COVID threat to Florence Nightingale Museum

19 June 2020

In a somewhat cruel irony, London’s famed Florence Nightingale Museum looks set to become the next victim of the coronavirus.

In what was supposed to be a year dedicated to celebrating the legacy of the nursing pioneer, the Nursing Times reports the charity-run museum is struggling to meet its operational costs of £20,000 per month ($A36,000) following the pandemic lockdown, which has forced it to close its doors to the public indefinitely.

It was Nightingale who famously championed the need for good hand hygiene and personal sanitation more than 150 years ago, a message which has never been more relevant than present times.

Now a special online auction is set to take place as part of a campaign to save the museum from permanent closure.

British auctioneer Charles Hanson, a regular on TV’s Antiques Road Trip, will host an auction from his Derbyshire garden shed on Friday (early tomorrow morning SA time).

Items going under the hammer online include a weekend stay at Florence Nightingale’s family home, a children’s nursing uniform, special edition beer and a Downing St book signed by the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

“Ironically, the pandemic and associated lockdown has devastated what we expected to be a bumper year for the Florence Nightingale Museum,” museum director David Green told the Nursing Times.

He described how the organisation had previously had a diary “full with exhibitions and events” planned for 2020 in order to celebrate Nightingale’s bicentenary year (she was born May 12, 1820).

“We enjoyed our busiest ever day in February half-term, but soon after the effects of the pandemic kicked-in and we had to close,” Mr Green said.

“Prolonged closure and decimated tourist markets for the foreseeable future now threaten the future of the museum, as we rely heavily on admissions and retail income to support our small charity, which receives no core funding from government or elsewhere.”

Mr Green added that he was very grateful to Mr Hansen and said the charity had been “overwhelmed by support” for the auction. “Now we just need plenty of keen bidders,” he said.

The Florence Nightingale Auction will take place 6pm, Friday, June 19 (Adelaide time 2.30am, tomorrow). People can register to bid, browse the catalogue and watch via Mr Hanson’s website:

“I was horrified when I heard that the museum could close,’’ Mr Hansen told the Nursing Times.

“Florence lived for a time in my native Derbyshire. She’s an iconic British historical figure we should all be proud of,” he said.

He stressed that Florence Nightingale's story “must be preserved, not least because it inspires children to take up nursing as a career”.