Photo: Brighton History Centre boasts a massive collection of 40,000 photographs from the Victorian era right up to the present day. Photo: David Prudames. © 24 Hour Museum.
Ever wondered who frequented Mahomet's vapour baths in the 17th century? Want to know what Dr Russell's famous saltwater cures were? A new research centre launched at Brighton Museum and Art Gallery yesterday has the answers.
A multi-media facility, Brighton History Centre is housed in the museum's former reference library and provides unique access to hundreds of years of local history.
The new centre completes Phase II of the museum’s process of regeneration and will be open to the general public from Friday October 3.
Launching the impressive new facilities, Deputy Leader of Brighton and Hove Council, Sue John described the centre as an exciting way of bringing together the communities that have been attracted to the city over the years.
"It is going to be a real asset to our cultural quarter," she said. "It will provide the most comprehensive and engaging resource for all those studying the history of Brighton."
Photo: the Victorian reference library has been trransformed to create a light and airy atmosphere. Photo: David Prudames. © 24 Hour Museum.
Whether through the latest technology or the pages of historic newspapers, the centre offers access to archival and pictorial holdings on every aspect of life in Brighton.
Visitors can watch clips from the South East Film and Video Archive, or search through 600 years of archives from East Sussex Record Office with the help of a Brighton and Hove archivist who will be on hand one day a week.
Head of Collections and Exhibition Officer at Brighton Museum, John Roles explained how the centre was designed to provide access to different historical resources under the same roof.
"It is very important to us because it is bringing together a whole range of collections in one place in a modern facility," said John.
Launched during Archive Awareness Month, the centre is testimony to the fact that exploring history through public records is not just a job for qualified historians and is certainly not about rooting through dusty files.
Photo: hundreds of years of history at your fingertips. Photo: David Prudames. © 24 Hour Museum.
As John Roles added, the Brighton History Centre is designed to offer a way into historical studies for everyone, no matter who they are or how far they want to delve.
"Our whole idea is to try and make people feel welcome. We are trying to generate interest in people who wouldn’t necessarily think that the museum is the natural place for them to go."
As well as free Internet access and word processing for those researching family or local history, a series of temporary exhibitions will offer an insight into topics of local interest.
Kicking the changing programme off on October 3, Masoret explores the traditions and history of Brighton's Jewish community.
The project has been supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Brighton and Hove Regeneration Fund, the Esmée Foundation and the Garfield Weston Foundation.