As you would expect, over the years Birmingham City Council has built up some ‘overspill’ from its museums that it needed to put into storage. However, with the closure of the Birmingham Museum of Science and Industry in 1997, considerable storage space was required for a large proportion of its exhibits as only some made the transfer to the Science Museum at ThinkTank: the 1.5 hectare warehousing centre on Dollman Street, Nechells, serves this purpose.
Whilst I opine the loss of the Museum of Science and Industry elsewhere on this site it is of some comfort to know that the exhibits once displayed there are at least in good order and stored as opposed to having been sold off. However, it is not quite apparent what they are being stored for as the Centre isn’t open to the public – only on two days per year – and the Council have made it abundantly clear that a dedicated industrial museum is not a worthwhile use of taxpayer’s money: although I’m sure most of us could think of far less worthy causes that do well from the Council’s coffers!
That said, the Museum Collections Centre contains some real gems and for anyone who remembers the old Museum of Science and Industry, a good deal of memories will be jogged whilst walking around it’s rackings and viewing its vehicles collection – my particular favourite being an electric refuse truck from the 1960s (see below) which, for some reason, caught my imagination as a small boy.
It also needs to be borne in mind that whilst the overwhelming majority of items stored there are from the old Museum of Science and Industry, there are exhibits from the Art Gallery and Natural History Museum here too: a significant porcelain collection is housed here – some items dating back several thousand years BC – along with a shoe collection, a toy collection and various other items and artifacts from various historical periods.
Whilst the Centre is a fascinating Aladdin’s Cave of exhibits and industrial and scientific history, it does beggar the question as to why it’s all locked away out of the public’s view: surely its content belongs to the people of Birmingham and we pay for the Centre’s upkeep and staffing: wouldn’t it be better to make it publicly accessible – even charge a small fee for entry (as opposed to a large one at ThinkTank) – and let people enjoy what’s there? Come on Birmingham City Council, I know you seem to actively pursue a policy of erasing and hiding all traces of Birmingham’s industrial past but surely it’s what made Birmingham what it is and should be celebrated and promoted as a significant part of our regional heritage, not locked away in a warehouse!