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A Life in Remnants

When I was at college studying history, I knew I wanted to do something that involved sharing my love and enthusiasm for the past. Equally I knew I couldn't cope with the stresses of teaching - too coal-face, really - but thought working in the museum sector would be perfect. I read Paul Thompson's The Voice of the Past, an idealistic account of the value of oral history testimony, and articles by, and about, the great Elspeth King, the radical curator of the People's Palace in Glasgow. I was lucky enough to secure a place on the Museum Studies MA course at Leicester University, and my work placement on that course brought me my first job, cataloguing at the Priest's House Museum in Wimborne. Subsequently I found my way to the Royal Engineers Museum in Chatham, and Wycombe Museum in High Wycombe. My twelve years or so as a museum professional left me with an abiding affection for the world of museums, and I still believe that - given the chance - a good museum can have a great impact on the lives of individuals and the way a community thinks about itself. Thus, wherever I find myself, I look out for the local museum, and snap away with my camera, to get a feel for the museum and how it relates (if at all) to its locality.

This Is A Local Museum, For Local People

I sing in praise of the local museum; not the national museums, those great universities of material culture, which have a secure place in the affections of the nation and (relatively) stable funding and institutional support. Most of the museums I cover here are staffed substantially or completely by volunteers, occasionally with a professional curator or two, and struggle to find funds and people to keep the place ticking over. They should not be ignored for all that. Even the smallest and apparently least well-endowed museum can be a locus for an affecting encounter with the informative, the moving, the unsettling, or the beautiful. Some of the institutions featured below have a particular interest, or there was some element of the local historical landscape which is reflected in their collection, but most are general social history museums with an eclectic focus which gives rise to fascinating and sometimes amusing juxtapositions in their displays. Enjoy! 

Arundel MuseumBakewell Old House MuseumBlandford MuseumBuxton Museum
Battle MuseumCastle Cary MuseumThe Novium, ChichesterDerby City Museum
Filey MuseumGodalming MuseumGreat Yarmouth MuseumHaslemere Educational Museum
Dales Countryside Museum, HawesHornsea MuseumHorsham MuseumJersey Museum & Art Gallery
Launceston MuseumOld Guildhall Museum, LooeMidhurst MuseumNidderdale Museum, Pateley Bridge
Beck Isle Museum, PickeringPortsmouth City MuseumRichmond MuseumMuseum of Richmondshire, Richmond, Yorkshire
St Ives MuseumRotunda Museum, ScarboroughSheringham MuseumSwanage Museum
Tavistock MuseumOld House Museum, ThetfordRural Life Centre, TilfordRoyal Cornwall Museum, Truro
Priest's House Museum, Wimborne
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