Last night (21/02/11) I attended the meeting of the newly reformed friends of the Margate Museum. I say reformed because there has been a friends group before from 1996 to 1998 which then went on to become the Margate Historical Society and of the original gang of four which formed it, I was the only one present as John Williams couldn't make it.
The meeting was held in the committeee room of the Old Town Hall and there was a really good turnout, infact it was standing room only if you didn't fancy sitting on the floor. From TDC was Chris Tull who has the responsibilty for the museums and Cllr Mick Tomlinson Mayor of Margate who also kindly allowed the committee room to be used. Members of the Civic Society, Margate Historical Society , the newly formed grouping to save the Margate Caves and other representatives were also present. As for myself, my colours were the Margate Historical Society and I was rather bemused at the suggestion that my reasons for being there were political. Now considering that I am not putting myself forward as a TDC candidate in the May elections I think that does rule that out a wee bit. However, Cllr Martin Wise did turn up later in the meeting which did make me smile looking at the faces of some of those present, it was almost as if Satan had appeared from under the floor boards.
The meeting did start as a bit of a free for all until Mick Tominson sort of took the chair, after elections took place a open debate took place. Chris Tull explained that there was a on going thing between the transfer of assetts between the Steam Museum Trust, East Kent Maritime Trust and TDC which also includes former EKMT assetts still in the Margate Museum. Also it was mentioned that the transfer of assetts between the SMT and EKMT at the Ramsgate Maritime Museum is still being finalised. I think it is a case of tying up legal loose ends than anything else. However, there is one big question that I feel remains to be mentioned. That being the items donated to the Margate Museum under the management of the EKMT from 1994 which is subject to a agreement and a legal decision transferring them to the SMT or not. This also includes the stock in the Museum shop.
The open debate was interesting and for the Friends Group it is early days as I feel that a mass of volunteers and enthusiasm does not garuntee sucess. There was a concern raised about untrained volunteers being let loose on the collection which is really the most important issue apart from finance. Martin Wise spoke on the issue of finance and the need of a coherant forward thinking business plan to show the Museum can work before approaching TDC which are my words not his . Cllr Shirley Tomlinson also mentioned that the group will be taking responsiblity of a valueable TDC assett.
I think some people present did take this as critism but in my book I would take it as advice and being someone who has been down this road before I think the friends group does need to take onboard critism as this is not all one way traffic.
Finaly, as mentioned previously it is early days for the Friends Group and last nights meeting is the very begining and there is a going to be a lot of hard work done before approaching TDC with a viable plan of running the Margate Museum. A committee has been formed and they need to go away and come back with policies for the members to work on on. It is going to be a slow process but I cannot see a reason why it shouldn't suceed.