Caretakers for maritime treasures call for support as Covid-19 forces closures

Caretakers of national maritime treasures HMS Victory and the Mary Rose have called for financial support from the public and the Government to help preserve the historic ships as they shut their doors in response to the Covid-19 outbreak.

The Museum of the Royal Navy (RMRN) has announced it is closing all of its sites from Wednesday in Portsmouth, Gosport, Belfast, Yeovilton and Hartlepool – which include Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory, the world’s oldest commissioned warship.

HMS Victory
HMS Victory (NMRN/PA)

And the Mary Rose Museum – the home of Henry VIII’s flagship, located next to Victory in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, shut its doors on Tuesday.

Both museums have called for continuing public financial support to help cover the losses from the indefinite closures.

Professor Dominic Tweddle, director general of the NMRN, said: “It is with a heavy heart we have decided to close all of the sites of The National Museum of the Royal Navy in response to the escalating Covid-19 situation.

“There have been no diagnosed cases of the virus on site, however we felt that like our colleagues across the museum and heritage sector, closure of the sites was now the best decision to maintain the health and wellbeing of our staff, volunteers and visitors.

“The National Museum of the Royal Navy is a registered charity and while we have received significant donations in the past, we still rely heavily on our visitors to help continue to keep the museum’s sites and collections maintained for the public to enjoy.

“A large portion of our annual income comes directly from our ticket sales, with the majority generated during April-September, making this very challenging times ahead for our business.”

Mary Rose Museum press preview
The remains of Henry VIII’s favourite ship the Mary Rose (Jonathan Brady/PA)

A spokeswoman for the Mary Rose Museum said: “The Trust’s whole income for the year is now at risk.

“While the Trust will save some costs through the public closure, the majority of costs do continue, as we have to care for the unique Tudor collection, even at a time of crisis.

“Mary Rose’s fragile archaeological objects, dramatically rescued from their seabed home in 1982 after 437 years under water, have to be kept at a set temperature and humidity to preserve them for future generations to enjoy.

“The costs associated with this include specialist staff time, multiple complex systems and equipment to heat, cool and dehumidify air 24/7/365 days a year, as well as significant energy bills.

“We continue to lobby local MPs, Government and public funders to help with the costs of caring for Mary Rose during this difficult closed period.”

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