Birmingham: Its People, its History opens at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

By Culture24 Reporter | 12 October 2012
A photo of a woman looking up at a virtual display inside a modern art gallery
New Gallery: Birmingham: its People, its History, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Birmingham, opens October 12 2012

Keiko Mukaide leads the way with a dazzling light installation, James O’Hanlon has been commissioned to make a spectacular topographical painting of the lie of the land, and some of the original features of the Grade II-listed home of Birmingham’s central museum have been renovated and uncovered.

Centuries after Beormingahām became Birmingham, when Peter de Birmingham started a market town around the Bull Ring in 1166, the city has a proud £9 million home for some of the stories of its rapid expansion.

Flamboyant poet Benjamin Zephaniah’s first typrewriter, pieces from the Hadron Collider and boxing gloves once jabbed by Bunny Johnson (Britain’s first black heavyweight boxing champion) are here, as well as carousels and wedding veils from the funfairs and department stores where bygone Brummies once relaxed.

But they’re only part of more than 1,000 objects, including Medieval metalwork, 18th century decorative arts, Victorian costumes and artefacts from both World Wars, many of which have never been publically shown before.

For the next week, a series of well-known Birmingham natives will help their home city museum launch its newest gallery by taking to a podium in the centre of the space.

They range from the current Miss Birmingham and a chef who once dodged Gordon Ramsay’s wrath on the F Word to a heavily tattooed “surgical art” revolutionary, broadcaster Nick Owen and Georgina Moseley – the mum of Harry, the Birmingham boy who raised thousands for cancer sufferers after learning he had an inoperable brain tumour.

“We’ve got some brilliant speakers lined up,” says Ann Sumner, the Director of Birmingham Museums, who has also persuaded a former wannabe on BBC’s The Apprentice, TV and radio presenters, war veterans, science experts, artists and Eurovision fanatics to take part.

“We wanted to celebrate the new gallery by encouraging people from across the city to come and tell their stories. Birmingham is such a fantastic place, full of great people. We want visitors to quiz our presenters and ask questions about why they love the city.”

  • Open 10am-5pm (10.30am-5pm Friday, 12.30pm-5pm Sunday). Admission free.

More pictures:

A photo of a section of brown stone from a museum collection
This hand-axe, found in Saltley, Birmingham, was made around 250,000 years ago. During the Stone Age, hunter gatherers roamed the area we now know as Birmingham. These early people were short and muscular with large joints and big hands. They lived together in small groups, hunting mammoth, woolly rhinoceros and reindeer. The hand-axe was probably used by these communities to cut animal meat
A photo of a large sign showing the white letters HP against a grey background
The HP Sauce factory was in Aston Cross. The famous sauce, a blend of vinegar, fruit and spices, has been in production since 1903. The HP sign was a  prominent feature of the factory tower until it was demolished in 2007, when production moved to the Netherlands
A photo of an intricately painted small horse from an ancient funfair carousel
The Wilsons are a traveller family based in Hay Mills who have toured a funfair for many generations. Every year Bob Wilson's carousel is a central feature of the Christmas market in Birmingham. James the carousel horse is carved from wood and hand-painted
A photo of a red and blue gas mask with see-through goggles
The threat of aerial bombardment and gas attacks at the outbreak of the second world war led to the early distribution of air raid shelters and gas masks. Gas masks were a particular challenge for young children, who found them frightening. The Mickey Mouse mask was designed reduce their fear
A photo of a young woman looking at a model of a Medieval village town inside a case
The Heritage Lottery Fund and Arts Council England have supported the new gallery
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