In the 2021 New Year Honours, Rachel Nichols and Jennifer Bliss have each been awarded the British Empire Medal for voluntary service to the Topsham Museum.
Both Rachel and Jennifer have been volunteers at the Museum for some 20 years, and have at various times been members of the management team and board of Trustees and have served as Vice Presidents. Together they started the biennial Secret Gardens event which has become an integral part of the Topsham calendar.
Jennifer took over the kitchen at Topsham Museum and managed its development into today’s hugely popular Tea Room. In normal years, she also runs the very successful Christmas Market.
Rachel looks after the Museum collections and worked with Exeter University on their Reframing Vivien Leigh project, which drew on the Vivien Leigh collection at Topsham. This year she has been instrumental in ‘Keeping the Spark Alive’. This incentive to raise funds and give the museum purpose during lockdown has resulted in a virtual tour (www.topshammuseum.org.uk) and printed guide book (funded by the Arts Council through SW Museums), publication of the museum’s first children’s book (The Lockdown Fox) and sale of over 8000 Christmas cards.
Rachel and Jennifer say, ‘Although we have, and do lead teams, the Museum is a totally volunteer-run effort and without the whole volunteer community it would not happen. We are, however, surprised and delighted to be honoured with the award and hope that it will add to the reputation the museum has in the area. We look forward to welcoming visitors back again in April 2021.’
On behalf of the Board of Trustees, Alan Caig, the Vice-Chair says, ‘We are immensely proud of Rachel and Jennifer. They reflect all that is best in the Topsham community and in particular its much-loved Museum.’