Museums aren’t everyone’s cup of tea.
In fact, the very word museum is a turn off to some … it must be the thought of plodding around looking at static display cases full of dull objects from the past that’s so unappealing.
They have a point.
There are of course living museums, where actors dress up and the past is brought back to life.
It’s all very educational and quite good fun. The problem though, is that the past somehow seems so detached from the present.
To many people, it’s just not relevant.
In Bewdley, Worcestershire, they have tackled this problem head on.
They have a great museum in the centre of the town that gives you the standard social and industrial history of the town ( big on clay pipe making, apparently).
What draws you in though are two things:
First, it’s the location. It’s set in a historic butcher’s shambles. There’s a central cobbled walk-way with tiny little rooms to explore. This opens up into a courtyard (with a cracking café) on the one side. On the other there’s a herb garden and pond. Even if you have zero interest in history, it’s a really pleasant place to stroll around and explore.
Second, the good people of Bewdley have breathed life into the museum by renting space in it to local artists and craftspeople. It is a simple and clever idea. On the one hand it showcases their wares and skills to the public. On the other it makes the museum feel alive and actually part of the present. It must also bring in a little bit of rent money for cash-strapped Wyre Forest District Council.
There’s a herbery, a pottery, a couple of artists, a polisher and even a small pewter works. As you wander around the museum you can look in and see what they are up to.
All their work is collectively branded as Made in the Museum, Bewdley.
It’s a novel and positive idea. It’s using its museum to showcase local artistic artisanal businesses, and using them to modernise and update the concept of a museum.
It works too. Other museums could learn a lot from Bewdley.