On this page we tell you about some of the things we have been doing at the museum. Using Twitter, you can follow the day-to-day life of the museum. We report on what's going on in the museum, what's being done for the future development of the museum, and of course keep you up to date about events, using the Twitter service.
Plans for a year of celebration have largely been abandoned as covid-19 has made those plans impossible to carry on with. We have deferred our major exhibition plans because of the difficulties caused and the shortage of visitors - around 70% of our visitors usually come from outside London and the number of visitors is expected to be very low for the rest of the year.
One event that was always planned - originally for an earlier date - is a photo competition to gather an archive of pictures of the canal in its 200th year. This competition is going ahead and was launched on 1st August 2020 - the date on which the canal was officially opened, 200 years on.
As the month of March progressed it became increasingly clear that the museum was going to be engulfed in the crisis that was developing in the world and the UK. We depend on volunteers for the day-to-day operation of the museum and the first problem to hit us was shortage of people due to self-isolation and other precautions. Some of our volunteers are over 70. Watching the way things were developing and the trends in the country we decided that closure was the only option and our last day open was March 18th. The following week the government made it a mandatory requirement for all museums to close.
On the evening of March 18th a bit of work was done to prepare for prolonged closure - cleaning, and making sure everything that was not needed was switched off, setting up external signs and being as prepared as possible. Working from home, services that are not required like window cleaning, hygiene services etc were suspended to minimise costs.
The museum is independent and has no taxpayer funding at all. Our income comes from three main sources and one smaller source. The main sources are admission charges, venue hire, and moorings. Shop profits are a smaller addition. All these sources of income except moorings have more or less completely dried up. Venue hire bookings have all been cancelled or postponed and at the time of writing we don't know when it will be possible to resume venue hire, of which weddings is the biggest component. Like other museums, this has left us running at a deficit because we still have some bills to pay
Like many other museums we have tried to offer more online content, both for people to have things to do at home and most importantly to keep our supporters and audience engaged with us and if possible to increase our following on social media. An exhibition, on display at themuseum at the time of closure, has been turned into an online exhibition. We have added education materials, a virtual tour of Hanwell Locks, and a revitalised online blog. By doing a lot of work on these things we hope to maintain and increase public interest in the museum and canal history.
The museum has ample reserves to survive for some time. However these funds are intended for future investment in museum improvements to make it more robustly sustainable in the long term. The depletion of our reserves is therefore a worrying development.
The museum re-opened on 17th July but only for two days per week due to the ongoing shortage of volunteer staff. We put all the necessary precautions in place to gain the "Good to Go" label from VisitEngland. These included spending £1000 on bespoke sneeze screens around our unusually-shaped reception and shop desk.