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Novium Museum

by Harbour Villages on 25 February, 2017

After dithering and throwing money at the Novium and Guildhall for weddings, the Cabinet have decided, well not quite yet, that the District Council can no longer afford the Novium and are looking to give it to a Trust, as yet unknown. The initial decision to go with a new museum despite opposition at the time has meant that at least £10 million of your money has been spent on the Novium during a period when many vital services and staff have been pruned to the bare minimum. Next year’s budget indicates the Novium will still cost £900,000 and even if it goes to a Trust it will require some financing from the District Council for many years to come.   Where was the forward thinking and planning to stop this tragedy happening? Why was this decision not made much earlier to prevent this waste of your money?   To give an idea of the scale of the matter, the proposed rise in the rate of Council Tax will raise just £250,000 extra income.

Since its opening in July 2012, the Novium has failed to live up to its promise as The Chichester District Museum with the wow factor as described in the launch publicity. The initial high entrance fee of £7 as recommended by the consultants was quickly followed by the disappointment expressed by the visitors who were woefully low at 5,000 a year compared to the target of 50,000.

The late changes in the specification to allow for an overrunning budget also meant limited money for the displays which became very inflexible. The specification for the glass over the roman baths was such that at least half of the most important ground floor could not be used. Five years on, most of the original displays, have been boarded over for new exhibitions. The Woolstapler’s room, used previously for museum activities and talks,  has now been rented out to try and recover the income but this means that the effectiveness of museum’s function in education has been much reduced. The building itself leaked and needs substantial structural repairs. The very fact that it was purpose built means little flexibility for using the building for any other purpose such as an office or apartments.

Even the promise of income from the weddings in the Guildhall to support the Novium is a long way short from achieving a 100 per annum with just 17 booked until the end of 2108 or about 8.5% to target.  The Guildhall belonging to the Novium is only a quirk of an earlier reorganisation.

To be fair, the recent Tim Peake Exhibition has been done well but at the loss of all the top floor displays. However the Planetarium which costs you nothing and is run by volunteers had plans for a Tim Peake exhibition which would have been far a more appropriate venue. The effects of the much heralded Roman week did result in an increase in footfall but measurement of retails sales showed no increase. Claims that the Novium is making a contribution to the local economy need to be examined and was Roman week at the expense of the Fishbourne Palace?

Not to worry, the District Council consider it to be such a success that they are giving away if anyone will have it. I wonder what their definition of a failure is then or will they never admit to one.

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