The first part of 2024 has been a period of rethinking after missing out with the Heritage Lottery Fund and therefore looking forwards around how best to reshape the Clock House project. As the great Douglas Adams said, it’s important not to panic! The result? Good optimism, peppered with some very practical considerations, and the confidence not to rush. We want to get this right, and planning the best way to achieve success is to go slowly.

And the first small step is a significant one – light! As many people may have noticed walking around the harbour recently, lights are on again in the Clock House and occasionally the historic building stands out dramatically against a wintry afternoon sky.

We’re a long way to go, of course, but the reason for the lights is important and pleasing. Now the building and collection are back in the safe hands of the TDC, initial remedial works have begun and we have taken our first, very small, steps towards reopening. Electrical services are being improved, replaced, made safe – essential for any future working to be allowed in the Clock House. In addition, the beginnings of a new temperature control system is being added – low tech for now, but a very important step to begin the careful process of safeguarding the collection.

Once the building has it’s metaphorical ‘MOT certificate`— expected in the very near future — we can gain safe and legal access to the galleries once again. The first piece of the puzzle is then to carry out a complete audit and condition check of the collection objects. And puzzle is the right word! Over the years, information has become sketchy at best — objects have been moved, storerooms changed around, displays revised, etc. etc. — without proper records being kept.

By completing the audit, and establishing a digital record of the whole collection, for the first time we will have a very precise understanding of what we have, including new descriptions and photographs. We have ambitions to achieve Museum Accreditation down the line and it’s essential that we behave like a museum from the outset. So, this work will be carried out as per museum process – and that takes time.

Once the audit is completed, stage two of the collection safeguarding can happen –packing and prepping all objects, ready to be moved out of the Clock House ahead of the renovation work beginning later in the year.

So, although there’s still a mountain to climb, progress so far in 2024 is good. We are taking small, good steps!

Rob Warren

Museum & Gallery Consultant and Ramsgate Society Committee Member