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Struggling to stay afloat, Maritime Museum takes one-month hibernation

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The Queensland Maritime Museum (QMM) only reopened its doors to the public a few weeks ago but now with low visitor numbers, a decimated volunteer base and costly cleaning fees, the historic centre has entered a month-long state of hibernation in an effort to stay afloat.

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The museum’s chief executive Emma Di Muzio said the QMM would be closed to visitors for November as the volunteer-run not-for-profit centre developed a strategy to weather the recession and global pandemic.

“At the beginning of March when COVID started to infiltrate communities and all of Australia, we closed our doors because we would have a lot of people coming straight off cruise ships … especially international tourists,” Di Muzio said.

“We had tourists coming in and the first people to greet them would be people who are now deemed to be vulnerable.

“We were worried for the health and safety of our vulnerable volunteers.”

This meant the museum’s original 178 volunteers — who were responsible for ticket offices, the shop and maintaining the site’s vessels and artifacts — have had to be replaced.

The museum, situated along the Brisbane River at South Brisbane, reopened in mid-September under a COVID-safe plan.

But with just 40 new replacement volunteers on deck, it was only staffed to open on weekends.

Seventy per cent of the QMM’s visitors hail from overseas, interstate and regional Queensland.

While local visitors have helped to buoy the museum’s revenue, reduced operating hours have made it hard to get enough people through the door.

Riverside museum on the brink

Di Muzio said shutting up shop was the “responsible” move to ensure the collections could be maintained without high levels of expenditure.

“I think most organisations, hit with the impact of COVID, would be looking at how close they are to insolvency,” Di Muzio said.

“Every organisation is probably looking at how fine that line is.

“It’s very sad to see that we are struggling with this, to keep the organisation afloat.

“But if people realised just what they had, perhaps that wouldn’t be the case.”

The museum will be closed to visitors for the month of November, excluding events on the site such as twilight jazz performances.

– ABC / Edwina Seselja

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