One year in: exhibition showcases newly-collected items telling Birmingham's story
Collecting Birmingham: stories that should be shared at the Museum of Jewellery Quarter - Now Open
A curious collection of items which illustrate working life in Birmingham’s Ladywood district – from a prison door from Winson Green Prison to crockery from the Grand Hotel – form a new display at the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, showing the first year’s discoveries from the Collecting Birmingham initiative.
Collecting Birmingham is a three year project which aims to involve the community in deciding what items should be added to the Birmingham Museums collection, steering purchases of locally-important artefacts and encouraging donations from members of the public. “This is all about telling the story of Birmingham as a city, and the people who are best able to do that are those who have lived and worked here all of their lives. We’re looking for objects that help illustrate life in the city, and have had a great response in the first year – some of the results of which are now on display at the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter,” comments project curator, Nazia Ali.
Objects in the initial exhibition will concentrate on the Ladywood area, representing many different aspects of life in the city from the lifetime of current residents. A door from Winson Green prison reflects the Victorian heritage of the building, whilst manufacturing in the city is reflected in nostalgic items from the HP Sauce factory – a production worker’s hat, employee handbooks and sauce bottle, one of which dates back to 1896, are on display.
The heyday of one of Birmingham’s most impressive buildings – the Grand Hotel on Colmore Row – also joins the exhibition, with crockery from the hotel, which operated from 1879 until 2002 and is currently undergoing major restoration.
“Everything we see around us today will be tomorrow’s history, and this project helps us to collect memories from people who have seen the city changing in their lifetime – memories which we can help preserve for the future generations. This is our legacy for the future, and with two years of the project still to run, we’re still keen to hear the stories that local people have to tell,” adds Nazia. “The best way of recording history is through the voices of people who have lived through it, so we want to hear from anyone who lives or has lived in Ladywood, Aston, Soho and Nechells who is happy to share their story.”
Entry to the exhibition – the first of four planned throughout the three years of the Collecting Birmingham project - is free, hopefully encouraging more people to explore their local heritage. The exhibition will be on display until January 2017. A second exhibition will follow in September 2016 at Soho House.
The Collecting Birmingham project team are also happy to accept donations of items that represent life in these four wards, from photographs to souvenirs of great events that have taken place. Suggestions are also welcome for any items of particular historical significance that the people of Birmingham would like to see purchased by Birmingham Museums Trust to safeguard for future generations.
Collecting Birmingham runs until Summer 2018 with a grant of £389,100 from the Heritage Lottery Fund and with generous funding from Arts Council England. Anyone who would like to contribute to Collecting Birmingham should contact the team on firstname.lastname@example.org
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