Monday, 26 October 2009

Heritage in Store

I went on a behind the scenes visit to the amazing Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery Collection Centre (ie store) in Nechells today.

The place – which is occasionally open to the public – is an amazing repository of all the things there’s no place to show at the other City Museums. To say that there’s a “variety” there is a monumental understatement. Full size traction engines and the statue of George Dawson which used to adorn Edmund Street rub shoulders with Matchbox cars and early electric irons, while lathes and a wooden carousel horse jostle for space with a model of the town hall and a (full size) Sinclair C5!

Some of the items have never been on display anywhere as there’s never been room. Others are there as a result of changes to displays and – ominously – because of the closure of the Museum of Science & Industry and its “replacement” (ha!) with “Think Tank”. The lines of cars and motorcycles, together with the old Birmingham Corporation battery-electric dustcart, were nostalgically reminiscent of the Science Museum. You almost found yourself looking around for the “City of Birmingham” locomotive to start moving along on the hour…….

More things will probably end up in the store as galleries at the Museum & Art Gallery are gradually changed. A new Birmingham Gallery is due (and is long overdue) but this will probably displace yet more stuff to Nechells.

When the store is opened (on a couple of weekends per year and at other times for private group bookings) it is immensely popular. This – like the recent queues to see the Staffordshire Hoard – suggest that there is great appetite for this sort of Museum in the area. We have endured trends in recent years away from “traditional” museums with exhibits lined up ion favour of more “trendy” ways of imparting knowledge. In fact, it seems to me that a lot of the “traditional” stuff is the most popular with people and somehow strikes a chord with them.

I have a great idea. Why not transfer the stuff in store to a new building in the centre of the City. I’m sure they could find a site. There’s a vacant site in Newhall Street that would fit the bill and there’s not a lot in the old Elkington’s Electro-Plating works next to it at the moment. Then you could open the “store” more frequently. Say, er, every day.

You know what? People would love it. And no, my tongue isn’t entirely in my cheek saying this…….

PS I was wondering where the giant turtle shell from Aston Hall had gone. It was in a corner there!

1 comment:

  1. Sadly, as you and I both kmow, there seems to be no appetite on the part of the City to develop museums - rather the reverse; think Aston Manor. There are of course two large sites near enough to the city centre which only see use on a few days per year, one right opposite AMRTM.