Portsmouth's Mary Rose Museum still in 'mortal peril' with cash due to 'run out' in October

MAJOR museums and other heritage attractions remain in ‘mortal peril’ unless desperate measures are taken by the government to bail them out.

By Tom Cotterill
Tuesday, 23rd June 2020, 12:32 pm
Updated Tuesday, 23rd June 2020, 1:10 pm

That’s the view of the head of the Mary Rose Museum, who today warned all the cash at the site would ‘run out’ in October if urgent action wasn’t taken.

The warning comes as the prime minister today mady an announcement about the re-opening of pubs, cinemas and museums.

Boris Johnson has said he will halve the two-metre social distancing rule to just one, with the changes coming into effect on July 4.

Helen Bonser-Wilton, chief executive of The Mary Rose Trust in Portsmouth Photo: [email protected]

However, Helen Bonser-Wilton, chief executive of the trust that runs the Mary Rose Museum in Portsmouth, said it would be unlikely they would be able to open until August as they would have a huge amount of work to prepare the heritage site for visitors after 12 weeks of closure.

And this means that a massive chunk of the museum’s primary source of income, generated between April and September, will be wiped out.

Ms Bonser-Wilton’s team has already raised a ‘significant amount’ of cash after a desperate ‘scramble’ in April and May.

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The Mary Rose Museum at risk of closure with cash 'running out in October' if the government doesn't step in. Photo: Christopher Ison

But she warned the finances would soon dry up and said: ‘We are still in mortal peril. Originally we were going to run out of money in June but we have got enough now to get us through to October.

‘But then we will go into the winter where we can generate virtually no income and in October the money runs out.

‘So unless we can get some additional support then we will have a real issue.’

Currently, 82 per cent of the staff at the museum have been furloughed – about 40 people in all.

Meanwhile, the museum’s annual £2.2m cost to fund the continued protection of its Tudor artefacts has not diminished, piling additional strain on purse strings.

Ms Bonser-Wilton has now issued a desperate plea to the government in a bid to survive the impending winter of financial woes.

Whitehall is being called to extend the furlough scheme for tourism sites beyond October and into the winter.

Other demands include a ‘financial package’ to ‘support’ the continued preservation of ‘really important heritage assets’ and a ‘significant endowment’ for museums facing cash woes.

‘The Covid-19 has thrown us into a financial crisis because 90 per cent of our income comes from visitors,’ she added.

‘Sadly, because of the nature of the museum that we are in, we have these 19,000 archaeological artefacts that still have to be kept in certain environmental conditions, 365 days a year to protect them.

‘So our base cost is about £2.2m even if we don’t open to the public.We have been scrambling to fundraise enough money to keep the collection safe while the museum has been closed.’

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