Hopefully by now you’ve read a range of blogs by others members of our very diverse and dedicated team, detailing the huge variety of projects we’re involved in, tasks that get delivered and enquiries that we respond to.

Having been in post now for just over six months, my admiration continues to grow for what has been achieved in the past and what continues to get delivered. For an organisation with the resources we have there is no doubt that we’re ‘punching above our weight’. However, it isn’t always easy to maintain, communicate, or even fund.

As I said in my previous post, my aim over the next few years is to finalise and deliver the Masterplan, a redevelopment of the Centre and a refinement of the physical spaces we have, ensuring our financial sustainability, allowing us to continue to spread the word to both our local community and our visitors.

Over the past few months we’ve pulled together a plan for new collections storage, spoken to a number of expert retail designers and shortlisted and interviewed a range of museum designers, as well as beginning to investigate a sustainable business model. Frankly, if we can’t be financially sustainable after the project, then we should ask ourselves if this is a project worth pursuing.

We’ve also spent time conducting outreach with our audiences, building our database and encouraging feedback on what our future might look like. Last week saw our first consultative forum with our ‘partner’ organisations, where we posed them a range of questions, all of which are designed to help us shape our future.

We divided these into a number of sections, and I’ve listed them below. Hopefully you can see that we aim to challenge everything that we do now, not wanting to base any of our decisions on opinion and assumption, but rather on actual data and analysis.

If you have any thoughts on these questions, or indeed any others you think we should be asking, do please get in touch, my details are at the end of this post.

Why?

Why does the New Forest Heritage Centre exist?

Would it matter if it did not exist?
Who is it there for?

Could it be somewhere else?

What sets it apart from other organisations?


Relevance? 

How is it relevant to you and your organisation, what can we do for you?

What can we do for your organisation?

What stories can we tell for you?

How can we preserve your heritage?

How can we work together better?

 

Collections

What should we be collecting?
Are collections that the public do not see still important?

What story should we be telling and why?

 

Identity

How do we ensure that our visitors feel engaged with the New Forest?

How can we further enhance the sense of place and purpose within the local community to the New Forest?

How do we reinforce cultural identity within the community?

 

Communications

How do we communicate with users/partners?
How do we instil a love of the New Forest and its Heritage?

How can we extend our reach in terms of distance, people and diversity?
Who is our audience, and how do we reach differing ones with differing messages?

How do we reach new audiences?

What are our key messages?

 

Day to Day Operations

What is the best thing we do?
What do we do less well?

What we are doing now and what we can do in the future?

What are the key messages in our museum?

How can we all be more financially sustainable?

How can we be more environmentally sustainable?

Who should fund it?
Who should staff it?
Should all our services be free?

The challenges I encountered when I took up post still exist, but I am so much further on in my understanding of how we might overcome them.

Yes, visitor numbers are important, yes, how we deliver our charitable objectives is important, but sadly, the most important part of my role is how we keep the lights on and the bills paid. As an independent charity, like so many others around the country, we face a day to day battle on how to deliver best value from what we have, how to stay relevant to our partners and visitors, and how to pay the bills.

Unsurprisingly, we rely heavily on donations, which can now be made via contactless technology in the Centre, and grants we receive, along with the support from the numerous volunteers we have, those who support us as Friends, and those who support us as donors. Frankly we couldn’t do it without them, and for their continued contributions, we are truly grateful. Every piece of support, big or small, is significant, and we really do appreciate it.

I hope to see many of you soon at one of the numerous events we have planned for the near future, some of which you can already buy tickets on-line via our website, so watch out for those, but if I don’t and you would like to discuss anything, do please pop in and see me, or get in touch [email protected]