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Colchester: Zoo’s Stand Tall 50th anniversary celebrations are hailed for bringing more visitors to the town

The giraffes from Colchester Zoo’s Stand Tall project are collected from education sponsor Sportsafe UK

The giraffes from Colchester Zoo’s Stand Tall project are collected from education sponsor Sportsafe UK

Colchester’s popular Stand Tall project has been credited as one of the reasons behind an 8% rise in the number of visitors to the town’s two museums last year.

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Stand Tall - 50 years of Colchester ZooStand Tall - 50 years of Colchester Zoo

In the nine months from April 1 to December 31, 2013, Hollytrees Museum and the Natural History Museum saw total visitors jump by 3,851 from the same period in 2012.

This jump coincided with the temporary closure of Colchester Castle for a major revamp – the historic site will be reopened later in the year by the Princess Royal.

Stand Tall saw dozens of decorated giraffe statues dotted around the borough to mark the 50th anniversary of the opening of Colchester Zoo.

In a report to the Colchester and Ipswich Museum Service Joint Committee, which met yesterday, officers outlined the background to the figures, which showed that 51,507 people had entered the two sites over the nine months in question, compared to 47,656 throughout the same period the year before.

Norman Castle in ColchesterNorman Castle in Colchester

The report said: “Combined venue visitor figures increased by +8% on the same period last year due to a large increase in Natural History Museum visitors.

“The increase in visitors began in the first quarter and continued during the summer period including the summer school holidays.

“This is likely to partially reflect the very successful Stand Tall campaign of public art (giraffes) located around Colchester and Essex for 10 weeks during the summer in 2013, to mark the 50th anniversary of Colchester Zoo.

“It also reflects the popularity of the museum with families as a free drop-in educational activity, recent refreshment of displays, and a project involving local community group volunteers improving the museum’s garden.”

However the three Ipswich museums run by the service – Ipswich High Street Museum, Christchurch Mansion and Ipswich Art School Gallery – saw a collective drop of 5% in the total number of visitors during the same period, from 86,403 during the first three-quarters of 2012/13 to 82,477 in the same period in 2013/14.

The report offers some explanations as to why.

“The autumn touring exhibition This Me of Mine although part of an important and interesting artistic project, lacked popular appeal and the lessons learnt will be carried forward into future programming,” officers said.

“The Once Upon a Time exhibition, the first Museum collection generated exhibition in the Art School, is already attracting significantly increased audiences.

“A Grants for the Arts bid to Arts Council England, if successful, will support the development of the artistic programme.”

The report also shows that the 2013/14 budget for the service carried forward a deficit of -£64,000 from 2012/13.

This was largely a consequence of the loss of income during the Colchester Castle refurbishment and the loss of Renaissance funding.

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