Sidmouth Museum re-opens with free admission for 2009

SEVERAL changes, including free admission, were highlighted at the official opening of Sidmouth Museum on Saturday.

SEVERAL changes, including free admission, were highlighted at the official opening of Sidmouth Museum on Saturday.

The Reverend Handel Bennett, chairman of Sid Vale Association, which runs the Church Street building, cut the ribbon to mark the start of the 2009 season and said:

"There will be no admission charge, [thanks to an Open Spaces grant] but we do hope, after you have seen the great number of objects on display, you will feel the museum deserves a donation."

Neither will the museum close for lunch, opening on Mondays from 1pm to 4pm and from Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 4pm.

There is a new-look entrance, manned on Saturday by volunteer stewards Tony Sparkes and John Weir, and the shop, now run by Christine Bull and helpers, has been revitalised with a refurbishment and new stock.

Theme of this year's exhibits is Natural Beauty and Brian Websdale has organised a display of what East Devon's Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty has to offer.

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Other exhibitions include a celebration of the publication of Darwin's Origin of Species in 1859, his bicentenary and the 60th anniversary of Sidmouth Garden Club.

In their absence Mr Bennett thanked museum curator Dr Bob Symes, Ishbel Ramsey, arts development officer EDDC as well as the team of volunteers and "back room boffins" for their dedication in making the museum successful.

A 19th century lithograph of the Royal Glen by Hasler, bought with help from SVA's Keith Owen Fund now adorns the museum wall, while in another is displayed an original landscape Looking West Over the Cliffs by Whimple artist Judy Hempstead.

Judy, who attended the opening, said it was the first time she had been commissioned by the museum.

"Bob Symes has seen my work and rang me up last year to say he had money available for a picture of High Peak."

The mixed media painting has tissue paper and glue added to give the waves more texture.

She said: "Eleven years ago I gave up teaching at Exeter College and took a huge risk to become a full-time artist. It has gone very well.

"My main work is inspired by the sea. I am fascinated by the way the elements fashion the coast."

Welcoming the new look to the museum, Norma Pearce, in house manager, said: "We have had a number of new people join the team who have helped enable things to happen.