A world of treasures

Date Posted: 23/02/2010

We cast our eyes over some great museums and exhibitions.

National Treasures

The Harris Museum & Art Gallery, in Preston, holds intriguing collections of fine art, decorative art, costume and textiles, history and photography that are of regional, national and international significance. Industrial Revolutionaries is a forthcoming exhibition that will investigate how a selected group of individuals impacted on or responded to the creation of the world’s first industrial society in the north west of England. Key figures include Sir Richard Arkwright, the inventor of the water-frame and developer of the factory system; Charles Dickens, author and social commentator; and philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Using contemporary accounts, digital interpretations and images, these biographies act as a springboard for exploring how industrialisation affected the lives of ordinary working people. This exhibition runs from 26th June to 6th November.

At The Bank of England Museum in London, interactive displays, audio-visuals and artefacts dating from Roman times through to the present day, combine to help visitors uncover the 315- year history of this institution and how it has helped shape London and the nation as a whole. The museum also explains the current roles of the Bank within the UK economy from working to maintain financial stability, to detecting and reducing threats and issuing banknotes. Entry is free and a range of tailor-made presentations are available for groups of 15 to 50 people on a variety of banking themes.

During a visit to Cumbria’s Cumberland Pencil Museum, groups can discover how pencils are made, see the world’s longest coloured pencil, view artwork by local and prominent pencil artists in the gallery and watch clips from festive animated film, The Snowman, which was made using Derwent pencils. And for budding artists, the museum runs free demonstration workshops with specialist tutors covering pastel, watercolour, graphite and vibrant ‘inktense’ pencils. These hour-long sessions are free of charge and are suitable for people of both beginner and intermediate level. The museum also offers free coach parking and discounted admission to groups of ten or more visitors.

The Crich Tramway Village, in Derbyshire, is a lovingly restored period village that is also home to the National Tramway Museum and its renowned archives. Visitors can journey back through time with a ride on one of the beautifully restored trams, running to and fro down a cobbled street past the former Derby Assembly rooms before passing under the Bowes- Lyon Bridge. The museum offers both an educational day out and breathtaking views of the Derwent Valley and surrounding countryside.

Avoncroft Museum is home to charming historic buildings which have been rescued from demolition and rebuilt in a scenic corner of Worcestershire’s countryside. Many of the buildings house historical treasures and give an insight into how Britain once lived, worked and played. A range of offers are available for coach groups, including a full day package comprised of leisure time and lunch at the Jinney Ring Craft Centre followed by a visit to the Avoncroft Museum and afternoon tea.

Science and Discovery

From the 28th May until 5th September, London’s Natural History Museum will plunge groups 11,000 metres under the sea to explore the planet’s final frontier. In The Deep, groups can encounter an under-water environment that is less explored than the surface of the moon. Here you can see bizarre creatures, astonishing imagery and specimens, and experience immersive interactive installations. You can also learn about the history of deep sea exploration, the cutting-edge technologies used today and find out how scientists are helping to preserve this important ecosystem.

A visit to the award-winning Thackray Museum, in Leeds, will transport you back through time to discover more about health and medicine through the ages. Find out about the diseases faced by the Victorians and the pills, potions and old wives’ tales that were available to them; and then discover how these practices have evolved into modern medicine. You can even step inside the human body to find out how your body works at the brand new interactive Life Zone. From the 26th June to 2nd January 2011, visiting groups can see Hair Splitting Images - How William Astbury’s X-Ray Vision Changed the World, which follows the life and work of Professor William Astbury, an early pioneer of X-Ray technology. The museum also offers specialist talks led by medical historians and professionals on topics ranging from Quack Doctors to Kitchen Cures. Group visits must be pre-booked; discounts are offered to parties of 12 or more, and GTOs receive free entry.

The Imperial War Museum London collects and displays artefacts and information relating to all military operations in which Britain or the Commonwealth have been involved since World War One. This year, groups can discover how ideas such as growing your own food, eating seasonal fruit and vegetables, reducing imports, recycling and healthy nutrition were as topical in 1940 as they are today in The Real Ministry of Food, a new exhibition celebrating the 70th anniversary of the introduction of rationing. Now open until the 31st December, this exhibition will look at how the British public adapted to a world of food shortages, investigating the production, distribution and consumption of food in Britain during World War Two.

The British Music Experience (pictured) is a permanent, high-tech, interactive music museum housed within The O2 Arena, London. The BME enables visitors to trace musical trends through the decades, learn about music’s influence on art, fashion and politics and allow visitors to download music from the BME archive. Groups can even visit the Gibson Interactive Studio, where you can learn to play various Gibson guitars, Baldwin pianos and Slingerland drums. The BME is also home to over 500 key pieces of British music memorabilia, including David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust costume, Roger Daltrey’s Woodstock outfit and Noel Gallagher’s Epiphone Union Jack guitar. The museum provides a full educational programme with workshops, lectures, master-classes and concerts, with group discounts available to parties of ten or more.

Masters at work

The V&A museum in London, is one of the world’s greatest museums of art and design, boasting over 3,000 years of history and artefacts from many of the world’s richest cultures amongst its diverse collections. Its new Medieval and Renaissance Galleries present more than 1,800 objects from the period AD300 to 1600 in a continuous chronological order. Each of the ten galleries will have its own narrative highlighting themes, stories, historical figures and important patrons, such as the Emperor Charlemagne and the Medici family. Highlights include the notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci and an outstanding collection of Renaissance sculpture by Italian masters such as Donatello and Giambologna. There is no admission charge and a range of talks, tours and services are available for visiting groups.

Music-lovers may also enjoy My Generation: The Glory Years of British Rock, a free exhibition running at the V&A, London, from 30th April until 24th October. Visitors can see a display of 200 photographs by Harry Goodwin, the official photographer of BBC’s Top of the Pops, whose dramatic images helped capture the mood and style of the 1960s and 70s. Highlights include images of Bob Dylan, Elton John, The Who and Jimi Hendrix.

Tate Modern displays the national collection of international modern art, representing all the major movements from 1900 onwards. In the autumn, the museum will host Gaugin, London’s first major exhibition devoted to the work of Paul Gaugin in over half a century. The French-born artist is regarded as one of the most influential artists of the late 19th century and from 30th September to 16th January 2011, groups can see over 100 of his paintings, sculptures and drawings in an exhibition that seeks to highlight the complexity and richness of the artist’s narrative strategies for a 21st century audience.

The Tate Liverpool, in Merseyside, presents displays of work from the Tate collection alongside special exhibitions of modern and contemporary art. This summer it is to host one of the first exhibitions to reveal artist, Pablo Picasso’s tireless political activism and peace campaigning in the post-war period. Picasso: Peace and Freedom will bring together 150 key paintings and drawings as well as posters and documents related to war and peace from 1944-73. The centrepiece will be the artist’s masterpiece, The Charnel House 1944-5. This remarkable work was Picasso’s personal ‘dove of peace’, which became the emblem for the Peace Movement and a universal symbol of hope during the Cold War. Groups will be able to see this exhibition from the 21st May until the 30th August. A special guided group tour of this exhibition is available for £19.50, including light refreshments.

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