The Warrington Museum of Freemasonry (WMF) has been awarded full accreditation by the Arts Council England. This achievement has been secured by the considerable amount of hard work put in by the trustees and their professional mentor, over a long and sustained period. The museum has also benefited from the support it receives from the Warrington Group of Freemasons and the Warrington Masonic Hall Company Limited.
The museum additionally has a network of ‘Friends’, who in turn help provide funding for its activities. There are times when one has to pause and wonder: “How did we get here?” The progress made with the WMF is a classic case in point. The board of trustees was formally established in 2014 and at that early stage, had little concept of where the journey would take them.
The museum started in an ad-hoc fashion with items unearthed from dark corners and dusty cupboards in Warrington Masonic Hall. These had been supplemented by artefacts donated, mainly by members of the Warrington Masonic Group. It was however, gaining size and substance, which required a more formal approach to its collection, its presentation and more importantly, its conservation.
It was agreed to adopt the constitution of a ‘Charitable Incorporated Organisation’ and with little real knowledge of the process, to apply for charitable status. It would be possible with the benefit of hindsight, to claim credit for what appears to be a right and bright-minded approach. Luck, however, played a considerable part in those early days.
The trustees were fortunate in their choice of mentor, the support and guidance received from the Warrington Museum and Art Gallery and particularly their mind clearing association with MDNW. The Association of Independent Museums and the Masonic Libraries and Museums Group also provided helpful further support and guidance, whilst the Charity Commission and Arts Council England website addresses became ‘favourites’ in the trustee’s browsers.
A key document at this point was the museums ‘Forward Plan’, setting out their vision and charting a series of short-term operational objectives to drive the process.
The museum achieved charitable status in January 2016 and by now the eligibility questionnaire was under way, as the trustees had agreed to go for full accreditation. A ‘T’ number which reflected ‘Working towards Accreditation’ was received in April 2017 by which time, the trustees had begun the considerable task of preparing an application for full accreditation.
The WMF is a relatively small entity, run by seven trustees with an equally small number of volunteers and supporters. The ensuing process caused the trustees to challenge and refine some of their existing practices and policies. In their darkest moments, they even challenged the necessity, but more rationally were convinced they would prevail.
Full accreditation has been secured and the museum is now ranked in a peer group of much larger national organisations. It is a singular achievement by the trustees and a credit to the Warrington Group of Freemasons. The progress made in a relatively short timescale does prompt the thought posed earlier – “How did we get here?” We did and are proud of the fact.
Please visit us at: http://museum.westlancsfreemasons.org.uk/ and read our October 2018 Newsletter
Pictures by John Starkey and story by Barry Jameson.