A decade of success for Maritime Museum in Falmouth
11:00am Sunday 17th March 2013 in News
Ben Ainslie meets David Bond 90 last surviving Olympic Gold medallist from the 1948 London Games at National Maritime Museum Cornwall by Mike Thoma
The National Maritime Museum Cornwall may be celebrating its tenth birthday, but it was 21 years ago that the seeds of an idea to create an iconic attraction for Falmouth were first planted.
The Falmouth International Maritime Initiative was born in 1992, a partnership created as a result of a collaboration between the National Maritime Museum Greenwich and the former Cornwall Maritime Museum, previously the Falmouth Maritime Museum.
The latter had been created on the tug St Denys in 1981 before relocating to Bells Court, Falmouth and had been run by a dedicated team of volunteers. Many of the exhibits, and even some of the volunteers, moved down to Events Square when the new £28 million museum was built.
It took several years, though, for the idea of the new museum to become a reality and even after the foundation stone was unveiled by the Duke of Edinburgh on July 27, 1999 the town still had to wait more than three years for the museum to finally open its doors.
It was obviously worth the wait though, as the museum exceeded its annual visitor target of 100,000 in just three months. Although it wasn’t due to be officially opened until March, 2003, it was decided to invite local residents in early for a sneak preview.
So, between December and February the museum’s doors were thrown open, free of charge, giving locals a chance to get a look at what was on offer and museum staff a chance to identify and rectify any teething problems.
The museum has continued to go from strength to strength and in the year 2009-10 it welcomed a record number of paying visitors as 147,691 people passed through its doors.
That number has dipped a little since, in line with the tough economic times, but between 2011-12 it still saw 113,605 explore its exhibits.
“One day is never like the next, our weather in the summer is such a key factor,” said the museum’s head of communications Tamsin Loveless. “For example, August bank holiday weekend – on the sunny Sunday we welcomed 295 visitors and on the wet Monday, 2,560.”
The museum has also proved a big hit with local schools with 85 per cent of all primary schools within an hour’s drive having visited. The museum’s education programme was accessed by 10,000 students in 2011-12.
Over the past ten years, the museum has won several awards and only earlier this year it claimed silver in the large visitor attraction of the year category at the South West Tourism Awards, having won gold on four previous occasions.
It is probably a fair bet that the museum will be celebrating its 20th anniversary in a decade’s time, no doubt with another horde of awards to its name and having welcomed many more thousands of visitors from around the world.