FRIENDS and supporters of Dimbola Galleries and Museum, who helped saved the home of Julia Margaret Cameron 25 years ago, have celebrated the announcement of a major refurbishment project.

Brian Hinton, chairman of the Julia Margaret Cameron Trust at Freshwater Bay, said a patron had donated funding — believed to be well into six figures — to renovate the outside of the building.

The patron wished to remain anonymous.

Brian said: "While we are celebrating the past, this gives us the opportunity to look forward to our future and this funding will give us the opportunity to achieve this."

Those present at the announcement on Monday, who helped turn the celebrated Victorian photographer's home into a museum, included Ian and Elizabeth Campbell, Colin Ford — the first director of the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television in Bradford — and Ron Smith, the former Dimbola president.

A quarter of a century ago, the building was divided into two with one property owned by the Howard family and the other bought by Ian and Elizabeth's property company.

The property company had permission to demolish that side of the building to make way for new flats.

Elizabeth said: "Initially we bought Cameron House as part of our portfolio to build flats there. But we quickly realised that a group of Island academics wanted to save the whole building to celebrate Julia's life.

"So we had to play the bad guys. We were happy to sell the building to them for what it cost us, but they had to raise the money.

"For that to happen, we had to say we were prepared to demolish it. So we created a situation whereby people set-up a fund-raising scheme and, eventually, the money was raised to buy both properties."

The buildings were bought in October, 1992, and, after the renovation, were reopened as a museum by photographer Koo Stark in June, 1994.

The latest windfall should help preserve the museum for years to come.

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