Newarke Houses Museum has undergone a £1.5m refurbishment. © Leicester City Council
Newarke Houses Museum, incorporating the Museum of the Royal Leicestershire Regiment, re-opened on Saturday June 23 2007 after a £1.5m refurbishment.
The first floor of the museum is now home to a permanent display about The Royal Leicestershire Regiment, ‘The Tigers’.
Telling 300 years of the famous regiment’s history a central exhibit is a life-size reconstruction of a First World War Trench, which is based on the experiences of four local men who served in the war - two of whom were killed and two of whom survived.
The latter project was funded in part by the people of Leicester who responded to a local funding appeal in the Leicester Mercury.
New displays in the ground floor galleries tell the story of Leicester and its people in the 20th century including a 'split' recreated living room showing decor from the 1950s and 1970s, street scenes and stories from local people.
The new Museum of the Royal Leicestershire Regiment includes a recreation of a First World War Trench. © Leicester City Council
“There’s a very strong interactive and human aspect to the whole museum which is very strongly linked to the curriculum,” explained Nick Ladlow, Managing Curator at the Museum. “We have got 16 new galleries and the first two are very much community led – we actually handed them back to the community to develop their own displays.”
The community galleries, ‘My Home’ and ‘Moving Here’, tell stories of the different communities in Leicester. The St Matthew’s community has contributed to the first of the displays, which will be changed annually.
Very much a hands-on, interactive and educational experience, the museum features a recreated 1950s cinema where people are invited to sit in and watch archival footage of Leicester. There is also a collection of toys from Tudor times to the present day and a play area for children to try out games.
A 1920s drapers shop originally displayed at the former costume museum is now at Newarke Houses, which leads onto a re-creation of a scene inspired by 1950s Wharf Street, including a chemist, grocer, pawnbroker and a pub, which you can walk into and hear sounds and conversations from the times.
The new museum includes a 'split room' decorated in 1950s and 1970s decor. © Leicester City Council
A variety of different techniques tell these stories, including oral histories, archive film, interactive computers and newly acquired objects.
Another key element in the grade II listed building is a 1645 panelled room which has been left preserved - with the subtle addition of a touch screen interactive that explains its history.
“The big test was this weekend when we had over 1,000 visitors,” added Nick. “We are asking for feedback to see what the public think of it and what have received so far has been really positive – even from local historians and stakeholder groups – so we’re really encouraged.”
The refurbishment, which began in 2004, was funded by a £1m Heritage Lottery Fund grant and a further £250,000 each from Leicester City Council and the Royal Leicestershire Regimental Association.