Museum Memories

Today (26th March) is #MuseumMemories day, part of #MuseumWeek on twitter.  If you have a museum memory of Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery you would like share to with us please tweet us @BM_AG.

Here are a few museum memories from  staff members and the Friends of Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery:

Sylvia Crawley, Curator (Applied Art) 

Pinto Collection

I started working in Museums in 1984 on a rural life project in Warwick. At the time I wasn’t totally convinced Museums were for me. Quirky details fascinate me but at that stage I was more interested in words than objects. I went to Birmingham for a day trip and saw the Pinto Collection. So much detail; I was besotted. From that day I kept Pinto’s book open on my desk. In 2000, I got the chance to curate the collection – bliss.

Snuff Box from the Pinto Collection.

Snuff Box from the Pinto Collection.

David Foster, member of the Friends of Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Birmingham Seen

As a relative newcomer to the city, and therefore uninformed about its history, I was particularly delighted that the History Galleries were created. But earlier than that, I was especially moved by a special exhibition in the Gas Hall titled ‘Birmingham Seen’. This was composed of paintings, photographs and some video sequences to show how the city had been presented in visual terms over two hundred years. An especially compelling display was of a sequence of still photographs, taken I believe by the city architect of the time, showing the building of the now-old Central Library. In view of the impending demolition of this area, and the creation of the a new Paradise Circus, I found the images showing how the street used to look prior to the building of the Central Library. In particular how there was a direct line of sight from Centenary Square through to the clock tower. And I’m delighted that the designers of the new scheme want to restore that view.

Lost in Lace

This unique special exhibition in the Gas Hall seemed to me to deliver exactly what the original founders of the BMAG had declared as their aim: to provide models of excellence to educate and inspire Birmingham’s craftspeople and industrialists. This exhibition used a wide range of different items, of a wide of sizes and types, to show how space can be defined and to some degree contained. The one thing it was not was about fabric lace-making. Some items were made of woollen strings, others of laser light beams and others again of metal and glass. It was a mark of the uniqueness of this exhibition that it proved impossible to stage it anywhere else. A valuable sideline was that it encouraged the visitor to appreciate the beauty of the internal decoration of the Gas Hall itself.

Lost in Lace exhibition.

Lost in Lace exhibition.

Helen Watson, PA to the Director

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery – The Building

I’ve worked for Birmingham Museums now for about 10 years.  What are my strongest memories of those years?

Yes, you do feel privileged to be able to walk through the building early in the morning or after the doors shut to the public, getting a very private view of the works on display.  The BMAG building itself is a work of art – the detailing on the ceiling of the round room is a joy.  Pure Victorian civic pride.  I love watching people’s reaction to the works and the building – especially class-loads of children on a visit, sprawled over the floor with their drawings.  And don’t get me started on how on the delights of the rest of Birmingham’s museum sites, this bit of writing would turn into War And Peace.

Round Room at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Round Room at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.

I’m from the North West so I get overexcited when Birmingham’s Lowry is on the wall in Gallery 22 and will witter on about it to anyone – proper hills and mill chimneys, pre-Fred  Dibnah, home.  I stood staring at it one lunch break when a lady walked by with her child in a buggy.  All of a sudden she stopped, backed up with the buggy, stood by me and exclaimed ‘WOW!  Its an actual Lowry! WOW!’.  I felt like a proud parent!  I missed it when it went out on loan last year but made a pilgrimage to the Tate to see it in the Lowry exhibition and say hello.

There’s the opening night of the exhibition of costumes and photographs of the Supremes, opened by Mary Wilson who sang part of ‘Baby Love’ during her speech.  To a child of the 1960s, what could be better?

Staffordshire Hoard

Otherwise, that is just about beaten by the experience of the discovery of the Staffordshire Hoard, from the first email into the Director’s Office from the local Portable Antiquities officer with an idea that something possibly interesting had been found, to the morning after the big press announcement when part of the Hoard was to go on display for the first time.  How could anyone have predicted the response?  Walking out of the office just on opening time to see who might come along –  to see the queues snaking round the building….. what a buzz.  What’s my favourite quote from that week?  Someone answering a request for a newspaper interview by saying ‘sorry he can’t come to the phone, he’s talking to someone at the Vatican’.   Birmingham was on the world-wide media. Couldn’t make that up!

Lens shaped gold and garnet fitting from the Staffordshire Hoard.

Lens shaped gold and garnet fitting from the Staffordshire Hoard.

The Staffordshire Hoard on display for the first time.

The Staffordshire Hoard on display for the first time.

If these memories have inspired you please share your museum memories with us!

Ria Frate

Digital Engagement Officer

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