4 Aug 2017

Birmingham Manufactures: Women’s Work at Elkington & Co.

It might not look like much, but this box of tools offers an important insight into women’s work in Birmingham at the start of the twentieth century. The tools pictures here are part of a much larger collection of tools donated to the museum in 1972, and were used for burnishing – which is a bit like polishing – and was a vital part of the manufacturing process for a variety of metals.

Tools like this were used to push the rough surface of an unfinished metal surface into alignment, and create the smooth polished shiny surface of the metal products Birmingham was known for. The tops of these tools are made of agate, a semi-precious stone which was used because it is extremely smooth and hard wearing. These were expensive to buy, and because every burnisher was expected to own their own tools, they were often passed down through the family. Read More...

31 Jul 2017

Pilot Our Egyptian Themed Sleepover at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Do you run a group for kids and families? We have a great opportunity for you, but you have to act fast! 

In order to trial Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery sleepovers we are giving a large group the opportunity to book an Egyptian themed sleepover in August - up to 60 people for £1,200. This could work out for as little as £20 per head! This price includes a midnight feast and breakfast!  Read More...

21 Jul 2017

Birmingham Museums’ Patrons give virtual reality a go

Birmingham Museums’ Patrons gathered last week for a special private evening viewing of Mat Collishaw’s Thresholds, which is currently on show in the Waterhall at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery.

Thresholds is an exciting new project using the latest virtual reality technology to restage one of the earliest exhibitions of photography in 1839, when British scientist William Henry Fox Talbot first presented his photographic prints to the public at King Edward’s School, then located on Birmingham’s New Street. The building has long since been demolished, and Fox Talbot’s prints either faded beyond recognition or too delicate to be displayed, making Thresholds a really unique opportunity to step back in time, via cutting edge technology. Read More...

20 Jul 2017

Summer Holiday Activities at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Join us for a whole host of art and history related family activities during the school summer holidays. From contemporary art and technology, to working with artists, getting up close to real artefacts, and enjoying all things Big Sleuth and bear related, there is something for everyone to enjoy!

Our holiday activities follow a weekly pattern, with the odd special event featured over the summer. This programme may be subject to change. Please check the What's On page for regular updates! Read More...

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17 Jul 2017

Detour to Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

There is now a slim-line walkway from Victoria Square to the main entrance. However visitors requiring lift access will find themselves blocked from getting there if they approach via Victoria Square, but don't worry there is a detour in place that will only take a few minutes to walk!

If you are approaching Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery from Victoria Square please head to the right of the Council House. You then need to turn left into Eden Place (Starbucks is on the corner). At the end of Eden Place turn left again onto Edmund Street.  Read More...

4 Jul 2017

The Collection Support Trainee Diaries: Part 1

Hi everyone, I am Emma, the new (ish) Collections Support Trainee based at the Museum Collections Centre (MCC) and have been at the site for almost 6 months now. So, I guess it is about time I let you all in on who I am and what I do! 

I started my placement at the MCC at the end of January after getting onto a traineeship run by the independent arts and education charity, Culture&. The traineeship, Strengthening Our Common Life, is a Heritage Lottery funded project that aims to encourage diversity in the visitors and workforce of various heritage institutions with the help of a whopping 17 partners, one of which is Birmingham Museums Trust. There are 18 of us trainees based in various institutions doing various roles, but I was lucky enough to get my placement at the MCC for the next year and will also be getting a Level 3 QCF in Cultural Heritage as it is a work based accredited programme – wahoo! Read More...

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28 Jun 2017

Donald Rodney Consultation

I have passed Donald Rodney’s work Land of Milk and Honey II many times on my visits to Birmingham Museum and felt incredibly proud to have an artist from the city I grew up and a black artist exhibit in a world class museum. Upon hearing about the possible acquisition of another piece of Rodney’s work, I knew I wanted to attend and have a say about what is in our museums, to see the many different facets of my city represented in our museum. And so I was incredibly excited to be invited to attend a consultation and also to observe the other people attending the consultation. Would they be the usual museum workers and museums goers? 

To my absolute joy when I arrived at Birmingham Museum the group of people attending the consultation was a diverse group of individuals consisting of the usual white, middle class museum types and also people who represent the masses of people who rarely set foot in a museum, which made me happier than you can imagine. In fact my mum attended and made a really interesting observation, she (white, middle class) commented that she was in a minority and how strange it felt because she is not in a minority often particularly in this setting, which is interesting, as this is often how I feel as a mixed race person. If museums are going to truly represent the communities in which they reside, it is important to represent the community within the museum, seeing predominately white male art and history is not representative of other equally important histories. And this is what Collecting Birmingham will be addresses through community consultation and understanding what Brummies want in their museum.  Read More...

12 Jun 2017

Birmingham Manufactures: What about Smethwick?

We all know that names are important, but identifying what we mean by ‘Birmingham’ for this project has proved a little tricky! At the start of the project we were unsure whether or not to include world-famous manufacturers that although not technically in Birmingham, have important connections to the city, and are well represented in the collection. Perhaps most perplexing of all was the problem of Smethwick. Although it is not part of Birmingham, many of the most important manufacturers in this region were either based in Smethwick or had premises there, and Smethwick-made goods are well represented in our collection. This blog post will identify a few examples that we’ve already come across as part of the project, and explore a little bit why the geographical division of manufactured goods is so difficult! 

Perhaps the most familiar to visitors of Thinktank will be the Smethwick Engine. The Smethwick Engine is the oldest working steam engine in the world, and is one of the highlights of our collection. The engine was made for pumping water up the locks on the Birmingham Canal, and was made at Soho Foundry, in Smethwick. Named after the site at which it originally stood, the Smethwick Engine has clear connections to manufacturing in nearby Birmingham. The Engine was manufactured for the famous Birmingham-ites Boulton & Watt, who founded the Soho Manufactory, a little over a mile away in Handsworth. Although Handsworth is now firmly within Birmingham’s borders, at the time of production, it actually lay in Staffordshire!  Read More...

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9 Jun 2017

Get involved and shape the future of Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery!

Would you like to help transform Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery into a museum for the 21st century?

Birmingham Museums Trust is developing its plans for the future of the Museum and its displays, and wants to involve as many Birmingham people as we can. Read More...

7 Jun 2017

Volunteering at Sarehole Mill

Hi I’m Allan. I have been a volunteer Miller at Sarehole Mill since early 2013. I was initially inspired to become a volunteer at the Mill when I attended a local forum where a talk was being given by a member of staff from the Mill on the restoration program that was currently in progress. It was stated that they were looking for volunteers to be trained as Millers, to be ready for the opening on Easter Sunday 2013. Having now retired from work, and having a keen interest in baking bread, the idea of being able to mill my own flour was too good an opportunity to miss. So here I am a fully trained veteran in the world of corn milling!

As a Miller, my role is to get the machinery ready for milling. Put the grain into the hopper above the millstones, open up the penstocks to allow the water from the millpond to flow onto the waterwheel, and start the milling process. During milling, the grain feed, and the gap between the stones has to be constantly monitored and amended accordingly, to ensure fine flour is produced. Read More...