Florence Nightingale Museum to close indefinitely, just weeks after year celebrating 200 years since nurse’s birth

The Florence Nightingale Museum will have to close indefinitely next month, making staff redundant just weeks after the end of the year celebrating 200 years since the nurse’s birth.

The 32-year-old attraction, in the grounds of St Thomas’ Hospital in Waterloo, has announced a major review and restructuring of its operations and a period of consultation with staff due to the effects of the pandemic and lockdowns.

The review is “designed to project the museum’s collections and the institution for the long term”, a statement from the museum said. “If changes are not made now, the museum will become financially insolvent before markets recover and visitors return in significant numbers.”

Donors have enabled it to stay functional, as have grants from the Art Fund, Arts Council England and National Heritage Lottery Fund. But it will be closed from February 28, 2021 for the foreseeable future, even when London is released from Tier 4 restrictions, except for special one-off events.

“Visitor numbers just do not make remaining open financially viable,” the statement added. “Since March 2020, visitor numbers have reduced to such an extent that it is not feasible for the museum to re-open at the moment.

“The museum is extremely grateful to all those individuals and organisations that have provided financial support throughout a traumatic year, and remains open to all offers of support from interested parties.

“Given that it is likely to be many months before anything like a return to normality, the museum has no alternative other than to cut its costs significantly and to build a new operational structure far less dependent on visitors arriving at its front door.

“Consultation with museum staff is now beginning and, sadly, redundancies are likely, as the museum looks to reduce costs significantly.”

Florence Nightingale

The museum – an independent charity – relies on visitors, more than half from overseas, for around 95 per cent of its income.

Since March 2020, museum management have made many savings and operational changes, but there are few fixed costs left to cut.

The museum was seeing record visits in the early months of Florence Nightingale’s bicentenary year – 2020 – when it was forced to close.

Its exhibition, Nightingale in 200 Objects, People & Places, was just 10 days into its run. Staffing levels reflected the increased level of activity – but now those “are unrealistic”.

Furlough payments covered significant staff costs, but when they end in April 2021 the museum will not be able to make its own contributions at current staffing levels.

David Green, director of the Florence Nightingale Museum, said, “The events of the past year have been devastating for so many. From our own perspective, to go from the furious activity and high visitor numbers of the early months of 2020, to instant desolation was a major blow, especially as this all happened during Florence’s bicentenary year and the World Health Organisation’s Year of the Nurse and Midwife.

“Since March 2020, we have explored every avenue and resource available to us, in order to keep the museum operating. Throughout this turbulent time, we have received so much wonderful support from visitors, as well as all manner of arts organisations, not to mention the dedicated and tenacious work of our staff.

“Now, the need for changes to the museum’s operation is vital to ensure that it has a future, particularly as it is extremely likely that the situation is unlikely to improve significantly for many months.”

One of the few museums in the country dedicated to a pioneering woman, the Florence Nightingale Museum also celebrates nursing today and throughout history, telling the stories of such key figures as British-Jamaican nurse and businesswoman Mary Seacole, and Kofoworola Abeni Pratt, the first black nurse to work in the NHS.

Pictured top: The Florence Nightingale Museum

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