MARLIPINS Museum in Shoreham is one of the oldest Norman buildings in Sussex, with a striking chequerboard flint and Caen limestone facade.
But time and the ravages of the sea have taken a heavy toll on the grade II* listed building and now roof repairs costing £30,000 are needed.
Although the Sussex Archaelogical Society, which owns the building, expects the work to be mainly funded by grants, donations will also be sought.
Museums officer Emma O’Connor said: “It is the sort of job that should be grant aided but we will need some help with donations.
“We can’t replace the roof because it is a listed building. The Horsham slate has to be re-bedded on to mortar and some of the timber has gone rotten.
“There is no disguising it, we are near to the river and near to the sea, so whatever way you cut it, it is going to be exposed.”
Work is planned for the 2014/15 winter period, partly to give the society time to get the funding and partly to deal with the listed building requirements.
Emma explained: “Everthing they use, nails, tiles, lathes, etc., have to be agreed with the English Heritage in advance.
“We don’t want to do it during the peak opening season because we would need most of the galleries to be closed.”
The good news is that once the work is complete, it will improve the temperatures in the sometimes cold upper galleries.
“When we have the building work done, the whole building envelope should increase, so it won’t feel so cold, as the damp will reduce,” said Emma.
She has worked for the society for 20 years and has been curator at the Marlipins for two years.
Along with safety officer James Thatcher, she is in charge of the society’s entire stock of eight properties, including Anne of Cleves House in Lewes and Michelham Priory.
Exhibits reflecting the rich history of the area, including the birth of the film industry and Shoreham’s maritime past, are housed at the Marlipins Museum.
There are more than 2,500 exhibits, dating from prehistoric to medieval times, including the two world wars, Shoreham Beach Nature Reserve and Shoreham Airport, the first licensed airfield in the country.
Curator Emma O’Connor said the ship’s surgeon equipment, including saws, was always popular with children but her personal favourite was a ship made from bones.
The quirky model was made in March 1934 by J. Roach, from Littlehampton, using a turkey breast bone for the hull.
Emma said: “That is the sort of stuff that was made on hulks.”
The museum does sometimes receive new exhibits, mainly photographs of the past.
“The divers are really good at bringing in odd things that they find and people often bring in photographs,” Emma added.
The museum, in High Street, Shoreham, is open May to October, Tuesday to Saturday, 10.30am to 4.30pm.
But during the winter, there is a coffee morning every Friday in the exhibitions gallery, organised by the Friends of Marlipins Museum.
A series of lunchtime lectures are also planned for the new year.
During the main season, the Friends volunteers open the museum on a daily basis and Emma said that without them, the museum wouldn’t be able to keep open.
Next year, there will be a special exhibition from the museum’s painting collection, lasting the whole season.
Emma said: “We have got a fantastic, large collection and the majority of ships in fact do have a reason for being in our collection.
“They were owned or captained by Shoreham crew but they are not painted in Shoreham, the pictures show the vessels in foreign parts.
“A lot of the artists were well-known in their own countries so the captains had the paintings done while they were in port.
“In a way, you don’t get that in any other painting collection, the international element.”
Again, the Friends are playing a vital role, with the volunteer curators doing all the research on the paintings.
Admission is £2.50 adults, £1 children. A reduced price for groups of 10 or more is available. Visit sussexpast.co.uk or www.friendsofmarlipins.org.uk for more information, or contact the museum on 01273 462994.