Museums eye revised visitor numbers

Ipswich Museum enjoyed more visitors than anticipated in 2019/20. Picture: MATT STOTT

Ipswich Museum is aiming for 20% of pre-Covid visitor numbers when it re-opens - Credit: Archant

Mansion and museum bosses in Ipswich are hoping to recover visitor numbers to a fifth of their pre-Covid levels in the next financial year.

A revised business plan for the 2021/22 year has been published by Colchester and Ipswich Museums Service.

Proposals are to achieve 20% of pre-Covid-19 entry numbers for Ipswich Museum and Ipswich Art Gallery, and 10% for Christchurch Mansion.

Those figures are in order to facilitate the necessary social distancing required, although the venues are not yet clear on when they will be able to open.

Cllr Carole Jones, Planning portfolio-holder, wants Ipswich be a healthy town, a green town and a wi

Ipswich Borough Council portfolio holder for museums, Carole Jones, said the venues must be safe for staff and visitors - Credit: Su Anderson

Councillor Carole Jones, Ipswich Borough Council's portfolio holder for planning and museums, said: "It must be safe for staff and members of the public when we open.

"We did pretty well in the times we were open [last year], and there were really quite encouraging figures in the October half-term, but it is of course more difficult as people cannot just turn up - they have to book.

"But what it showed was how much people appreciated being able to come in to the museum and mansion  - especially at times like this."

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In the 2019/20 financial year, Christchurch Mansion attracted just over 80,000 visitors, thanks in part to the success of the Ed Sheeran: Made in Suffolk exhibition.

Ipswich Museum enjoyed just over 54,000 visitors that year - 10,000 more than the year before.

Christchurch Mansion is opening its doors again next week - and there is still time to see the highl

Christchurch Mansion in Ipswich is looking to achieved 10% of its usual visitor numbers while social distancing measures are in place - Credit: Archant

Data from the museums service said that the October half-term in 2020 was fully booked at the mansion and museum.

Between August and October last year, entry numbers were at 19% for Christchurch Mansion and 38% for the museum.

Frank Hargrave, from the museums service, told the most recent meeting of the joint Ipswich and Colchester museums committee: "What we have seen shows there is a lot of interest from members of the public to return really quite swiftly when they are able to.

"As socially distancing recedes relatively quickly in the new financial year we would hope to see numbers turning quite swiftly."

Ipswich Museum natural history gallery

Ipswich Museum is digitising some of its collections for people to enjoy online - Credit: Ipswich council

In the meantime, the venues are continuing to digitise their collections so that people can see displays online, such as the Ipswich Through Time display and the Victorian taxidermy collection.

More outreach activities are also being planned, which involve volunteers going into schools with loan boxes while schools cannot visit in their usual numbers.