10 Ways to Support Heritage Sites In The Middle of a Lockdown

Heritage sites like museums, stately homes and historic monuments are set to close again, and rely heavily on ticket sales to function. Kensington Palace alone has announced a £100m shortfall in their finances this year. They all need our support more than ever, and here's how you can help. 

Natural History Museum, London. Photo by Claudio Testa on Unsplash

Buy a gift day-ticket
Some museums offer the facility to buy a gift ticket for, say anytime in the next 12 months, although this will vary depending on the site. This means that you can buy your ticket now and enjoy a day out when lockdown ends and we can all visit our favourite places again. Check out websites to see who offers this. The Mary Rose Museum in Portsmouth is one. 

Shop at their online gift shop
The Natural History Museum in London, British Museum and Victoria and Albert Museum all have online shops that you can browse from the comfort of your sofa. A fair proportion of income comes from gift shop sales - yes, even that giant pencil counts that you buy your kids on a day out - so instead of bulk ordering from, say, Amazon, consider buying your gift from your favourite heritage site instead. Hampton Court Palace has everything from books, jewellery and socks,  while the NHM has clothing, jewellery and dinosaurs. And who doesn't love dinosaurs? Check the website of your local museum or heritage site to see if they have an online shop open during lockdown. 

Can you still visit? 
If you have an open air heritage site very near where you live you might find it's still open, although check the relevant website before setting off. Travel in a lockdown is restricted to essential travel only, and use of public transport for leisure is strongly discouraged, but if you live literally a stone's throw from a ruined castle, historic church or Roman wall you could walk there for your hour of daily exercise. Share the photos on social media and you'll encourage others to add it to their bucket lists for 2021. Be careful though, as guidelines will vary and not all open-air sites will stay open, so check with the site and your local regulations before you go - and go only if you live within a short walking distance. 

Buy a membership
Many heritage sites offer membership - like National Trust, or English Heritage - where you can buy one flat ticket to support the work they do, but then you can visit lots of different sites under their 'umbrella' with no entrance fee. I've seen some sites offer this on a smaller scale, and not just the big charities. Hever Castle for example, offers an annual membership. Your membership fee helps to support the sites and charities with ongoing funds, even when visitor levels are low. Then you can plan your days out and visit yourself. 

Share your old photos
You know what I did in #Lockdown1? I went through all my old photos of days out at my favourite places and I started sharing them - and my memories of them - to my social media. Some people might be frustrated to see photos of places that are currently off limits, but remember we will return to a time when we can visit them again. It could inspire people to visit - I know that I'm itching to visit Hever Castle after seeing the tumbling red leaves down the stone walls this year all over Twitter. Spreading the word keeps the excitement going and that's good for the sites. 

Tune in to virtual talks
One of the things I noticed during the last lockdown is how interesting historic information and expert talks became much more accessible. Where you'd normally have to jump on a train to visit an attraction on a certain day to hear a talk on, say, The Gunpower Plot, now you can book a ticket online, tune in and listen to Lucy Worsley herself from your sofa with a cup of tea. Some talks are free, others have a set ticket price and others - like the recent Historic Royal Palaces ones - are officially free, but ask for a donation. Any amount you can give will make a difference. 

Just donate
If you're feeling generous, and just want to help, you can always make a donation to support the work of your favourite heritage sites. Yes, you don't automatically get free tickets for a year but you do get the feel-good vibes for doing your bit to preserve heritage sites for ours and future generations. Check out individual websites to find out how to do this, most of them will have a 'donate' button on their site. 

Visit virtual exhibitions 
This year, although we've been locked down and restricted for most of it, I swear I've visited more museums and stately homes than any other year before - and all from my computer. I visited the Gloucester History Festival and looked at exhibits from their museum I wouldn't have been normally been able to travel to. I logged on and viewed items at the Mary Rose Museum - in 360 degrees, no less. Check this list of other virtual things you can do this month

Plan a visit
Just because the doors are closed, and we're restricted in our travel, it doesn't mean we can't look forward to when we can go out again and plan future trips for when everything calms down. I'm going to visit Hever Castle and have plans to escape to Falmouth and York for a few days, too. Just by planning and creating an intention, it makes it more likely that we'll get to these places, even if it's next year. Being restricted in your leisure movements can have an effect on your mental health, and I find that planning fun things to do in the future takes me out of the lockdown doldrums and makes me feel hopeful for the fun days out I plan to enjoy when we're able to. 

Tweet, Retweet, Repost and Share
Even though the doors of museums and stately homes are securely locked, the social media team will likely be busy working from home, and they'll be grateful for our support. Did they just share about an interesting find? A video of the bells ringing at sunset? Or a new product in their online shop? Share and follow. Supporting them on social media costs nothing and takes just half a second to tap the retweet button but spreads the word about the work they're doing, creates awareness, helps engagement and also gives them a boost in some of the social media algorithms. 

Can you think of any other ways you can support your heritage sites, from home? Let me know in the comments below. And also share any other historical virtual events that you've heard about for other readers to enjoy this month, too. 

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