VISITORS are so confused about what goes on at a facility dedicated to the history of the New Forest that charity organisers have decided to change its name.
Since it was opened by the Duke of Edinburgh in 1988, the building in the centre of Lyndhurst has switched from being the New Forest Museum to the New Forest Centre – and is now the New Forest Heritage Centre.
The attraction in the village centre car park draws an annual 220,000 people to its free-to-enter museum, and also boasts a gallery, library, education service, shop and café.
This year is its 30th birthday; it was built thanks to a fundraising campaign launched in 1979 when the New Forest was celebrating its 900th anniversary.
Mary Montagu-Scott, chair of the New Forest Ninth Centenary Trust which runs the newly-named heritage centre, explained: “There has been confusion in the past as to what we do at the centre.
“Changing our name to the New Forest Heritage Centre makes our mission clear – to share the history of the New Forest with everyone.
“To tie in with the new name, we have an updated website which is cleaner, simpler, and much easier to navigate.
“Operating as a charity, and because entry to both the museum and library is free, we are totally dependent upon donations from organisations, businesses and the public.
“By changing our name and launching a new website, we hope to welcome more visitors into our heritage centre wishing to learn more about the New Forest: past, present and future.”
The New Forest Ninth Centenary Trust was founded in 1979 to commemorate the 900 years since the creation of the New Forest by William the Conqueror.
The heritage centre has expanded since its launch with an extension in 2003, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, and the opening of a new reference library. It gained extra importance with the establishment of the national park in 2005.
The New Forest Heritage Centre, which is open nearly every day of the year, is the only museum dedicated to the social and natural history of the area.
Its aim is to inspire visitors to explore and value the New Forest by collecting, conserving and interpreting its collections, and providing educational activities and information.
The heritage centre’s current exhibition in conjunction with the Commoners’ Defence Association is Commoning Voices, giving an insight into the New Forest commoning community.
For further information, visit www.newforestcentre.org.uk