On the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern-day nursing, the museum celebrating her life and achievements, The Florence Nightingale Museum, is now facing imminent closure due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Now Derbyshire auctioneer and TV regular Charles Hanson is calling for help to save the tourist and historical attraction and planning to host an auction to raise much needed funds.
The museum, which opened 30 years ago to honour Nightingale, needs to raise around £160,000. A small independent charity, it is in dire financial straits after being forced to close due to the Covid-19 pandemic – just as it prepared to celebrate the legendary nurse’s bicentenary year. Nightingale was born 200 years ago on May 12, 1820 and record visitors had been expected in 2020 to enjoy a ‘Nightingale in 200 Objects, People and Places’ exhibition, created to mark the milestone.
After discovering the museum’s plight, Charles, a regular on TV’s Bargain Hunt and Antiques Road Trip, contacted the tourist attraction and offered to run an online charity auction in lockdown from his Derbyshire garden shed to raise funds.
In April, Charles had hosted an auction in his garden shed to raise £38,000 for the NHS with lots donated by celebrities such as Drew Pritchard from TV’s Salvage Hunters and actor Neil Morrissey.
This time, every penny raised will go to the Florence Nightingale Museum, which is based at St Thomas’s Hospital in London, the place where Nightingale established her nursing school.
But auction lots are desperately needed and Charles is hoping the people of Britain, including celebrities and important figures, will rally round to donate items or experiences to secure the future of what he regards as one of the nation’s most important museums.
He said: “Every week we’re gathering outside our homes to clap the NHS, such is our love and respect for nurses and health care workers. We’ve even built Nightingale Hospitals to fight coronavirus. And yet this museum, which honours a global nursing icon, faces closure. No visitors means no income, and the situation could last 18 months. Enough to finish off any small charity.
“I was horrified when I learned about the museum’s plight. Florence Nightingale is one of Britain’s greatest historical figures. The image of the ‘Lady with the Lamp’ caring for soldiers during the Crimean War is iconic. Her lamp is in the museum. She pioneered nursing as we know it today.
“The loss of this museum is unthinkable. I’m determined to do all I can to get it out of intensive care and back into the recovery ward. St Thomas’s saved our prime minister. Now it’s time for us to save a museum based there which inspires children to take up nursing.
“As a man who loves history, I also want to celebrate Florence’s connections to my home county of Derbyshire. She lived in the village of Lea, near Cromford, and I’ve been fortunate enough to auction items connected to her. We can all play our part in ensuring her story is told for years to come.”
David Green, director of the award-winning Florence Nightingale Museum, said: “I’m grateful to Charles and hope people will support the Florence Nightingale Shed Auction. We’re trying everything possible to secure funding but it’s not easy. We’ve also set up a GofFundMe page.
“Until the virus struck, the museum was flying high. Visitor numbers had doubled in the last two years and we were expecting 72,000 people this year. Thanks to our success, we’d invested in an exhibition and events to mark Nightingale’s bicentenary on May 12, 2020, which is also International Nursing Day. That plan has backfired dramatically as we now have four months operating costs left and will struggle to pay back the investment as we have no visitors.
“And yet we enjoyed our busiest ever day in February 2020, just prior to the launch of our bicentenary programme on March 5. Secretary of State Matt Hancock was due to open it but he was called away to appear on TV to answer coronavirus questions.
“Nevertheless, many of the nation’s leading nurses joined us to celebrate the event, recognising the work we do in encouraging children to consider a nursing career and thanking those within the profession. We are a popular venue for training and tell stories about nurses, both historic and contemporary. Nightingale is the starting point, but we do so much more.
“On March 17 we closed the museum as London became a ghost town. We had just three visitors on March 16. We don’t know when we can reopen and face challenges due to our location in a central London hospital. Market predictions suggest visits will be as low as 20% of 2019 levels for 18 months. Social distancing may also mean we can’t operate school visits and group tours. Our 2020 diary had been packed.
“We’re an independent small charity which receives no core funding from government or elsewhere. We rely almost entirely on admission revenue and shop sales.
“March to June are traditionally our busiest months, particularly Easter, bank holidays and International Nurses Week. This period supports the quieter times and makes us sustainable. We’re currently losing around £2,000-£3,000 per day which we would have expected to take.
“We’re seeking to raise around £160,000 to see us through this challenging period and ensure the museum survives. Despite furloughing most of our 13 staff, we have operating costs of around £20,000 per month, including a small staffing contingent to maintain security and conservation of the collections and fundraising.”
The Florence Nightingale Shed Auction is due to take place on Friday, June 5 at 7pm from Charles Hanson’s garden shed near Derby. To donate a lot, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Donations can also be made directly to the museum via its Go Fund Me page.