In May 2018, Dorset’s Shire Hall in Dorchester reopened after a £2.9 million redevelopment as a new courthouse museum. Rose Wallis, Associate Director of the Regional History Centre, has worked on the project for two years as consultant historian and curator. Under the banner ‘justice in the balance’, the new museum promises to engage visitors with the history of crime, law, and punishment, and past and present efforts to achieve justice.
In August 2010, the Stokes Croft Museum opened: an unfunded venture, established to showcase the diversity of life in an area of Bristol renowned for its music and graffiti, but also its problems of crime, addiction and prostitution. Rose Wallis looks at this new 'single-room' heritage attraction, and how it reflects the many identities of the area.
'The Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery is a much-loved Bristol institution containing collections of national status alongside local treasures. But though its visitors often linger at Ernest Board's grand 1930 painting of Some Who Have Made Bristol Famous, the museum as a whole does not focus on the city's own history. Certainly, the lives of ordinary Bristolians have yet to be represented and as a buoyant market rewrites the city's topography, there is a real need to historicise Bristol's urban spaces'. In this article, Dresser looks at the plans to open a museum which fills the gaps left my Bristol Museum and Art Gallery.
Like the University of the West of England, the University of Gloucestershire sees itself firmly embedded in, and serving, and its local community. Naturally this means that the History department is committed to increasing the existing provision of local and regional history studies at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels, and to building links with the wider historical community in Gloucestershire.
How much has the history of ordinary Bristolians been portrayed in the city’s Museums? Blaise House, it is true has some charming material about childhood and rural life and the Industrial Museum does look at the history of the industrial and port work force. Temporary exhibitions at the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery have also, at times, attempted to widen their usual focus on the Great and the Good. But these exceptions only prove the rule. For the most part, the lives of the mass of the city’s inhabitants, and the way the city itself has evolved —has been ignored.
‘Accessibility’ is the button increasingly pressured academics, curators and archivists must press if they wish to get their hands on public funds. Is this ‘a good thing’? Or is it just one more step in the dumbing down of our national culture?