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Reflecting on the Last Year

22 Dec 2023

As we come to the end of 2023 and submit our annual accounts for the year ending March 2023, we reflect on all that has been done to re-open the Museum.

Our accounts will show that we have invested £1.1M into the building and wider works as a first step towards a successful future.

This investment coupled with the closure of the museum while work was undertaken have together led to a planned trading loss of £1.159m for the year ending 31 March 2023.  A similar loss is expected for the financial year ending 31 March 2024 as work continued during this period.

The completion of major works and the museum reopen is a vital first step in the reestablishment of the museum as a valued cultural asset for the local area and a recognised national centre of excellence.

Works carried out in the financial year ending March 2023 included:

Largely replacing the museum’s roof and replacing almost all lighting with LED. A new lift has been installed increasing the accessibility of the museum, the shop and café have been refitted, and the shop’s stock expanded and improved. The exceptionally popular Wind in the Willows exhibition has been refreshed and a new family area, Little Willows, created.

The Kirkham Gallery has been refurbished and fitted with modern climate control technology which means the gallery can receive external exhibitions again from other museums and institutions.

The museum has also created RRM Studios, five new, modern, offices that are being leased to local businesses to further integrate the museum into the local community and provide a new income stream to the museum.

The museum’s five permanent galleries, including the UK’s only permanent gallery to acclaimed artist John Piper, are all reopen and three temporary exhibitions are running.  Other works included investment into new museum databases, computers and office equipment.

The museum used the closure to start a comprehensive cleaning and audit of its 30,000-item collection so that curatorial excellence around storytelling in its exhibitions and the storage and care of its objects can be continued into the future.  

One of the first benefits of the audit is to start to correct the lack of female artists whose work is on permanent display in the museum. A result of this was the creation of a new temporary exhibition, Unlocked, female artists of the River & Rowing Museum 1812-2012.

All the work undertaken will provide visitors of all ages with an enriched experience at the River & Rowing Museum.

Museum Director, Steve O’Connor said, “Closing the museum for essential works was a tough choice but the right thing to do, even though it meant the museum has posted a significant loss because of the dual impact of being closed and the cost of the works.

“This investment was vital as we had to replace and repair aspects of the building that had come to the end of their natural life.  We used the closure to invest in other areas and improve the visitor experience.

“Reopening with a significantly refreshed and refurbished building is our first step towards a successful future. I am hugely grateful to my team for all that has been achieved this year. More improvements are to come, especially around enhancing the galleries and the exhibition spaces.

“In 2024 we will share more details about regrowth plans and how people can support the museum. Our commitment to being a highly valued cultural resource for the people of Henley and an education partner for local schools is at the heart of our offer, as is our focus on telling the story of our town, our river and the sport of rowing.  We invite everyone to come and visit and see first-hand the improvements we are making.” 

A huge thank you to the team and Trustees for all of their efforts over the past year to put the River & Rowing Museum back on a foundation for growth.



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