Inside Grantham Museum's permanent homage to Margaret Thatcher

By Ben Miller | 10 January 2014

The polls have opened at the first permanent exhibition devoted to former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

A photo of an exhibition display showing photos and artefacts from a politician's life
A permanent display on Lady Thatcher's life has opened in her hometown of Grantham© Grantham Museum
If exhibitions feed off audience response, the first museum display devoted to one of Britain’s most divisive politicians should have plenty of food for thought.

Even with a leader as cast iron as Margaret Thatcher at the helm, the Conservative party could only dream of a ballot box return as decisive as the one organised by the Grantham Museum, which currently records a blue vote of 59%, a Labour share of 29% and a Liberal minority of 13%.

This is a permanent exhibition in the Lincolnshire birthplace of the former Prime Minister, who died last year. A suit, shoes and handbag worn by the Baroness, as well as a hockey stick she played with at school and a choir book she owned – signed by its owner and her father – feature.

“The highlights are certainly the more interactive elements of the exhibition, which are the mock up of a 1970s living room with original news footage from the 1979 election and the ballot box,” believes Helen Goral, the Chairman of the museum, who says early visitor feedback has been “really positive”.

“Visitors can sit and watch the TV coverage, read the party manifestos of the time, and then take their polling card and vote retrospectively in our very own ballot box.

“When Lady Thatcher passed away last year, the museum had a solitary cabinet with a handful of items displayed.

“Since then we have come a long way in providing visitors what they have expected and asked for for a long time, which is an exhibition worthy of her heritage and place in Grantham’s history.”

Political cartoons, paintings and photographs document Thatcher’s life and times. A maquette of her statue, which was made by Neil Simmons but decapitated in London’s Guildhall Art Gallery in 2002, partly reflects the museum’s current fundraising campaign, which aims to create another statue in her honour as part of a £200,000 refurbishment.

“Her suit was loaned to us after she passed away,” says Goral.

“It’s the one thing that people want their picture taken with. The exhibition has been really well received and we still get people from all over the world as you will see in the visitors’ book. And it’s primarily because of her.”

An open condolence book – the third of its kind at the museum – is also available for visitors to sign.

  • Open Thursday-Saturday 10am-4pm. Admission free. Follow the museum on Twitter @granthammuseum.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

A photo of an exhibition display showing a political polling station and a blue suit in a case
A swing-o-meter would reveal a torrent of Tory votes at the ballot box© Grantham Museum
A photo of a museum display showing a female politician's possessions and photos of her
News clips from 1979, when Thatcher became Prime Minister, are screened© Grantham Museum
A photo of a mock-up 1970s living room inside a museum with a sofa and a television
A mock-up 1970s living room is proving popular© Grantham Museum
A photo of a museum display showing artefacts from the life of a female politician
A statue of Lady Thatcher will be created under fundraising plans© Grantham Museum
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