The Times They Are A’Changin’ Friday 23rd September- Museum of the Jewellery Quarter

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The Museum of the Jewellery Quarter is a perfectly preserved time capsule providing a snapshot of working life in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter and of it’s metal working heritage. Birmingham City Council acquired the site after the company, Smith and Pepper, ceased trading in 1981. When Smith and Pepper closed its doors, they simply down tooled and locked the doors, unaware they would be leaving a time capsule for future generations. The main focus of this museum is the guided tours, which they won the award for Best Told Story in the 2015 VAQAs assessment. Guided tours work best for a museum of this nature as they are able to tell a story in a much more narrative way as opposed to being behind glass panels with text. Also on a practical level, it helps to control visitor safety. It is too dangerous to have visitors wondering around free flow as there is dangerous machinery and lots of pieces on display within reaching distance that can’t be touched for conservation reasons. The anecdotal stories from the tour guides make each tour individual, conversational, informal and interactive. One of the team’s volunteer tour guides used to work in the office and was able to pass on personal recollections. The photograph shows a workbench in the factory- you can see how quite literally the workers down tooled with tools and scraps of metal left on the bench. The tour guide shared an anecdotal story about the shelf in the middle of the workbench which was installed by the workers because the two workers opposite fell out and didn’t want to see each other. Small stories like this made the tour much more personal and engaging.Gemma.

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