In March of this year the World Rugby Museum and Twickenham Stadium Tours closed on the advice of Public Health England. It was the first time in the museum’s 24-year history that a public health emergency has necessitated such a drastic course of action. Traditionally the spring months are our busiest and we had a diary that was full of families, schools, international exchange visitors and travel companies and more. One by one the groups were compelled to cancel, and more than a thousand individual visitors moved across to a waiting list, where they have since patiently waited for things to get back to normal.
Like other heritage organisations and museums across Richmond Borough and further afield we closed our doors, our staff worked, initially from home, and were then majority furloughed. The exhibitions that we had carefully curated sat in darkness and others were postponed indefinitely.
Not all of our activities could be mothballed, however. Spring is the season that sees life spring from unexpected corners. As the temperature increased over the summer and humidity began to fluctuate, environmental monitoring needed to take place in our museum and object store to preserve our vast collections.
With millions of schoolchildren stuck at home, our Education Officer Ben also put together online weekly resource packs called ‘School of Ruck’ to help parents home-schooling. These were downloaded more than 10,000 times in just a few weeks with our blog also seeing record numbers of views.
Along with our staff, our volunteers were also stuck at home during the pandemic. Volunteers are the lifeblood of our museum and all of our fantastic Stadium Tour Guides work for us on a voluntary basis. Unable to communicate face-to-face we did so via email and waited for the day when we might return.
Twickenham Stadium, however, has been put-to-use in many ways, not least as a coronavirus testing centre.
With restrictions eased, our big day of reopening finally came in September. Our doors finally opened, and Stadium Tours resumed from Friday 11th September. Things will be a little different of course with family bubbles, social distancing and PPE now firmly ensconced in our day-to-day practice.
We hope, however, that the experience will remain the same. Twickenham Stadium is a place of people, life and action and we can’t wait to welcome you back.
Phil McGowan – World Rugby Museum Curator
Stadium Tours can be booked here
School of Ruck can still be downloaded here- http://worldrugbymuseum.com/school-of-ruck
World Rugby Museum’s From the Vaults blog can be viewed here- http://worldrugbymuseum.blog
You can follow us on twitter, facebook and instagram @wrugbymuseum