Director’s Diary: Happy Anniversaries!

Three successful openings this week:
Oxalis an exhibition of watercolours and oil paintings by Pam Miller in the Cafe Gallery
Colours of Eden with Baroque Blues and Jazz standards in the Grand Entrance Hall
Crocus and snowdrops round the memorial to Prince Lee Boo in the local churchyard…

This week, two visitors on our Brunel’s London boat trip show me photographs from Hacqueville, Normandy where the Brunel family farmed. In the village there is a monument and bas relief to Sir Marc:

A BRUNEL
MARC ISAMBART
NE A HACQUEVILLE EN 1769
ETABLI EN ANGLETERRE 1799
DECEDE A LONDRES 1849

The Brunels were not lords of the manor, but nevertheless a significant family, farmers and people of substance (dreadful phrase!). A French Jane Austen would have written about them. Much later, in 1993, the Secretary of Friends at Brunel Engine House wrote about them on a trip to Hacqueville. As guests of the Mayor, for the 150th Anniversary of the Tunnel’s Opening, a party travelled by ferry and charabanc from Rotherhithe. This jumelage took place before the Channel Tunnel was opened and before blogs, so I record the event in my blog now.

This week we learned (BBC4) that Robert Howlett, who took the famous picture in front of the chains, was the first photo journalist. So I post some more photographs: is this a chain letter?

The anniversary of the opening of the Thames Tunnel is 25th March 1843. On the same day last year, the underground chamber opened with a new staircase.
I tell you in advance so you can put it in your diaries and raise a glass.

 

So with Anniversaries in mind: on Monday 13th March the Brunel Museum Trustees meet to review our Strategic Plan and the next phase of our building project. We have a new statement of purpose:

 

The Brunel Museum is a cultural destination telling the story of the engineering dynasty that changed the world. It is a place for everybody.

And because the museum has moved forward, there are some interesting decisions to make. Here are some past anniversaries and some markers showing where we have moved from:

2001 Our first acquisition, Sir Marc Brunel’s watercolour The Thames Tunnel with an Art Fund grant
2002 Our first summer playscheme. Awarded Freedom of the Ancient Metropolitan Borough of Bermondsey
2004 London Renaissance funds Say it Again, our first gallery display. We are the first museum to use electroluminescence
2005 Achieves status of Registered Museum and changes name to The Brunel Museum
2006 Brunel’s bicentennial year. Our first publication The Brunels’ Tunnel . Our 50,000th visitor
2010 Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service
2012 Thames Tunnel Walking Tours. 5,000 visitors in one weekend, before railway re-opens as London Overground
2016 Prince Edward Earl of Wessex opens Grand Entrance Hall and launches our new publication Brunel’s Great Eastern. Second edition The Brunels’ Tunnel (20,000 copies sold)
2017 250,000th visitor

In 2001 we were open two days a week for two thousand visitors a year. In 2017 we welcome over two thousand visitors in the first two (quiet) months of the year. We could not have foreseen all that has happened. Many decisions were made for us. We have a busy event programme because a small museum cannot attract repeat visits. We ran Floodlit Train Tours because there was nothing in the museum. Our first school visits were led by a costumed actor because we had no exhibits. We have a small collection because temperature and humidity vary in an old building. We started river walks from Bermondsey because they closed the railway. We book visiting groups because there is no casual footfall. We run boat trips for the same reason. We push Three Brunels because Bristol only has one. We converted the Grand Entrance Hall because they closed the railway. Many decisions were made for us, but today we have some more decisions to make…

Next week we have school visits, the usual heritage walks and boat trips, a concert and a cocktail party, details below. On Friday In Between – Music and Photography presents the music of Susanne Mecklenburg with images from Gareth Davies. Tickets available here  On Saturday Midnight Apothecary for St Patrick is sold out, a few tickets available on the door

Sunday 12th March
10.40 riverside walk from Bermondsey tube offered in partnership with London Walks

Monday 13th March
10.40 riverside walk from Bermondsey tube offered in partnership with London Walks
11.15 site visit Thames Tideway Tunnel, Chambers Wharf
13.00 Trustees Meeting on Development plans

Tuesday 14th March
10.40 heritage boat trip from Embankment tube offered in partnership with London Walks
12.00 meeting Vaults Festival

Wednesday 15th March
10.40 heritage boat trip from Embankment tube offered in partnership with London Walks
18.15 riverside walk from Bermondsey tube offered in partnership with London Walks

Thursday 16th March
10.00 Rotherhithe Primary School meet Brunel in Person
10.40 heritage boat trip from Embankment tube offered in partnership with London Walks

Friday 17th March
10.40 heritage boat trip from Embankment tube offered in partnership with London Walks
19.00 In Between – Music and Photography. CD launch for the music of Susanne Mecklenburg, images and film from Gareth Davies

Saturday 18th March
10.40 heritage boat trip from Embankment tube offered in partnership with London Walks
13.30 lunch at the Tunnel Club, Mayflower pub upper room
17.00 Midnight Apothecary celebrates St Patrick’s Day with the Nathan Osgood Trio & the Anniversary of the Thames Tunnel opening 1843

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