Page last updated at 11:08 GMT, Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Museum holding Beatrix Potter collection could close

Beatrix Potter
A Beatrix Potter watercolour collection is held at the museum

A flood-hit museum in Cumbria which holds a "priceless" collection of Beatrix Potter watercolours may be forced to close due to a lack of funds.

Bosses at the Armitt Museum and Library in Ambleside have said a minimum of £10,000 is needed to stay open.

Chairman Peter Jackson said despite the facility undergoing a refurbishment since the November floods it was unlikely to reopen.

The Beatrix Potter collection held at Armitt is of international interest.

Insurance money

Mr Jackson described the collection of more than 450 fungi, microscopic, natural history and archaeological watercolours as "priceless" and said there was quite a "following" of national and international students and enthusiasts who came to the museum especially to see the art.

The artist and author, Beatrix Potter, bequeathed the collection to the museum in 1943.

Mr Jackson said: "We were hit very badly by the floods and have been closed since then." He said insurance money had been used to re-carpet the building.

He added: "But there is very little prospect that we can open the doors again. We just don't have the funds."

The struggle is to get the money to keep the light bulbs going and to pay the staff and to pay the rates
Peter Jackson, museum chairman

The museum initially appealed for £20,000 but this figure has decreased to £10,000 thanks to a generous donation.

Mr Jackson said it had been known for some time "sustainability into the future" was a problem, as grants diminished and any prospect of a partnership with other organisations had failed.

He said he was also looking to recruit volunteers to help run the museum should it re-open.

Jeff Cowton, the curator of the nearby Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere, said there was little funding available for independent museums like the Armitt.

He said: "The struggle is to get the money to keep the light bulbs going and to pay the staff and to pay the rates.

"If that hurdle can be overcome then there are other possibilities."

The museum holds collections of local and national interest, including those of Beatrix Potter, Charlotte Mason, Harriet Martineau, John Ruskin and Herbert Bell.

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