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Moray Council hopeful that a future can still be secured for the Falconer Museum, Forrres

By Garry McCartney

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Some of the museum's 50,000 artefacts.
Some of the museum's 50,000 artefacts.

THE IMMEDIATE future of the Falconer Museum has been decided by its custodians.

For the first time since 1871, the doors did not re-open at the end of March for the new tourist season, however, during a meeting of the policy and resources committee it was revealed that discussions have taken place with potential funding bodies who could support the five star attraction.

Local councillor Aaron McLean thought the museums service report presented to committee was "quite positive" regarding the future of the Falconer Museum.

He said: "There has been quite a bit of work going on in the background and early partnerships built up with Museums Galleries Scotland, University of the Highlands and Islands and the National Lottery Heritage Fund to set up a new heritage trust.

"Unfortunately the Falconer will be closed this season but this will be a temporary measure that will hopefully allow the Moray museum and heritage service to flourish in the next few years."

Moray Council states that, by closing the Falconer, it will save itself £87,000 in staffing and other costs. However, the local authority is setting aside £28,000 this year to look after the building and its content of 50,000 artefacts.

At the end of the P&R meeting, councillors accepted what was suggested by council officers in the report, agreeing to, "explore, test and validate potential future operating models, subject to being successful in securing funding".

Meanwhile, museum supporter Zoë Archer submitted a hard copy of the Save the Falconer Museum online petition http://chng.it/4p4kdB7N which currently has 1457 signatures.

She said: "I hope they get some idea of how important the museum is to people."

Cllr Lorna Creswell (Forres, Independent) hopes a solution to the ongoing Falconer Museum dilemma can be found.

She said: "Work is still ongoing it seems. We are unsure of what the outcome of the petition handed in will be. I'm disappointed that interest from local people and groups to form an operational alternative has not materialised but this may happen as a Moray-wide Culture Heritage collaboration is generated."

The local authority is setting up a Heritage Forum which acknowledges the Falconer Museum's importance to Forres and Moray.

The committee report stated: "Work by the Discover Moray’s Great Places Partnership provides a route map for work to create a sustainable future for the Heritage and Cultural Sectors in Moray. Coupled to it is a detailed plan for the transition period of the closure of the Council’s Museums Services to explore, test and validate potential future operating models, subject to being successful in securing funding."

However, Friends of the Falconer Museum vice chairwoman, Ruth Fishkin, believes the local authority is offering nothing but empty promises.

She said: "Consultants were hired by the council and produced a report which contained many interesting possibilities for different models and uses for a museum. However, none of them are viable without some core funding, and we have seen nothing from the council indicating an actual plan to produce or find that funding.

"Meanwhile the staff have been made redundant, the outreach services ended and access to the lab and store denied to the community, volunteers and international community of scholars."

Friends chairman Dr John Barrett claimed Moray Council "refused to accept, let alone discuss the petition".

He said: "They want the museum shut down entirely because they know it will be more difficult to reverse the closure. The real decision on closure was taken in October, 2018.

"Officials have insouciantly declined to yield information even via a FOI request. Meanwhile the councillor trustees refuse to act."

He added: "I fear for the safety of the collections which will be unsupervised, liable to be destroyed, sold off, given away, or dispersed. Do not forget the million archival documents that the council destroyed a few years back. The museum is now the last professional heritage service in the firing line."

Friends of the Falconer Museum including chairman Dr John Barrett.
Friends of the Falconer Museum including chairman Dr John Barrett.

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