Recently, I visited two “Open air museums” which have changed my perception of how history can be taught and learned about.
During a lovely weekend at a cottage in the Yorkshire Dales, We went the Beamish museum in County Durham.
To say I’ve fallen in love is an understatement. The Beamish is a “living museum” which means that there are no galleries per se but you wonder in a “reconstructed” so to speak era from a time in the past. I think the idea is absolutely wonderful and I wish we would have something like that in France too !! (if we have one and I don’t know it, please someone let me know).
I am a total vintage fanatic and am somewhat obsessed with anything from the Victorian era to more contemporary years so this kind of museum was right up my alley.
You can wander by foot or take an old 1900s tramway to stop at a 1900s typical town. Staff and volunteers are dressed accordingly and you can ask the as many questions as you want. They are found in shops (the sweets shops was lovely) and you can visit people’s houses too.
There is a 1900s pit village and a colliery, a 1940’s farm full of landgirls (I was so overjoyed at this point I nearly hyperventilated), a train station and a 1820s landscape. You name it, they have it.
About two months after that, my boyfriend took me to another of these museums which I loved even more (mostly because we stayed longer), the Black Country museum near Wolverhampton which is closer to us.
I strongly recommend the experience, you get totally immersed in the spirit of these eras and it’s much easier to project yourself and appreciate how life was at the time. It’s totally interactive, we walked, took some buses and trams from the 1940s, talked with “locals” , ate a the famous Hobbs fish and chips shop where they cook the food exactly the same way as it was done in the 1930s.
We had a lesson at a school from the beginning of the century (to note: if you have nail polish, you will be labelled a jezebel by the school teacher !!) , we went to a tour down the mine as well with a wonderful guide, and went to see a Charlie Chaplin film at a 1920s cinema (we sat in the posh seats at the back!)
I’ll always remember the demonstration in chain making which was very impressive, and a wonderful chat with an older lady in her house by the fire, it was a wonderful discussion and I’ll remember her wise advice for life. We ended our day with a taste of the local pub where we tried an ale and the day was over. Next is to do a 1940s Christmas celebration there, a total dream which I hope will soon become true !!
It is a wonderful experience and a totally different and refreshing way to learn about history. The views for both museums are breathtaking and you’ll have an amazing time in both. It’s also a perfect activity for kids and an ingenious way to get them into history.
The Beamish museum is huge and we couldn’t see everything but will gladly come back as soon as possible. Both museums also have a year ticket for an attractive price and you can come as many times as you like with one of these tickets. They also do lots of workshops and activities for all ages which are very sought after.
Beamish museum: http://www.beamish.org.uk/
Black Country Museum: https://www.bclm.co.uk/