Wisbech and Fenland Museum in Cambridgeshire, which has been free to enter for 100 years, has announced that it will introduce an admission charge of £5 for adults this May.
The museum, one of the first purpose-built museums in the country, said the move has been made as it faces a £60,000 annual shortfall in income which needs to be met to pay estimated annual running costs of £90,000 from next April.
The £5 admission will buy visitors a season ticket to return free each subsequent visit within the year. Under-16s and those in full-time education will continue to be admitted free.
In 2019/20 the museum had 14,700 visitors, 3,500 of which were children, according to data collected by the SHARE Museums East network.
However museum chairman Steve McGregor warned “even with admission charges, we can’t survive in our present form beyond this financial year.”
“We have won one-off grants for capital projects like the recent magnificent refurbishment, but we can’t use a penny of that money to keep the lights on, our collections curated or staff paid.”
The 1847 building took on a major refurbishment last year largely funded by Historic England. £616,000 was awarded for the repair of Grade II* listed building.
Alongside the admission fee, the museum has launched an appeal to local individuals, businesses and organisations to pledge monthly or annual donations to keep it afloat.
A similar appeal was launched by the museum in 2018, after it lost its annual Fenland District Council grant. It was saved from closure by supporters, who pledged a total of £35,000 each year for five years through its Refounders Scheme.
As this scheme closes, the museum said a new subscription scheme will need to almost double what it produced.
“To keep going after April 2024 we need businesses with local customers and employees, charities and individuals who recognise the treasure we have and what damage its loss would do to the town to join our new Patrons’ Scheme by pledging £1200 or £600 a year, paid monthly or annually,” explained McGregor.
It has also encouraged public supporters to join its Supporters Circle and commit smaller monthly donations.