As Paul Baker, the manager of the Framework Knitters Museum, moves on to pastures new it seems the perfect time to take stock and consider the impressive journey the homage to Nottinghamshire’s past has taken over the last 5 years.
During a period that has been challenging for much of the heritage sector, this museum continues to go from strength to strength and has witnessed a remarkable increase in visitors. With Paul at the helm what was once a small village museum has transformed into an internationally renowned, multi-award winning visitor attraction.
Paul Baker said, “When I started the role in 2011 I could not have imagined the journey we have since taken. I’ve really enjoyed my time here, and am immensely proud of what the museum has become.”
Paul instantly saw huge potential in the historical site. Drawing on his extensive experience in redeveloping museums he set about re-imagining the visitor’s experience, and how it might be made more appealing to families and school groups.
After securing over £100,000 of funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Museum Development East Midlands and Nottinghamshire County Council, Paul and his team started a year-long project to redevelop the site. Among their achievements was the creation of the first museum gallery dedicated to the Luddite uprising, and a unique new educational programme which has won international accolades.
Paul continued, “I’ve been blessed with an incredible team of staff and volunteers who have embraced this period of change and growth and have provided me with outstanding counsel and support. The many accolades we have received and the growth in visitor numbers has been as a consequence of the dedication and hard work by my team.”
The museum’s subtle use of state-of-the-art sensory devices and technology has created a unique and dramatic experience which encourages visitors to explore their surroundings, to engage and participate in a fun way. As a consequence visitor figures have increased by 59%, including a 300% increase in family visits.
It wasn’t long before the awards started flooding in; particularly for the new education programme which features an innovative interactive film. Over the course of a year the museum became the only British winner at the European Heritage in Motion Awards 2015, received the coveted Sanford Award, and won two accolades at the East Midlands Heritage Awards and another at the Nottinghamshire Awards ceremony.
The museum was also recognised by Visit England who made it the first museum in Nottinghamshire to receive the prestigious Best Told Story Accolade. Due to the European achievement Paul was also invited to be a laureate at the 2016 Best in Heritage IMAGINES Conference, a highly regarded international conference that showcases the best in the museum and heritage field from across the world.
Paul also used his earlier retail background to transform the museum shop into The Textile Emporium, specialising in unique contemporary textile products. The shop has become a destination in its own right and celebrates the creativity of local makers. This quirky approach has been popular with both visitors and the local community, and has seen revenue increase by 1170%.
Never one to rest on its laurels this year has seen a new partnership which has created another draw to the museum for visitors. Coupling up with the Nottingham Society of Artists, a new art gallery has been opened in the nineteenth century chapel featuring work from some of the finest artists in Nottinghamshire.
Although Paul is moving on there are exciting times ahead for the museum. We are currently in the midst of a huge fundraising drive to redevelop our existing site and expand into a recently-purchased adjoining cottage. Once complete, the project will double the existing exhibition space, create a new visitor route and offer new and improved facilities to visitors and other users.