International Museums Day is a seminal event in the international cultural calendar which exists to raise awareness of the importance of museums as a “means for cultural exchange, enrichment of cultures and development of mutual understanding, cooperation and peace among peoples”.
To mark the occasion this year, the Cause4 team has chosen to highlight the event by sharing a short reflection on our favourite museums across the country.
Faye Edwards, Programmes Associate
Wisbech & Fenland Museum stands out as one of my favourite museums; not only because it is based in my hometown, but also because it showcases the natural and cultural heritage of Wisbech and the surrounding Fens and contains an eclectic collection of archives.
Dating back to 1847, the museum is one of the UK’s oldest museums, home to various important collections of incredible local significance such as traces of the life of leading anti-slavery campaigner, Thomas Clarkson.
The collections were initiated by the town's Literary and Museum Societies, which were formed in 1781 and 1835 respectively, before being relocated to the present purpose-built building in 1847. Since then, the museum has showcased the history of Wisbech and the World.
Without doubt, one of the most significant exhibitions is the original manuscript of Charles Dickens’ ‘Great Expectations’, which was bequeathed to Wisbech & Fenland Museum by Dickens’ lifelong friend, Reverend Chauncy Hare Townshend in 1863.
I think that museums play such a crucial role in preserving local culture and offering a sense of community by exhibiting and celebrating a collective heritage. This is so important, especially in small towns, for recording local history and allowing it to be shared and understood by all.
Annie Jarvis, Head of Development
One of my favourite museums is the Wimbledon Windmill Museum. Sat in the heart of Wimbledon Common in southwest London, the site is host to the stunning Grade II* listed windmill alongside interactive exhibits suitable for all ages.
The museum is run by a passionate group of stewards who have a wealth of knowledge and the enthusiasm to share it with visitors and get them involved in the milling process. A small, voluntary led charity, the museum is reliant on donations to maintain the site, and is currently participating in the Heritage Compass Business Support Programme, which is designed to create a better connected, informed and resilient heritage landscape across England.
Shirley Lundstram, Head of Programme, Heritage Compass
My favourite museum is World Museum, formerly known as Liverpool Museum. My Mum and Dad regularly took my brother, sister and I there in the 1970’s and 80’s. The drill was to throw coppers in the Steble Fountain then hike up the front steps to enter by the Terrapin pool (wonderful to a child’s eyes at the time). I loved visiting the taxidermy and what I now know is the Horology Collection. There was always a treat from the ice cream van as we left.
The place continued to inspire curiosity in me as a teenager and I got the bus into town to go to the Aquarium, Planetarium and the re-named World Cultures Gallery. I still visit a lot and enjoy events like the Lion Dance at Chinese New Year, visiting my old friend the polar bear and any touring exhibitions such as the Terracotta Warriors.
This year I am looking forward to the Doctor Who Worlds of Wonder exhibition. Free to visit, this place is a very important part of my education and of the culture of Liverpool.
Rebecca Ward, Development Coordinator
One of my favourite museums in the country is We The Curious in Bristol, formerly named AtBristol. I remember visiting this as a child at the turn of the millennium when it had first opened.
The museum is a science centre and educational charity on the Bristol Harbourside. The reason it stands out in my memory is because of how interactive the museum was. As a child that was highly tactile and curious, I remember feeling so excited by the fact that I could investigate all the exhibits myself by experimenting with them physically. I think museums are so important for giving us that sense of awe and wonder at the world and how it works.
Ben Wilson, Director of Development and Enterprise
One museum I am looking forward to attending is a pop-up museum hosted by Classic Football Shirts. Each year, the organisation showcases a variety of shirts from its collection and brings together football fans from across the county in celebration of one of our nation’s favourite past-times.
By combining culture, sport and heritage, the organisation is successfully able to engage what some may call a ‘non-traditional audience’, helping to break down barriers to engaging in culture and heritage.
Whatever your passion, I believe that the opportunities museums offer to look back at the past, engage in heritage, and learn something new can only be a good thing!
David Johnson, Director of Strategy and Programmes
The museum has both a permanent collection charting the history of the Shields and its shipbuilding and mining past, as well as changing exhibitions featuring the work of local artists like Sheila Graber, or Bob Olley.
The building itself is beautiful and was originally constructed in 1860 as a home for the South Shields Literary, Mechanical and Scientific Institution. In 1873 the building became the town’s first free Public Library and Reading rooms and it opened as a museum in 1876 - so it’s been a staple for hundreds of years.
Local museums are so important in celebrating collective heritage. As I get older and visit the town, I try to pop in each time to remind myself of my roots!
So, what’s your favourite museum? Does it have a personal connection?
Why not join the conversation and let us know on Twitter at @artsfundraising