The fight against the coronavirus continues, and the world faces an uncertain future as scientists race to find a vaccine to mark the end of the crippling pandemic. But as we adjust to today’s new normal, businesses are scrambling to find a way to survive.
In an unfortunate – and ironic – turn of events, a museum, formerly the home of physician and vaccination pioneer Edward Jenner, may have to permanently close its doors due to financial issues caused by the pandemic.
Dr Jenner’s House, Museum and Garden – the doctor’s home-turned-museum in Berkeley, England – commemorates the efforts of Jenner, who changed the world after introducing the smallpox vaccine in 1798.
Like most museums, Dr. Jenner’s House was required to shut down because of the pandemic. The museum, which costs about $92,000 a year to keep it running, is losing its only source of revenue: the income generated between April and September while the museum is open to visitors.
“We have made some significant changes in recent years and planned this year to carry out further work to diversify our income and increase our resilience,” the museum said on its official website in a plea for donations.
“If we were able to achieve our planned visitor income then we would have been on course for another successful year. With each passing day of closure, however, this is looking less likely. A prolonged closure puts our future at risk.”
Even when closed, the museum costs around $250 per day to preserve the home. As an independent charity, 70% of their annual income comes from visitors.
Now the museum is urging supporters to help keep Dr. Jenner’s House running through donations. In return, donors can choose various rewards – such as a ticket to the museum for a $7 donation or three science books for a $55 donation.
The founder of vaccinology
Jenner, who originally came up with the terms “vaccinia” and “vaccine,” was the first to use infectious matter from cowpox to stimulate defensive immunity to smallpox by intentional “vaccination.”
“There’s a cold irony in the idea that the birthplace of vaccination, one of the most important sites in the history of medicine, is forced to closed and could be permanently closed by a global pandemic,” museum manager Owen Gower told the Smithsonian Magazine.
Inside the walls of his 18th century home, Jenner published a book explaining how cow pox, a mild disease, could be used to protect against the smallpox. The physician took it a step farther by building a hut he called the “Temple of Vaccinia” in his garden, where he vaccinated poor people for free.
By 1979, smallpox was eradicated after the World Health Organization used Jenner’s discovery to identify and trace cases of smallpox and vaccinating those at risk.
More than 50 years after his death in 1823, Jenner’s family sold his property to the Church of England. In 1985, a private charity now known as The Jenner Trust, founded by leading doctors and immunologists, purchased the property and turned it into a museum.