The Museum of Cambridge is a unique institution that tells the social history of Cambridge and the surrounding region. Set in the Grade II-listed 17th-Century White Horse Inn, on the important Roman street that links castle, river and university, the museum has told the fascinating stories of local people since it ceased trading as a pub in 1936.
You can find the Giant’s Boot and see the prize belt of the long-distance champion of the world. You can also examine witches’ bottles and discover the real Muffin Man. Under the curatorship of Enid Porter, from 1947-1976, the museum pioneered oral history, recording the rich history, customs, stories and beliefs of the everyday people of Cambridge. This is a tradition the Museum preserves today, especially in our work with communities across Cambridge.
Notable recent exhibitions include ‘Pride and Place’, co-curated with Encompass Network and dedicated to exploring the lives of the local LGBTQ+ community. Another exhibition was ‘Barnwell At War’, in partnership with Cambridge United’s fan community, 100 Years of Coconuts. This explored everyday lives of working-class people in East Cambridge during the First World War.
The Museum of Cambridge launched a fundraising campaign in November last year after the Covid-19 pandemic left the museum in acute risk of having to close for good due to reduced income from ticket sales and venue hire. It has now successfully reached the halfway point in its fundraising appeal. The campaign has raised £25,000 of the £50,000 target in just over two months.
This is the first time the Museum of Cambridge has organised a public fundraising campaign like this. The aim is to raise enough money to tide it over until it can reopen to visitors – hopefully this spring. It costs around £200,000 a year to keep the Grade II listed building running and maintain its collections.
Staff and trustees have been blown away at the positive response. Hundreds of people from Cambridge and around the world have donate to the museum.
The fundraising campaign has been a huge team effort. The museum has been supported by over 50 volunteers, who normally do everything from greeting visitors at front of house to caring for the collection and running the social media channels. Throughout the campaign, the volunteers have been cheering the museum on from home. Front of house volunteer Tricia McBride said:
‘I’ve been volunteering at The Museum of Cambridge for several years now. The wonderful thing about our museum is that everyone seems to have a favourite item. Mine is the apple peeler that looks like a sewing machine!
If you can donate to the museum’s appeal, you’ll help to ensure that the building and the amazing collection are available for visitors in years to come. Do help if you can.’
Online Access to The Museum
Although the museum has been closed to visitors during lockdown, work behind the scenes continues regardless. For instance, the museum has made resources available to local families, including a ‘create your own collection’ activity, all available free of charge on the museum’s website.
The museum has also launched a regular series of online events called ‘Cambridge Talks’. These feature engaging talks from experts on the city’s fascinating local history.
Two exhibitions have been transferred from the museum’s galleries to the website, so the people of Cambridge can enjoy them online from the comfort of their own home. ‘The Allen We Knew’ celebrates the life of Allen Brigham, former trustee at the Museum of Cambridge and eminent local historian of Cambridge. ‘The Things We See’ explores the favourite objects of our team of volunteers and trustees.