers who dedicate their time to the running of the building, Mrs Wigg-Bailey insists more are needed.

She said: “There are a lot of advantages to volunteering. Volunteers have a lot of responsibility and are able to have an active input into the events that happen here.

The museum is also set to implement a school’s program and a work placement scheme in the near future.

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