Short of being on placement during the first week I decided to visit some of the museums in Leeds with my friend and look at the various ways they deal with interpretation.
When we arrived at Armley Mills industrial museum we initially tried to use the disabled parking which was sign posted as my friend has trouble walking. Though there was inadequate provision for it (only one space) which involved turning around a returning to the car park and having to walk back down.
Upon entering the museum we got our ticket and proceeded though the first gallery where there was a really nice interactive display stand. We didn’t linger as there was also a school party attending the museum and they were about to receive a talk on spinning. I took the opportunity to observe the demonstration.
The school group were primary school age and were dressed up. The museum worker started by showing the group pre-carded fleece and demonstrating that by putting a twist into it the wool thread became stronger and encouraged the children to try it out.
He talked about the children’s roles in the mill during the Victorian period. As a part of the demonstration he started up the machine and showed how it worked. After completing this he took questions from the group.
See attached image
Afterwards we proceeded on to next room with the raising gig set up supporting this were signs on the machine a life sized cut out of a mill worker next to an information board and a small display of teasel’s which are used in the machine. One nice feature was the information board inside a wicker basket. [see photo] another observation was the use of floor marking to guide visitors though the space following a time line.
In the stairwell I was quite taken with a display from a nail maker showing the different types of nail they made, why I found it interesting was I have been renovating a Victorian house and I could recognise lots of the nails I have discovered during the building work.
The next space was a thematic display of tailoring focused on Leeds companies it included displays of suits as well as a mock of of a tailors shop. One disappointment was the two TVs in the space were not working.
Upon leaving the textiles area we entered the first of the temporary exhibition spaces dealing with queens of industry it was very informative but the film being shown in the space was rather long so we moved on before it finished.
The next space dealt with the film industry and cinema this space had an area for children to make things associated with the space adjoining this area was the cinema itself though it was closed as the school party were using it.
After leaving this area we discovered a couple more temporary exhibitions though these seemed to of been somewhat abandoned as various items were not working and labels were damaged and examples were missing. One of the movable cabinets containing shoes looked like it had been moved and not put back.
The natural flow led us out side though a self closing door which you cannot go back though, we explore the external spaces with the old fulling mill, water wheel and various machines. This entire area seemed a bit run down though this could be explained away by a marker on a nearby wall showing that the entire area had recently been flooded. Now as we could not go back the way we came we had to walk back around in the rain to another door to get back into the main mill.
So overall it was a nice experience though not being able to park closer and getting stuck outside wasn’t pleasant in the rain.
Abbey House Museum
We made the trip down the road to abbey house museum from Armley and were able to park fairly close by in a disabled spot in the main car park [previous attempt to visit resulted in not being able to find a parking space due to an event being on in the abbey]
One of the first things you go in to in the gift shop though this was true at Armley mills the smaller space at abbey house made it slightly more imposing. Just out side the shop I discovered the visitor book and an old Victorian letter box being used for suggestion cards.
The main galleries are accessed via a barrier gate which Leeds you on the a Victorian street all the shops are based on ones from Leeds we were met by a member of staff in costume, she did explain that this was not the normal dress code but she had just finished with a school group.
I took great pleasure exploring the various shops in the display and examined the various replicas that were in the public bits. The attention to detail was wonderful. One shop included various costumes for members of the public to try on as well as an interactive display.
Upstairs we entered the main temporary exhibition space dealing with fantasy and fairy stories each cabinet dealt with a different tale. This led into a space which continued a children's theme which an amazing display of toys along side modern versions which could be played with. I was very enamoured with the idea of learning though play.
The last space was another temporary exhibition which housed a collection based around protest
As you continue the tour you arrive at the penny arcade consisting of old antique arcade machines and automata. Visitors could buy old penny tokens to play the various games.
As you leave the space you exit though another barrier meaning that you can not go back. We decided to get a coffee before leaving which subsequently resulted in a trip to the loo's I was amused by the humour in the toilets.
As a museum experience I certainly wish to return to abbey house with my son so I can get the pleasure of watch how he interact wish the various child friendly things.