The Guardian view of small museums: stories of what we have been and who we are

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Have you heard nan 1 astir nan museum of cuckoo clocks that whitethorn person to beryllium coiled up unless nan 2 brothers who founded it 34 years agone tin find personification to support it ticking erstwhile they retire? Or nan Musical Museum, group up successful 1963 by an electrical technologist pinch a passion for nan history of recorded sound, wherever you tin perceive to self-playing violins, and dip into 1 of nan world’s largest collections of soft rolls? Or nan UK’s newest earthy history museum, astatine whose 2022 opening nan ribbon was trim pinch nan claw of a baryonyx – a ample carnivorous dinosaur? They are located respectively successful Cheshire, Brentford and Sheffield.

Of nan 2,500 museums estimated to beryllium astir nan UK, nan awesome nationalist institutions return each nan air, pinch their blockbuster shows and their rows complete funding, restitution of plundered treasures and – successful nan lawsuit of nan British Museum – alleged thefts. Scepticism astir their standard and their colonising impulses goes backmost to their earliest days, pinch nan writer GK Chesterton opining: “The Museum is not meant either for nan wanderer to spot by mishap aliases for nan pilgrim to spot pinch awe. It is meant for nan specified enslaved of a regular of self-education to worldly himself pinch each benignant of incongruous intelligence nutrient successful 1 indigestible meal.”

But location are hundreds of smaller ones, often founded and endowed by enthusiasts – from John Soane successful nan 18th period to Cuckooland’s Roman and Maz Piekarski coming – that make an incalculable publication to taste life without immoderate threat of bringing connected an onslaught of intelligence collywobbles. For those financed done section authorities, nan past decade and a half has been brutal, pinch spending connected England’s museums and galleries falling by much than a third, moreover earlier nan caller spate of bankruptcies. Yet collecting is simply a basic quality instinct, and nan will to stock and support collections is strong.

The Musical Museum is simply a lawsuit successful point. It was founded successful an abandoned religion by Frank Holland to location his increasing postulation of instruments, and he sold his location to endow it. Though it has since moved to a caller building, acknowledgment to a practice lottery grant, it has different ever been self-financing. It has its ain YouTube channel connected which it streams concerts connected nan Mighty Wurlitzer successful its 250-seater theatre. But arsenic Mr Holland’s bequest ran dry, and its business scheme was decimated by nan Covid pandemic, nan depository had to laic disconnected unit and trim opening hours. Volunteers rolled up their sleeves and responded by launching a 60th day appeal. It’s a measurement of nan affection successful which it is held that it is connected nan constituent of reaching its target.

This is simply a communicative that will ringing bells pinch galore mini museums. They embody galore different enthusiasms, from pens (Birmingham) to dog collars (Kent) and lawnmowers (Southport). But if impervious of surviving worth were needed, 1 of their number, London’s Foundling Museum, provided it 2 years agone erstwhile it gathered together 59 group from each walks of life who had spent their early lives successful care, for a historical photograph. Such institutions are labours of love. They are besides statements of what individuals aliases communities want to prevention of, and for, themselves – and nan activity they will put into preserving it. They are nan stories of what we person been and who we are.

Source theguardian