It seems like a long time since I last visited the Museum of Lancashire with my two children when, although we enjoyed a creative activity, the exhibition space was starting to look a little tired.Advertisement
Over 12 months and £1.7 million later I was curious to see how they had refashioned it to be an appealing attraction, not just for locals like myself looking to entertain the kids on a rainy day, but for punters from further afield making a special visit. We decided Lancashire Day was a good a day as any to pay it a visit.
As we got out of the car my 5 year old complained: “museums are boring because there’s nothing for us to play with.” Twenty minutes later he was so enchanted that we could barely get past the first exhibit.
The first thing to mention is the buoyant enthusiasm from the staff upon entering the newly light and airy multi levelled exhibition space. They’re all obviously very happy to be there and have great belief in what the museum has to offer.
The reception area, backed by a small but appealing shop widens out to a peculiar but eye catching array of artefacts associated with Lancashire’s past, ancient and recent. From a stunning ornate tiled chippy counter to a model of a dinosaur celebrating Richard Owen’s links to the county.
It was obvious from the off, to my relief, that the museum is now very much geared up towards children of all ages, designed by those that clearly have an understanding of the often simple things that kids love.
From donning mini high vis jackets and hard hats and sorting through archeological finds to ‘dressing’ characters from different historical eras through large magnetic pictures. This particular activity was so popular it invoked a short, raucous scrap between my children as they fought to clothe the same family at once!
The ‘Lancashire at Play’ section was possibly my favourite new permanent exhibit as a devotee to all things relating to seaside nostalgia. As with the feeling in all the new sections it was bright, glossy and fun from the large screen showing clips of George Formby and his peers to the mock up of a record booth in which you could listen to a few blasts of chosen music with Lancashire links. The successful Internet based Manchester District Music Archive having been called on to supply interesting artefacts from the area.
The best of the original exhibits remain including the Victorian School room, wartime home front area and Anderson shelter, always a hit with kids wanting to hide from their parents or those wishing to recreate a thoughtful moment from Lancashire’s darker days.
On this day the room was filled with brightly coloured flower strewn Morris Men dancing cheerful jigs to traditional Lancashire compositions. Watching them provided a captivating tangible display of living history. We went from this room through the mocked up court room where my son hid behind me while the ‘judge’ bedecked in crimson gowns issued a booming punishment to onlookers. We then wandered through and discovered an Indian drumming workshop that we briefly dipped in to, all swiftly supplied with a range of percussive instruments and given a rhythm to beat out.
On our way out, I caught the attention of one of the troupe of Leyland’s Morris Men and politely asked if they have any female troupes as I found the idea of having a go strangely appealing. The gentlemen, somewhat surprised, provided me with some contact details and looking slightly bemused, went on his way.
In doing this I spied a way of helping Lancashire’s history to remain alive for younger generations. That is what this Museum sets out to do, and does very successfully. It is after all, a shared responsibility for us all to ensure our rich and varied history never becomes a dust laden archive in a forgotten museum.
Have you visited the new look museum? What did you think? Let us know your views in the comments below