Derby’s new £18 million Museum of Making

26th May 2021


It is 300 years since the world’s first modern factory was built on the banks of the River Derwent – and now Derby Silk Mill is throwing opens its doors once again to reveal the wealth of manufacturing that has taken place in the city and county ever since.

More than 30,000 exhibits have been brought together in Derby’s new £18 million Museum of Making, which as well as telling the stories of Derby’s past, the museum is a workshop full of specialist equipment and skilled staff on hand to support modern makers.Outside, the impressive original Bakewell factory gates have been rehung in what would have their original position, perpendicular to the new civic hall glass atrium that has been created specifically to create a spectacular entrance to the museum.

The civic hall, as well as housing an A-Z wall-mounted exhibition of Derbyshire manufactured artefacts, will surprise and delight visitors.

They will be confronted by a seven tonne Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engine, which is used to power Boeing 787 Dreamliner planes, hanging from the roof at the top of a flight of stairs.

It is a dramatic start to the tour and Tony Butler, executive director of Derby Museums, said that the engine sits as a modern testament to Derby’s continuing manufacturing and industrial story alongside the “unique Grade II listed building”.

Remains of the original mill are in the under croft of the building and the current building was rebuilt following a fire in 1910, but the outline of the water wheel and the footprint of the building can still be seen.

Writer Daniel Defoe, visited the original Silk Mill in the 1720s and wrote: “This engine contains 26,856 wheels and 97,746 movements, which work 73,726 yards of silk-thread, every time the water-wheel goes round, which is three times in one minute and 318,504,960 yards in one day and night.”it was the 1830s before a steam engine replaced the reliance on water power at the mill.Mr Butler said: “This is no ordinary museum. The experience of visiting is designed to encourage people to understand how things are made, think about materials and their uses, have access to skills, knowledge and equipment that might otherwise be unavailable.

“We hope our new museum will become a must-see destination, bringing optimism and inspiring all who visit it.

“Derby has been shaped by an incredible array of cultural and industrial innovations over the last 300 years, and the new Museum of Making is the exciting next chapter in the story – and one we are delighted we can now share with everyone.”

At the top of the stairs is a gallery, which sets the context and history of the Derwent Valley in a traditional museum-style way.

This gives way to a non-traditional approach called The Assemblage which looks like a behind the scenes part of the museum – but is in fact a chance for visitors to explore objects grouped around the materials from which they are predominantly made – wood, metal, ceramic, glass, stone, textile, synthetic or organicAs well these exhibits, many people will be delighted to know that the city’s Midland Model Railway is now housed in its own exhibition space.

It has been in storage since 2016, but now it is out and has been reconfigured. It is likely to run a couple of times a day for visitors.

Also housed in the museum is the Midland Railway Study Centre, ideal for anyone researching or interested in the history of the railway 1844 to 1922, according to centre coordinator Dave Harris.He said: “This is a fantastic new space for us and our growing number of users which include family history enthusiasts, historians and professional people, such as solicitors looking into land disputes.”

The building also houses a school studio able to accommodate up to 60 children, with a learning and education programme mapped out.hroughout the galleries there are stories of making, including a video wall of modern makers talking about their work and inspiration.

There is also a new gallery space which will allow the Museum of Making to host touring exhibitions.

The opening exhibition explores Scale, showing the work of artists alongside intriguing objects from Derby Museums’ collection.

Used in production and prototyping, in mapping and to convey perspective, scale is critical to the making process and a powerful tool in communicating ideas.Central to the museum is the new workshop, and the wider facilities and support it offers to modern makers. From high-tech to more traditional technology, the Workshop and its staff are there to support museum visitors and professionals.

A membership fee (paid monthly or annually), from the end of June onwards, will give people access to the wide range of facilities on offer including lathes, computer numerical cutting machines, welding equipment and a range of tools and benches for makers of any skill level.This will also give them access to The Prospect, a new co-working space where makers can become part of a supportive community and book desk space alongside gaining access to the specialist machinery they may need.

This is expected to provide a significant boost to the area’s creative enterprises, allowing, for example, the creation of prototypes without the need to invest in new equipment.All of this is topped off with a wonderful, never-before-seen panorama from The View near the top of the museum, which overlooks the city and the wider valley beyond.

The museum also has a new café called The River Kitchen, on the banks of the River Derwent, and the Museum of Making shop will showcase the work of talented makers, creators and designers from across the region.People will also be able to hire spaces for events such as weddings, charity balls, business meetings and conferences.

The project has been possible thanks to major grant funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, Arts Council England, D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership and Derby City Council, together with Rolls-Royce and a range of charitable trusts and foundations.Anne Jenkins, director, England Midlands & East, National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “At the start of this journey, Derby Silk Mill was a sleeping giant, under-appreciated and at risk.Now, the new Museum of Making is an exemplar cultural attraction that local people can be proud of, a magnet for visitors and a driver for city centre regeneration.”

The museum opening also kickstarts a range of events and activities around which arts, cultural and city-wide organisations have been collaborating to help celebrate 300 years of creativity and making across the region.

Entry to the museum is free (with the exception of special exhibitions), but due to Covid-19 restrictions tickets need to be booked in advance.


Source: derby telegraph

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