The Brunel Museum in Rotherhithe sits on the site of the Thames Tunnel, the first successful underwater tunnel anywhere in the world – and Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s very first engineering project, alongside his father Marc Brunel
In 2017, the Brunel Museum acquired the Thames Tunnel watercolours – a series of images, hand drawn and coloured by Marc Brunel, his son Isambard Kingdom Brunel, and their assistant engineers. The watercolours had spent the last five years in storage, and prior to that were tucked away in family albums. They are striking artworks in their own right, full of humanity, showing that innovative technical drawings can also be beautiful.
To get the watercolours out of the archives and safely displayed, the Brunel Museum needed to raise funds to commission, design, and build a bespoke display case – making it possible to display the watercolours safely on site, protected for future generations, and suited to the specific conditions of the museum’s own engine house,
They used the Art Fund’s crowdfunding platform for museums and galleries: Art Happens. This meant the museum could benefit from the Art Fund’s zero-fee fundraising as well as their support with creating and fulfilling rewards. I worked with them to ensure the smoothest-possible running of the campaign, planning and structuring the communications involved, and coordinating between Brunel Museum volunteers, staff, and Art Fund team members to build a strong team.
As a result of our campaign, we have created a community of advocates who are excited about the Museum’s collection and future plans. The success of the crowdfunding campaign also inspired our trustees into becoming committed advocates, confident in asking for donations from friends, family and colleagues. Asking for help can be one of the most powerful tools.Katherine McAlpine, Brunel Museum director
The Museum are beginning the commissioning process for the display case, and meanwhile have also been able to announce an amazing £1.85m Heritage Fund grant for the Brunel Museum Reinvented project, which will:
- restore the existing Engine House back to its former glory and create a new gallery and experience
- build a new Welcome Pavilion with a café, shop and accessible facilities
- create a programme of free community events throughout the project
- develop an educational programme to allow more people to learn about the history of the Brunels