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The Florence Nightingale Museum is facing the threat of permanent closure in what was supposed to be a year dedicated to celebrating the legacy of the nursing pioneer, its director has told Nursing Times.
The national lockdown implemented by the government in response to the outbreak of Covid-19 means the charity-run museum has had to close its doors to the public indefinitely since March.
“Instead of it being a bumper year for Nightingale’s bicentenary, closure is looking quite likely”
With admissions and souvenir sales accounting for 98% of earnings, the organisation is struggling to meet its operational costs, which still total around £20,000 per month, even after furloughing most staff.
As a result, the future of the museum, which is based in St Thomas’ Hospital in London and receives no government funding, hangs in the balance.
The team that run the venue have decided to take matters into their own hands and are seeking to raise £200,000 by the end of the year to save the museum from closure.
A fundraising page has been set up for the public to donate and an online auction will be held hosted by celebrity auctioneer Charles Hanson, who has appeared on Bargain Hunt, Flog It! and Antiques Road Trip.
The museum has also received an emergency grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund of £50,000.
The appeal comes during the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, as designated by the World Health Organization in recognition of Florence Nightingale’s bicentenary of birth.
In an interview with Nursing Times, David Green, director of the Florence Nightingale Museum, said the fact this was happening in 2020 was “hugely ironic and very sad”.
“The irony is sort of doubled when you consider that it was Nightingale who told us all to wash our hands… evidence-based nursing, statistical-based analysis. That’s what will solve [the coronavirus crisis],” he said.
“We have seen a lot of money invested and her name being used for the Nightingale Hospitals… the museum is very much part of her legacy in inspiring children to become nurses.
“Our data very much says how many of them come to us and consider nursing careers, or indeed the next phase of that is saying thank you and celebrating the achievements of the current generation.”
Mr Green said the museum was less prepared for the crisis, because it had invested £100,000 from its reserves to prepare for the bicentenary, including arranging a special exhibition and purchasing dedicated souvenirs.
With no clear indication of when the museum will be able to reopen and what continuing social distancing measures will mean for business when it does, he said his projections showed it would run out of money before the start of 2021 without intervention.
“So, instead of it being a bumper year for Nightingale’s bicentenary, which we were expecting, closure is looking quite likely,” he added.
Asked how it would feel to see the museum shut for good, Mr Green said: “It would obviously be devastating for the team who have worked so hard to prepare for 2020, building global partnerships, and for our many visitors.”
With visitor numbers growing from 30,000 from when he took over as director to 55,000 last year and predictions of 70,000 this year before the pandemic, he described the museum as a “real success story” that might now be lost.
While recognising the size of the challenge for the government, he said he would have like to have seen more support available for the charity and tourism sectors during the pandemic, as he now faced the prospect of making staff redundant.
“I think Florence would be concerned that the poorest in society have been forgotten”
Asked what Florence Nightingale would have made of this situation if she was alive today, Mr Green said: “I think she would be proud of the effort that the nurses have put in.
“She would be very proud of the fact that she wanted to develop a profession and a profession in particular where women were able to be treated as equals,” he said.
“We have very much seen that particularly when [English chief nursing officer] Ruth [May] has stood alongside the key government figures. I think she would be hugely proud of that.
“I think she would be concerned that the poorest in society…particularly other charities and ourselves, have been forgotten and I think she would be concerned about who is being their voice.
“Florence was a real battler for the underdog and that’s what she spent 50 years campaigning for,” he added.
To find out more about efforts to save the Florence Nightingale Museum and to potentially make a donation, visit its fundraising page.