Friends of Manx National Heritage newsletter May 2020
Message from Edmund Southworth, MNH Director
After so many weeks of lockdown it is easy to get excited about the prospect of getting back to normal. So I want to let you know our current situation and our thinking about the future.
I should start by reminding you that many parts of MNH are still working as you will know from the amazing things we see online and in these newsletters. Our investment in digitisation in recent years has paid off and through the iMuseum we have been able to make an enormous amount of rich content and great stories available online worldwide. We now see hundreds of people using the iMuseum newspaper every day.
By the time you read this our online shop should be operational again. This is an ideal opportunity to keep in touch with your friends and relatives with a card or small gift. To make this easy for you we are including free postage and packing till the end of August. Every purchase helps towards the care of the Island’s heritage and is especially welcome at a time when we have lost all our admission income.
I am pleased to say that recent relaxation of the “lockdown” allowed our Sites and Monuments Team and the Gardening team (including volunteers) to return to work in open air settings. But this is not a return to “normal” as we have put new control measures in place to keep people safe.
We note that public libraries have been permission to open. Doing this safely is quite challenging and we will look at how this is being managed by others. This permission does not apply to our library in the Manx Museum – which will not open yet.
I do need to say that we are not ready to “re-open” all our operations as normal. We will only re-open if we are allowed by the Government to do so and if we can pass a number of critical key tests. Of course “normal” may never return and we don’t yet know what the “new normal” will look like.
The Council of Ministers has published a document which outlines the phased approach that the Island is likely to take over the coming months. There will be reviews every two weeks of the evidence from a variety of sources including medical and emergency services. The services that MNH normally provides mostly fall into the later phases of recovery. The rules are still in place that restrict movement, large gathering in groups, pubs and restaurants etc. The advice from the Isle of Man Government is still to stay at home and work from home if you can.
At the moment we are identifying which areas of our activities we might resume if the situation on the island continues to improve. All of these will be subject to detailed risk assessment and it is likely that we will need to change the way we operate to ensure social distancing and improved hygiene. This will need to be documented and structured – with clear decision-making in place.
As our borders remain closed we will initially be focussing on what services we provide for our local community. The challenge for us is that this does not give us the volume of paying users we normally need to cover our costs. We will be encouraging people to use our outdoor facilities first and also encouraging donations to help us with this. We will have to do some things differently and we might need to limit numbers or adjust our traditional opening times.
We have agreed the following basic principles should be adopted in reviewing our future operations:
- The health, safety and wellbeing of staff, volunteers and visitors, is paramount in the decisions we make
- We will maintain delivery of our statutory objectives and strategic priorities as far as possible
- We will not put pressure on health or emergency services
- We will learn from others and innovate moving forward
- We will keep our workforce informed and supported
- We will meet our legal and financial obligations
- We will inform and support our stakeholders and our community
It has been suggested that Friends and Annual Season holders might get access to sites early on in the process. We are happy to take this on board. Initially we are likely to see smaller numbers using sites. These may be pre-booked and outside traditional times. We are keen to work with our Friends and provide opportunities for you as we go forward.
With my very best wishes,
Edmund Southworth, Director