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Friends of Falconer Museum call for professional staff to run it

By Staff Reporter

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Friends of the Falconer Museum want professional staff to run it.
Friends of the Falconer Museum want professional staff to run it.

THE VICE chairwoman of a volunteer group claims only professional staff can run a local five-star visitor attraction.

Ruth Fishkin of Friends of the Falconer Museum believes the group is doing as much as it can to encourage Moray Council to re-open the facility in the Spring but the local authority, or another body, will need to pay knowledgeable staff to administer it long term.

She said: "The Moray museum service provides a large amount of social services for very small cost. It engages the goodwill and volunteer effort of many people, including the remaining paid staff, who do much more than they’re paid for. It’s a great force for community cohesion, and when allowed to be, is a major attraction for visitors to the area.

"The Friends are doing all that we can. It is not in our power to keep the museum open without help or to run it ourselves. We are a small volunteer organisation with a handful of members able to be actively involved. Most are in their seventies and eighties; those who are younger are working at paid jobs, or living with a disabling health condition. None of us has specialist museums training. We can do a lot to support the work of the museum, but we are not a competent body to run it without professional help."

Ms Fishkin points out that the fully accredited museum and its large, unique and significant collection of artefacts requires staff with professional training to take care of it and make it available to scholars worldwide.

She said: "As an example, a professor of Palaeontology from a university in India recently came and stayed in the town for two and a half weeks to access the Falconer’s collection. He worked intensively with staff and volunteers to use the collection, found it wonderfully valuable to his work, and returned home having made new friends and vowing to come to Forres again.

"Expecting a group of volunteers to run and fund the Falconer Museum is about like expecting the Parents Association to run a small rural primary school, without staff or the funding to pay staff. If they happen to find a couple of retired teachers in town who are willing to work full time for no pay, they might manage it. Otherwise, no."

Examples of specialised skills the museum needs are the ability to: treat exhibits so they do not deteriorate; organise and run events; complete accreditation and paperwork; and understand databases and recording systems.

"There are a limited number of people willing and able to do specialist professional work without pay," said Ms Fishkin, "and we don’t have enough of them in Forres to run a museum.

"What the Friends have been doing is supporting the attempt to find a body competent and willing to run the museum. Meanwhile, we have continued supporting the work of the museum staff and others including archaeologists, researchers and visitors to Moray."

She added: "Moray Council have told us for a year and a quarter that they intend to hand over the running of the museum service to a new trust, and have asked us to wait for them to find such a trust."

Forres councillor Aaron McLean voted to close the museum permanently last October with his local colleagues because the local authority claims it can no longer afford to sustain the service.

He said: "I remain hopeful that there will be a body in place to run the museum and it will be back in the hands of the public. We remain committed as a council to move this on as quickly as possible."

Discover Moray's Great Places is a partnership project led by Moray Council on behalf of the Moray Economic Partnership to create connections between artists, people passionate about heritage and those working in the heritage sector in Moray.

Cllr McLean added: "We have seen progression of the Great Places project through the Moray Growth Deal. I hope it will continue at a pace as money gets passed down from above."

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