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The FIMA Friends support Falklands' heritage by raising funds to aid the Museum and the Archives in increasing our collection through purchases and donations. The Friends receive regular newsletters detailing the work they do and any related news. Other benefits of becoming a Friend include free admission to the museum and affiliated events.
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Life does not always conform to plan. On retirement I saw several ex-Governors/Commissioners involved with charities or other organisations linked with those territories. I decided not to make the field more crowded. However, a letter I received from David Tatham in 2013 aroused my interest. He spoke of a group who had been talking about creating a ‘Friends of the Museum’ group to support the Museum and Archives in Stanley. The cause was a good one, and it is always good to be in at the beginning of something, so I accepted the invitation to join the group at their next meeting, being careful to make crystal clear that I had a lot on my plate so they must not think I would… they ignored that, and I emerged as Chairman of FIMA Friends.
Slowly we got underway. A small charity with a bit of a niche interest can find it difficult to impact. So as recently as last June, I recall that we had about £3,000 in the kitty and were wondering how best to recruit more members and build our financial base. Quite remarkably, four months later, our bank account showed a balance of around £1,553,500. Give or take.
The hint of a change came when Mensun Bound mentioned the possibility that funding for a search for the German warships sunk in the Battle of the Falklands might pass through the Friends’ account. When I met the philanthropist who was interested in funding Mensun’s search, it was clear that this was a serious plan. I recognised that if I was to fulfil my responsibilities as Chairman of FIMA Friends, I had better do something about it. The donor’s aim was that part of the sum donated was to be for the Museum, to be used at the discretion of the Friends, regardless of the outcome of the search.
As FIMA Friends was not set up in a way that was suitable for concluding contracts for maritime search operations, we created a new charity in the form of a company limited by guaranteed. That would be party to the search contracts and to any contracts relating to the making of a documentary film – which would be destined for the museum. Thus the Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust (FMHT) came into being.
As FMHT would need time to open a bank account, the donation, however, came to FIMA Friends, which was therefore entitled to claim the Gift Aid refunds – that should come to around £450,000, the bulk of which we have already received.
So now the Friends are in a position to give meaningful support to the Archives and Museum. The National Archivist’s priority is special copying equipment, and we are pursuing that. As to the Museum, the Committee of both FIMA Friends and the FMHT had a meeting with the Museum Manager during her recent visit to London. We had a good discussion of the possibilities and of the Museum’s likely priorities. Leona Roberts, the Manager, is now considering a ‘wish list’ of what the Friends could do to support the Museum and National Trust – both large items and ‘quick wins’. We have, however, already procured a few items that will find a new home in Stanley.
I want to say in conclusion how satisfying it is to lend support to those who have executed so successfully the project to move the Museum into a new more prominent site. I hear nothing but praise for the Museum. And everyone associated with the project can take pride in the fact that the Historic Dockyard Museum was short-listed for a Museum and Heritage Award in competition with leading museums throughout the world. We did not win but the view among Leona Roberts’ peers in the heritage profession is that even to be nominated is a great achievement and the Falkland Islands received many positive references during the awards ceremony.
There are therefore exciting times ahead for the FIMA Friends, and indeed also for the FMHT, which is entitled to a slice of the action. We still need to recruit members, but now we have a credibility that I hope will make us worthy of continuing support.
Donald A Lamont
Friends of The Falkland Islands Museum & National Trust and The Jane Cameron National Archives
The historic heart of Stanley
Falkland Islands Museum & National Trust