Bristol’s multi-million pound M Shed museum has opened to the public

Bristol’s multi-million pound M Shed museum has opened to the public
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image above: Bristol Industrial Museum. The Industrial Museum closed in Oct 2006, and re-opened as the Museum of Bristol in 2011.

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June 2011 M Shed: Banksy and Wallace & Gromit celebrated in Bristol’s new city museum

The harbourside museum, which cost £27m to build, is two years late and £8m over budget.

The Heritage Lottery fund has contributed £11m to the project while the Department for Culture, Media and Sport gave £1.5m, with other funding from Bristol City Council.

The museum has three galleries with objects and stories illustrating the city’s past.

It has been built on the site of the former Industrial Museum in Prince’s Wharf on Wapping Road.

It was opened following a ceremony on Bristol’s harbourside on Friday June 18th.

The museum was given the name M Shed after a 1950s transit shed which used to occupy the site.

Exhibits include models and props used for the Wallace and Gromit films, Technics record decks used by Bristol band Massive Attack and a 10-metre long mural of a fantasy landscape of Bristol.

There are working exhibits such as the electric cranes at the front of the building.

The cranes are the last four of eight which were originally used in the 1950s to unload ships on the harbour.

A working fire boat, a diesel tug and a steam locomotive are other exhibits at the museum.

Councillor Simon Cook, the council’s deputy leader, said the museum would add to the city’s "cultural mix".

"M Shed is a fitting tribute to all the people who have helped shape the city’s history," he said.

"I share the pride of local people who see this new museum as a bold statement of who we are, where we have come from, what we have achieved and our optimism and enthusiasm for the future."

Julie Finch, the council’s head of museums, said the M Shed would be "world-class".

"I hope M Shed will become a destination for the understanding and celebration of the history of Bristol and its people and a vibrant learning resource for the future, open to all," she said.

HUNDREDS of Bristolians packed the city’s harbourside as a spectacular show heralded the opening of the city’s new £27 million M shed museum.

Crowds who waited in front of the former industrial sheds, now crammed with exhibitions charting all aspects of Bristol life, witnessed the long-anticipated attraction finally open its doors with a flourish yesterday.

A circus performer plunged from a giant metal ‘M’ suspended high above the Bristol docks as part of the opening ceremony at noon.

People queued patiently to be among the first to visit the free museum.

Crowds also packed the quaysides by the Arnolfini and the Lloyd’s Amphitheatre to watch the show marking the opening of Bristol’s newest museum.

With a dramatic roar of noise, the steam engine Henbury pulled up in front of the new museum, which houses more than 3,000 exhibits, starting the festivities which featured an aerial performance by Cirque Bijou.

Actors were suspended from two of the dock’s four cranes while under fire from the water canons onboard the 1934 boat Pyronaut as they recreated the tale of Goram and Vincent.

Acrobats danced and mock-fought on the quay side, and the men competed for the affections of Fair Avona, singing on a boat in the waters down below with one plunging off the swinging, elevated M-shaped platform into the cold water of the docks after losing the fight.

About 100 children dressed in bright red M shed T-shirts packed the foyer just before noon, ready for their big moment to complete the ceremony with a rendition of the specially-composed Bristol River Song, echoing around the Harbourside through giant speakers as the doors to the museum swung officially open.

Youngsters from Gay Elms primary, in Withywood, St Nicholas of Tolentine school, in Easton, St Mary’s primary, in Bradley Stoke, Westbury-on-Trym primary and Hannah More primary school, in St Philips, giggled and laughed, hiding their nerves behind games of pat-a-cake as they waited to sing the Bristol Song during the opening ceremony.

As more than 1,000 members of the public eagerly explored the three floors of the revamped 1950s transit sheds at Prince’s Wharf, one of the last exhibits to be put in place was a copy of yesterday’s Evening Post.

Sliding it into place in a glass case, Post editor Mike Norton said: "I am delighted that the museum has recognised the Evening Post’s role in Bristol’s story."

Julie Finch, the head of the council’s museums, galleries and archives, looked delighted with the turn-out as people flocked past her into the Bristol People gallery.

She said: "The museum charts themes over time, but it is also about being dynamic and ‘now’.

"That is what this museum is about, creating the immediacy and the first-person connection and linking people to the past through different themes that are relevant to them today."

Visitors flooded through the three galleries, wandering among the exhibits and peering into glass cases. Among them was Wendy Le Tock, an American who has made Bristol her home. She said: "This is the crown jewel in the Harbourside now. Bristol is an incredible city, the best I’ve lived in. I live on the docks and everything has tended to be on the other side except the ss Great Britain. Not any more."

Mum Hazel Gulley, 32, from Shirehampton brought her two children, Arran, four, and Amber, 21 months, who were transfixed by the bright colours and interaction making up the many displays.

"Arran enjoyed the earphones in the slavery section and is most looking forward to going on the bus in the transport section," she said. "It is great from what we have seen so far."

The green, double-decker Bristol Lodekka bus is a feature on the first floor and open for anyone to clamber on board to experience a slice of 1960s Bristol first hand.

Raymond Williams, 81, from Redcliffe, was admiring the bus close up. It was a special moment for him to see it in the museum, as he worked on it 57 years ago, cutting out the shapes for the panelling.

"It is part of this city’s history," he said. "And it is good that it is here."

Linda and Ian Jones from Knowle were busy trying to locate their home on the giant map of Bristol covering the floor nearby.

Linda, 63, said: "We’ve only been in five minutes and we think it is brilliant."

Her husband added: "We’ve waited a long time for this to be opened and it looks good. We were just re-living a memory of when our toddler got shut on the bus after we had got off it!"

As they and the other first visitors to the museum explored further round the attractions their presence was tracked yesterday.

Derek Williams, from Nottingham firm Axiomatic, was on hand to ensure footfall sensors in each sector of the M shed were working to provide Bristol City Council with hourly feedback of where visitors are going. The information will show the council which are the most and least popular exhibits.

"This is a very good turn out," said Mr Williams, whose firm has also worked on the Arnolfini across the water. "I’ve not visited Bristol for years and that whole area along the docks has all been developed and looks really good. It will attract lots of visitors."

Yesterday’s opening ceremony marked the completion of a project first envisaged 13 years ago and plagued by delays. Work began on the building in January 2008 and it was originally due to open in July 2009 but had to be postponed a number of times.

City council partnerships director Stephen Wray recalled seeing an A4 sheet of paper 13 years ago with the initial thoughts for the redevelopment of the building, which was previously home to the city’s Industrial Museum and includes some of its predecessor’s exhibits.

"Wherever I’ve worked in the country I’ve always gone first to that city’s museum to get a feel for the place. Bristol museum (the City Museum and Art Gallery) is fantastic but it is like the British museum, it doesn’t really have anything about Bristol.

"This does and it tells it through people’s lives. It is driven by stories, not artifacts."

One such story belongs to 68-year-old contributor Tony Weaving, from Totterdown, who was proudly admiring a picture of himself, aged 17, on a membership card for the Tudor Club at the Glen – a Mecca for the young at heart throughout the 50s and 60s at the top of Blackboy Hill.

"The museum is wonderful," he said. "It is going to be a big tourist attraction."

Information source: BBC Bristol Evening Post.

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