The project aims to establish a museum providing a permanent educational exhibition covering the Thames Navigation, it's Boat History and how this developed and changed over the last 200 years during the industrial revolution. The museum will display a unique and important collection of Thames heritage craft which will be kept in a secure covered building to help safeguard their future conservation. There is to be a workshop to provide the specialist services required for historic craft.
The display of historic river craft will be a combination of some afloat and others as static exhibits; these will be supplemented by a wide variety of historical artefacts from the period. Simple interpretive displays will range from captions boards; display of working and static exhibits;. We would wish to develop audio visual presentations of some of the short stories covering various facets of this fascinating history. A a few of the archives will be arranged for visitor manipulation. There are no other organisations or museums that provide a history of boating development on the Thames.
We already have a comprehensive photo and document archive collection that has been extensively researched to provide much of this material. Audio/video display screens can be arranged to offer a selection of different short stories, selectable by visitors as required. We will aim to provide more AV presentation stories once the museum has been opened.
The visitor walkway through the museum will present a simple time line showing key dates of the important developments effecting river navigation from 1800 to present times. It is important to note that this was during a time which saw the first introduction and subsequent development of mechanical power for all forms of boating.
The new museum will not only provide visitor enjoyment but will aim to enhance knowledge, understanding and an appreciation of the importance of the Thames cultural boating heritage.
The Museum will be designed to appeal to people of all ages from all sections of society, providing enjoyment and education suitable for a wide range of learning and physical abilities. Visitors will be able to discover and learn about the River Thames navigation history and how the evolving navigation helped shape river activities and riverside communities.
The museum is to be based next to the Beale Park pay to enter tourist area, the park has a high proportion of families with young children and will potentially attract visitors who would probably not even have considered visiting such a museum if based on its own elsewhere. The museum will be open throughout the whole year.
The museum will also provide a secure location for the historic document/photographic collections of several clubs and societies which will be used for further research once these collections have been catalogued. The museum archive collection will be a centre for those who wish to find out more about the Thames Navigation heritage. Various historical assets have already been collected by individuals over many years and these have been donated for display in the museum, but are currently having to be held in temporary storage. We aim to provide formal and informal training in many aspects of the work at the museum for example:- archive/document cataloguing, operating historic launch machinery; conserving and maintaining heritage assets.
The Need and Opportunity
We need to conserve our River Thames Boat Heritage which has been neglected for too many years and is in danger of being lost forever. The generous offer by Beale Park for use of a perfect site with easy river access and safe mooring at no cost is a wonderful one off opportunity to establish a museum which will help safeguard this heritage for future generations.
A museum at the park will also have the benefit of engaging a completely new audience from the present park visitor numbers who otherwise might be unaware of this cultural heritage and might be encouraged to become involved. There are presently no opportunities for people to see or learn about this history, except through dedicated research effort, as there are no other museums covering the navigation history of the Thames.
Established museums such as the Henley River and Rowing Museum and the National Maritime Museum Greenwich do not display the story of this heritage and have no intention of doing so.
A recent Beale Park visitor survey shows that over 98% of visitors believe that there is a need for this type of heritage to be conserved. The encouraging survey results also showed that over 80% of park visitors would want to visit the museum if the entry fee was three pounds for adults and children free, a figure which is commercially viable. It will only be possible to display the range of heritage stories for public understanding by bringing a collection of various historic artefacts together in one place at the museum.
The few remaining historic launches that are operational also need special maintenance and engineering services not available at modern boatyards or marinas. For example Consuta must be considered at risk until it has covered accommodation for protection against the elements, and permanent facilities to remain operational. She needs lifting from the water each year for maintenance and statutory inspections. The museum will substantially improve historic conservation work as promoted by National Historic Ships policy. The aims of the proposed museum conform to West Berkshire Council policies intended to promote local tourism and the conservation of the counties Cultural Heritage.