To conclude the Local Museum trilogy we bring you Experience Barnsley. Located, much like Wakefield, in the bottom corner of the Town hall; This museum is about as local your pub. It’s filled with about the same number of unusual and unexpected and slightly useless articles as well. Barnsley was not at the top of my list for a cultural day out, but I was surprised and mostly pleasantly.
The museum is run by the council as with Bagshaw and Wakefield. Uniquely however; most of the objects on display have been donated by local people. Upon entering the main, open plan, very swish, gallery; you are struck by large glass cabinets full of curious objects. Examples include: a stuffed pike, the turbanator, some chloroform and a large key from a shop front. What’s really brilliant about this method of forming a collection is that each object has so much information with it. We know who caught the pike, when, where, how and why they donated it to the museum. All this information is readily available on interactive screens to the side of the gallery. I also opens up multiple ways of interacting. If you like to know everything about something on display, you can. similarly if you just want to gawk in wonder at a pile of stuff; there’s nothing to stop you.
The downside to this method, at least in it’s fairly exclusive use, is the lack of representation of certain periods. True there were some stunning artefacts, (pictured) a roman hoard and some ever exquisite Cistercian ware (pottery), but there was far more from the miner’s strike and more modern history. This creates a strong sense of community, but not such a strong sense of history.
Winding down a corridor we found ourselves at the temporary exhibition room. At the time a whole room dedicated to Dickie Bird and cricket. Bliss. The exhibit was well put together and much more adult orientated that the rest of the museum. There was still things for the “who’s Dickie Bird Dad?” generation o do however.
In fact there’s a great deal for the young people to be getting on with. Just about every display was within reach of a game, colouring station, dress up box or other form of engagement. This is much more of a “Eureka” than a “Natural History” Museum. On top of all this there’s a whole gallery on the way out dedicated to kids. A note on the feedback board told of a little lad who’d come in to celebrate his fourth birthday there. Other museums take note, kid’s parties are the future.
The layout, as previously mentioned, centres around a large main gallery. Positioned around this are a number of smaller galleries, mainly theatres showing various films about Barnsley. you enter via a corridor at the front and exit through a the kids gallery parallel to this. There’s is a corridor leading to a junction, staircase and further galleries just of centre at the back. If that last paragraph reads a little confusingly then it has had a similar effect to the layout of the museum. If you want to get lost it’s not too hard, but you may wander into a restricted or irrelevant part of the town hall.
The town hall itself is a lovely c.1930s building and some of this does come through in the museum; especially when initially entering. It has a nice central location in Barnsley. There’s also a highly acclaimed cafe “Berneslai” which I assume is either the local or Roman spelling of the towns name. The shop is quite well appointed with some lovely knick-knacks and whatnots.
All in all the Barnsley experience is worth a trip out and, I would say, a must for anyone living or moving to the Barnsley area. There is more to the Museum than I experience on my trip, but that’s good. The site is reaching out to multiple people with a variety of needs and the aim of a museum trip is never to see everything; especially not in one trip. The museum is especially great if you’ve got children and it’s nice to see a museum that doesn’t appear to be struggling to inspire the next generation. It’s also a refreshing change to see somewhere managing it with an over dependence on Pritt sticks.
Taxidermy rating: 4/15
Toilet score: Couldn’t find them
Dead people: None
Overall Score: 6/10
After our visit we headed out to Monk Bretton Priory, which is not too far away in Lundwood. It’s well worth a visit if you like a good medieval ruin. It’s also located in the middle of a housing estate; if Barnsley hadn’t given you your fill of tracksuits and bad teeth.