The Board of Trustees who are responsible for Creswell Heritage Trust, the registered charity which runs Creswell Crags Museum and Prehistoric Gorge, are delighted to announce that Emma Chaplin, the Director of the Association of Independent Museums is the latest addition to the team. Emma has extensive experience working with museums and heritage sites and she’s also a local – originally from Whitwell just over a mile from Creswell Crags – so she has a very personal interest in Creswell Crags and the region.

We sat down for a chat with Emma, to learn more about her, and her hopes for the future of Creswell Crags as it emerges from COVID-19 enforced closure.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself.  I am from Whitwell and have worked in museums for over 25 years. I am currently the Director of the Association of Independent Museums; we support and champion over 1000 museum and heritage organisations in our membership across the UK. I live on the Wirral now with my partner and my cocker spaniel but am a regular visitor back to Whitwell (and the Crags) to see my family.

What makes Creswell Crags special? The beauty of the landscape and the sense of the deep history around you is absolutely captivating. The work that the Trust does to bring the history and story of the Crags to life, ensures that it is a place that will inspire wonder in future generations too.

What are you looking forward to most about being a trustee at Creswell Crags? I am looking forward to understanding more about how the Trust operates and hoping that my own skills and experience will be useful in meeting the immediate challenges that Covid presents but also ensuring that the we can develop, strengthen and grow enjoyment and understanding of the Crags for local, national and international audiences.

What do you see as the future for Creswell Crags, post-COVID-19? The economic challenges that Covid has brought to independent, charitable heritage organisations is considerable but the Trust has shown itself to be capable to stepping up to the immediate challenge of survival and is taking the opportunity to be creative and innovative about how it can sustain its operation in the future whilst developing a visitor experience (eg cave tours) that is safe, viable and enjoyable. Times are hard but this is an opportunity to lay the foundations for a successful future for the Trust and the Crags.

You work with independent museums up and down the country. Do you have favourites? I am not allowed to have favourites! But I do love the variety of museums in AIM’s membership and what they have to offer, from the traditional fish and chips at the Black Country Living Museum to the new and exciting National Videogame Museum in Sheffield or the volunteer run Penmaenmawr Museum in North Wales that has successfully relocated and expanded to the former post office in the town. Independent museums showcase the rich cultural heritage of the whole UK and the passion and creativity of the people who work and volunteer in them.

Why is it important that emergency funding has been found for museums and heritage sites? Independent museums lost all their earned income overnight when the country locked down in March. Ironically, those who were most successful at generating income through admissions, shops, cafes, events, weddings, school visits etc were hardest hit. The emergency funding that has been available to date through government, Arts Council England, National Lottery Heritage Fund and others has prevented the immediate collapse of many museums and the loss of museum collections and historic sites. Further funding will be required to support recovery and adaptation as ‘business as usual’ will clearly not return for the foreseeable future.

Why does heritage matter? Why should people care about museums and heritage sites?
The heritage around us gives us a sense of our place in the world, who we are and what makes our communities special today. As a child growing up in Whitwell I found it amazing that the Crags was where our Ice Age ancestors had lived and was so proud to have such an amazing place at the edge of our village
An understanding of the past gives us the best opportunity to make the most of the present and the future

Do you have anything else to say? I have been heartened to see the outpouring of love and support for the Crags both locally and across the world in recent months; that support will be vital as we work to secure a successful future. I am delighted to be joining the Trust and have the opportunity to play a part in the future of the Crags-thank you.