Portsmouth Historic Dockyard urges city to support it after reopening as it lost 80 per cent of revenue due to Covid-19 pandemic

MUSEUM bosses are urging locals to support their reopening after the coronavirus pandemic decimated their revenue streams.

By David George
Tuesday, 27th April 2021, 6:00 am

Groundwork is taking place to get Portsmouth Historic Dockyard in tip-top shape ahead of its reopening on May 17, subject to the government’s roadmap.

Museum bosses are excited to welcome back visitors, staff and volunteers ahead of what they anticipate will be a ‘crazy’ summer.

The reopening couldn’t come a moment too soon, with 80 per cent of museum income being lost as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Matthew Sheldon, director of museum operations and Dominic Jones, CEO of the Mary Rose Trust, pictured at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. Picture: Stuart Martin (220421-7042)

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While funding from the government and Royal Navy has kept things going, that money won’t last forever.

Matthew Sheldon, director of museum operations for the National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN) said: ‘Last year we were open for a grand total of 15 weeks, and visitors account for 80 per cent of our income.

‘We have also lost 18 weeks at the start of this year, so as with all museums across the country, the pandemic has hit us very hard.

Matthew Sheldon, director of museum operations and Dominic Jones, CEO of the Mary Rose Trust, pictured at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. Picture: Stuart Martin (220421-7042)

‘You never know what you’ve got until it’s gone.’

Dominic Jones, CEO for the Mary Rose Museum, added: ‘It’s been a tough 18 months with the closures, furlough and so on.

‘We had a grant from the Cultural Recovery Fund which has maintained our survival, but currently our cash flow runs out at the end of the year.’

With a brand new permanent exhibition and plenty more on the way, the message from the museum bosses is simple – please support the museum when it reopens.

The £1.3m exhibition, called The Nation’s Flagship, provides a comprehensive history of HMS Victory, one of the warships visitors can explore at the dockyard.

Mr Sheldon said: ‘The exhibition focuses on the long history of HMS Victory, right from her first floating out in 1759.

‘There’s almost 250 years of history there, which visitors will live through via the eyes of those on board, from divers who set sail with her to those who watched her sink.

‘We’ve never been able to tell these stories before, so it’s hugely exciting.’

While many staff members are still on furlough at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, others are starting to return to work with plenty of preparation to do.

Following the last Covid-19 lockdown, experience has been gained and so museum bosses are ready and raring to go.

Mr Jones said: ‘It’s weird, walking through the dockyard and seeing it so empty. It’s not right and we cannot wait to have people back through the gates.

‘Welcoming everyone back is going to be so heartwarming for all of us.

‘Some people are already here cleaning and getting things arranged for the opening day – it’s not far away now and that’s really exciting.’

Last year, the Mary Rose Museum and NMRN united under one umbrella as part of the joint reopening.

An ultimate explorer ticket allows visitors to enter the dockyard and the Mary Rose Museum together as much as they like for 12 months.

Acording to the NMRN, more than 800 of these tickets have already been purchased during lockdown.

‘We are so incredibly grateful for the support,’ said Mr Sheldon.

‘It shows how keen people are to visit, but also proves how important pre-booking will be.’

Pre-booking for visits will begin online on May 5.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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