The great storyteller himself, Roald Dahl (1916-1990). Courtesy of The Roald Dahl Museum & Story Centre/ Bremner & Orr.
The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire will open its vast chocolate doors to the public for the first time on June 11 2005.
Eight years in the making, this brand new venue aims to explore the great storyteller’s life and use his wild imagination to promote a love of reading and writing.
Speaking to the 24 Hour Museum just days before the grand opening, Director Sue Davies hoped the institution would be a fitting tribute: "Dahl didn’t particularly like museums," she said, "so we are trying to create the kind of museum that we think he might like."
Architects have transformed an old coaching inn at Great Missenden. Photo: Keith Collie.
Aiming to be a unique cultural, literary and education centre, the £4.3 million project has been supported by Dahl’s publishers, his family, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Arts Council.
Architects and design consultants have turned a former coaching inn, located in the village where the author lived and wrote many of his best-loved works, into a series of galleries that immerse visitors in his extraordinary imagination.
Born in Wales to Norwegian parents in 1916, Roald Dahl first began writing upon leaving the RAF with which he served in Africa and Europe during the Second World War.
Having enjoyed success with short stories for adults, he turned his attention to children and in 1967 published James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The BFG, The Twits, Danny the Champion of the World, The Witches and Matilda, to name but a few, followed: all bestsellers.
The BFG's dictionary taking shape. Courtesy of The Roald Dahl Museum & Story Centre.
As Sue Davies explained, the new museum is designed to allow visitors the chance to let inspiration and creativity hit them in the way it did the hero of the piece.
"We just think it should be a place about sparking the imagination," she said. With so little time available in our busy lives for dreaming and inventing, she added, the team behind the museum wanted to "offer a place where people can do just that."
So, as well as displaying the Roald Dahl archive of letters, manuscripts, photographs and artefacts, the institution boasts the Story Centre.
With a replica of Dahl’s writing hut as its centrepiece, the Story Centre aims to get imaginations fired up. Kids will be given an Ideas Book, much like that used by the man himself to scribble down notes and plans, in which they can jot down ideas as they hit them.
The writer's desk with pencil sharpener six pencils were sharpened with everyday before writing began. Courtesy of The Roald Dahl Museum & Story Centre/ Bremner & Orr.
Activities such as creating photo-fit faces and magnetic fridge door games, all based on methods used by leading writers, will encourage development of character and plot. Contributions from such literary figures as JK Rowling, Philip Pullman, Ian McEwan, Benjamin Zephaniah and Jacqueline Wilson add further insight into work that goes into writing a novel.
However, the new museum won’t just be a static exhibit. A programme of temporary exhibitions will start with a display of private photographs taken by Roald Dahl between 1939 and 1943 and a writer in residence has been appointed.
"It’s really exciting," said Sue, "we’ve been doing some previews and it’s been so nice to hear people’s voices in the galleries. But on Saturday it will be the first proper public visitors to see us when we are finished and I can’t wait." Because, she added, "the visitors are what the work’s all been about."