There’s been a public museum on the same site in Maidstone for nearly 160 years. I’ve only been here for a couple of months though, but one of my jobs is to look at the long-term future of the museums and what they might be like in 20 years’ time.
We have the makings of a fantastic museum service in Maidstone, both at the main St Faiths Street site and at the Tyrwhitt-Drake Museum of Carriages – amazing collections, great staff, and buildings which are right in the centre of Maidstone. Let’s be honest though, it’s not perfect; some of our galleries can’t be reached if you’re in a wheelchair, lots of people say they didn’t know we were here, and the Carriage Museum is only open in summer. These things can be improved and it’s the sort of thing I’ll be looking at in my role as Director.
Thankfully, not everything will take 20 years to sort out! Here are a couple of things you’ll see happening over the next year or so:
People getting involved
One of the big changes in museums over the last 20 years is the recognition that museum staff aren’t the only people who should decide what happens. We have recently set up a panel of people from both inside and outside the museum to look at our future plans. We have volunteers who work with our staff, and we’ll be offering a whole new set of roles for volunteers soon. Keep an eye on the careers section of the website if you’re interested in hearing about these opportunities.
We also want to hear what our visitors (and people who don’t visit) think. Comments, suggestions, and ideas are all very welcome and we’ll be providing lots of ways to get them to us both in the museum and online.
Exhibitions and displays
Changing galleries is expensive and takes time, but we aren’t standing still. Next year will see the opening of a new Ancient Civilisations Gallery showing off our Greek and Egyptian collections.
We’ll also be using more of our own collections as the basis for exhibitions. The Collections team works very hard behind the scenes gathering information about the objects the museum holds, as well as carrying out new research. Improved record keeping, meanwhile, means we can tell the stories of many more. In keeping with the first point, we’ll be working with more people, individually or in groups on displays and exhibitions. The new Ancient Civilisations Gallery is being developed in association with our youth group, Cur8, and members of Kent Association for the Blind. It’s our aim to ensure our displays feature the photos, words and ideas of people all across the borough.
We’ve got a lot of work to do but it’s going to be fun! Museums should be places where people of all ages and types feel happy, welcome and comfortable. My hope that is that in future, our museums are right at the centre of peoples’ lives.