What should Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery display with its £300,000?

This weekend I learned that BMAG is aiming to find a whole bunch of new visitors to its many attractions. Today Jon Bounds asks what new stuff will get people involved?

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery have just come into some money, £300,000, and they’re going to use it to create a gallery showing Birmingham’s history from medieval times to the present day. I’m sure we used to have something a bit like this (a local history room anyway).

But anyway — apart from getting some of the industrial history stuff back from Thinktank, digging out the system that did push-button playback of “I can’t find old Brummagem” and providing some of the Library’s Baskerville collection — with a decent home what should it have?

Here’s some suggestions:

Dennis Mortimer’s beard from when villa won the European cup.
Every plan and architects model for a regenerated Brum, all google-earthed up and you can rum simulations of how the city would have looked if they’d come to pass.
An interactive exhibit that allows you to do the voice over for Telly Savalas looks at Birmingham – a bit like Singstar where you have to match the pitch, speed and not laugh when you claim to have “dallied in Dale End”.
Dana International – well she’s not doing anything at the moment.

    Jon says we need to “Fill Brum’s new local history museum with proper stuff:” I’m thinking he means less highbrow more pattern shaved eyebrow. Jon has a talent for this, but I’m going to have a crack….:

    A blue Goldfish in a toilet bowl.
    A multi coloured flying saucer a la ELO.
    Any Osbournes who aren’t that busy just at the mo.
    A selection of skirts warn on Broad Street from 1308 to 2008.
    Carl’s chin.
    My mates son Archie – cos he has a perfectly preserved Brummie accent.
    Camp Hill Flyover.
    BOZOD.

    11 comments

    1. Jon Bounds says:

      There is a serious point here, just. It’s a fine line that has to be trod between the kind of interactive, but childish, exhibits seen at Thinktank – and the dry exhibition of artifacts.

      A local museum has a perfect opportunity to create an experience that not only engages people, but draws on the experience of its potential visitors about the subject.

      What price a sort of “wiki-museum” where the public could pop in and add/correct information, drop off artifacts that that they think contribute the story? My best times at the old local history museum/science museum were when my old granddad would tell me more (give the human side) of some of the things there. Imagine that for / by / to everyone.

    2. Nick Booth says:

      Every artefact or textual fact obviously has a human connection. Almost every fact can look different from many different perspectives. Individual experts can hint at this but have insufficient experience to bring it out fully. It takes a whole community to tell history and crowd sourcing these stories is a great aproach.

      The Back to Backs are what I consider one enormous social object. Every tour of those buildings is different because the story your hear depends on the company your keep. There is always someone granddad/mother/great aunt who lived that life and can share their experiences.

      Thats what we need – Museums full of social objects and the means for people to record their experience of them/story related to them. A folksonomy built on a taxonomy?

    3. Jon Bounds says:

      “A folksonomy built on a taxonomy?”

      Great phrase. I’m trying to think of something even more radical too, a way for visitors to collectively curate a collection – not quite got there yet, but it’s something to think about.

      Now if someone would just give me £300,000 to do it 😉

    4. Nick Booth says:

      It’s what my brummie(ish) son says when he’s going away. Tara-a-bit for the noughties. Can we declare this a first usage on the interwebs? Hello Oxford English Dictionary. Date stamp as per blog post!

    5. James Yarker says:

      Tangetal: I revisited my roots in the West Country the other weekend and was pleased to see a T-shirt which read “Gert Lush” being proudly worn. Local vernacular as fashion item? It could catch on.

    6. Jon Bounds says:

      >Local vernacular as fashion item?

      Well Donarto seems to do okay with his “Bostin” shirts f’the Black Country, but I’m not sure the Brum dialect has anything as juicy.

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