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Best-ever year for The National Museum of the Royal Navy

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The National Museum of the Royal Navy is celebrating its best-ever performance across the country and at its managed destination brand, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

Since its formation in 2009 the National Museum, which is based in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, has merged the four service museums representing the submarine service, the Fleet Air Arm Museum, the Royal Marines and the surface fleet and brought HMS Victory into the charity sector. It now has a national reach of over 1.2 million visitors, up 20% this year.

The management of the destination brand Portsmouth Historic Dockyard transferred to the National Museum in 2014 and under its stewardship visitor numbers to the site are at an all-time high at over 850,000.

At the destination Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, The National Museum owns and manages HMS Victory; HMS Warrior 1860; The National Museum of the Royal Navy Portsmouth; Gosport’s Royal Navy Submarine Museum and Explosion Museum of the Naval Firepower plus HMS M.33. A brand new Royal Marines Museum will open in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard in 2020 and an innovative Centre for Discovery housing two million collection items.

The museum works in partnership with The Mary Rose Trust which runs the independent Mary Rose Museum and Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust which manages Boathouse 4 and Action Stations.

In Portsmouth alone £4 million will be invested in historic ship conservation during 2018. Conservation expertise and professional stewardship of historic ships was one of the compelling reasons the Warrior Preservation Trust transferred ownership of HMS Warrior 1860 to the National Museum during 2016. Other ships currently being cared for in Portsmouth include Cold War submarine HMS Alliance in Gosport and First World War survivor HMS M.33.

Working nationally, when at full complement, the museum will have a 22-strong team specialising in areas of conservation, archaeology, maintenance and management to oversee the care of these important vessels.

A notable project is the £3 million re-support of HMS Victory which is currently underway and serves as a pre-cursor to the ship’s larger £35 million, 15 year conservation project. Awarded to BAE Systems, this ambitious engineering feat is seeing 134 props installed to arrest the movement of the ship’s hull within the dry dock when she has been since 1922.

One of the National Museum’s conservators has fulfilled an ambassadorial role for the Antarctic Heritage Trust which conserves the expedition bases of the Antarctic explorers including Captain Robert Falcon Scott, Sir Ernest Shackleton and Sir Edmund Hillary.

This year it was announced that £5 million of funding had been achieved by the National Museum from the National Lottery for the conservation of the unique Second World War D-Day survivor Landing Craft Tank (LCT) 7074 which will be a highlight in the soon-to-be-reopened D-Day Museum in Portsmouth, an affiliate.

Further afield, the restoration of First World War survivor HMS Caroline in Belfast has been hailed and the attraction recently won a world leading award for visitor attractions. In the North East, over £300,000 has been invested in the conservation of HMS Trincomalee this calendar year at The National Museum of the Royal Navy Hartlepool.

An executive summary of the Impact of Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, researched by the University of Portsmouth’s Business School has reported “As an iconic and historical landmark, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard plays a key role in influencing the local region’s economic and social landscape. Beyond the city of Portsmouth and the South Coast, the Dockyard has a national and global influence attracting visitors and media interest from all around the world.
Portsmouth Historic Dockyard has an economic impact on the local economy, in the Solent Local Economic Partnership area, equal to £110.4 million every year. This is equivalent to 2,750 full time jobs and £83 million expenditure.”

With national commemorations to mark the ending of the First World War later in 2018, this will coincide with the culmination of the National Museum’s Great Sea at War campaign.

Matthew Sheldon, Director of Heritage at The National Museum of the Royal Navy said “To coincide with the centenary of the First World War, the National Museum was determined to demonstrate that far from being a war fought in France and in the trenches, the First World War was fought at sea and this had a huge influence on its outcome. We sparked a national debate about the Battle of Jutland, was it the greatest sea battle ever and the one that won the war?
Our investment in the navy story during the First World War stands at £23,150,000 and includes the opening, in Portsmouth, of the HMS galleries featuring the Racing to War exhibition; Gallipoli veteran HMS M.33; a blockbuster exhibition 36 Hours: Jutland 1916, The Battle That Won The War; an exhibition highlighting the centenary of the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS) and, in Belfast, the opening of HMS Caroline, which featured as one of just three national commemorative events to mark the centenary of the Battle of Jutland.
In Portsmouth it has given us the perfect opportunity to reconfigure the offer at the Historic Dockyard, which for many years, was simply the home of the three ships Victory, Warrior and the Mary Rose and to include the 20th century which had been missing from our interpretation. Essential to this was including the already successful restoration and opening of cold war pioneer HMS Alliance and the acquisition the acquisition of D-Day survivor LCT 7074 for our affiliate, the D-Day Museum.”

Professor Dominic Tweddle, Director General of The National Museum of the Royal Navy said “This year has demonstrated the benefit to Portsmouth of being the headquarters of a national museum. Our performance at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard bodes well for all our museums around the country as it serves as a stimulus. It highlights the importance of museums and the cultural offer in economic development and reflects what we are doing particularly in partnership with the Department of the Economy Northern Ireland and Hartlepool Borough Council.
When Her Majesty The Queen commissioned the newest aircraft carrier, her namesake, in its home port of Portsmouth in December, it was no coincidence that she namechecked HMS Victory twice in her speech. Victory remains one of the most important ships in Royal Navy history and her enduring appeal means Portsmouth will remain a tourist magnet for decades to come. The ship’s conservation remains one of our greatest priorities.
A £17 million investment in a brand new Royal Marines Museum and a Centre for Discovery that will transform naval heritage are just two of our projects in Portsmouth due to open in 2020. We may be the youngest of the national museums but I suspect we are the busiest!”

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