Threat to Torquay Museum URGENT

Rescue has been made aware of the following message, circulating over the weekend from PalNet, regarding the future of Torquay Museum. Reproduced with permission of the author, and with instructions to share widely, and comment as outlined –  but see also the UPDATE at the end :

The following news about a threat to Torquay Museum which holds one of key collections of Pleistocene material. It would be great to ensure the borough council knows the importance of the collections and the staff who curate them. This is what we currently know at the moment…

Torquay Museum, established by the Torquay Natural History Society in 1846, is the Accredited Museum for archaeological finds from the Torbay area of Devon. It has a range of important holdings, but from the archaeological point of view the most important are all the finds and archives from the early excavations in the 19th century at Kent’s Cavern, one of the most important palaeolithic sites in Britain – and indeed northern Europe – from the work of McEnery, Buckland, Pengelly and others, as well as material from more recent work.

Kent’s Cavern was of great importance in early debates about the antiquity of human occupation of the landscape. The collections continue to be made available to contribute to modern scholarship: for example the recent work of Mark White and Paul Pettitt, and through the recent radiocarbon dating by the Oxford Radiocarbon lab of a human jawbone from the 1927 excavations to provide the earliest date (c 44,200-41,500 BP) for a modern human in northern Europe.

Torquay Museum is now run by Torquay Museum Society, and supported by a grant from Torbay Council. However, in the face of reduction in government finding, the Council (a Unitary authority) now proposes to reduce the Museum’s grant from the current £76,000 p.a. to £37,000 next year and nothing at all thereafter. This represents an existential threat to the Museum and its internationally important collections, although it seems unclear whether the Borough Council currently appreciates the huge importance of the collections.

The formal consultation on the Council’s proposed budget has now closed, but we are advised that comments may still be received by the Mayor prior to the Council’s decision in early February. It is therefore important that the implications of the proposed cut in funding (which represents a truly minute proportion of the total budget ( www.torbay.gov.uk/council/finance/budget/budget-201819/ ) be expressed to them as vigorously and as soon as possible.

Please write to the Mayor: mayor@torbay.gov.uk  as soon as possible in the next week, with copies to other Councillors if possible

www.torbay.gov.uk/DemocraticServices/mgCommitteeMailingList.aspx?ID=0

UPDATE  from PALNETUK@JISCMAIL.AC.UK (Dr Matthew Pope) on Monday 29 Jan:

We’ve just heard that the Torquay’s mayor is now going to recommend the extension of funding to Torquay Museum for a further two years.

This is excellent news but it now needs to be voted on by the council members to put this extension into effect.  So if you haven’t yet written in support of the Museum we hold a full list of council members for you to email – contact chair@rescue-archaeology.org.uk to get a copy of this list.

We’re seeing a large groundswell of support for Torquay Museum building right now.

Curating one of our core Pleistocene collections and sitting within a UNESCO Geopark largely designated on the basis of its Pleistocene heritage, it’s important we continue to give as much support as possible between now and that all important vote.

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