Classic motor history pictures to be revealed as Transport Museum begins overhaul

By Culture24 Reporter | 07 April 2014

A largely-unseen archive of industrial history will be revealed to the public as Coventry Transport Museum's evolution begins

Click on the picture to launch the gallery


Hundreds of thousands of photos and negatives, held on fragile glass plates at Coventry Transport Museum, will be put on public display online in a catalogue of the former might of The Rootes Group, the car manufacturing company which employed one in 100 UK citizens at the end of the Second World War.

The far-reaching power of the industry in Coventry, the city where the group was based until 2007 following takeovers by Chrysler in 1967 and Peugeot Citroen in 1978, is represented by an archive largely concentrated on the period between 1930 and the 1980s.

Motor racing, wartime factories, celebrity promotions, publicity shots and prototype designs all feature, with around two-thirds of the collection remaining photographically unproduced until now.

Gary Hall, of the Culture Coventry trust, applauded the timeliness of the £89,000 project, launching as the £8.5 million redevelopment of Coventry Transport Museum and its 12th century Old Grammar School begins.

“The timing of this announcement could not be better,” he said.

“The Rootes Archive collection is unique, and tells the story of manufacturing within Coventry from small creative bicycle manufacturers to the international conglomerate of the Rootes Family Company.

“It is intrinsic to the story that we tell at Coventry Transport Museum.”

Set up last year, the trust has united the museum with the Lunt Roman Fort, the Herbert Museum and Art Gallery and the Priory Visitor Centre.

“This is another fine example of how bringing four of Coventry’s heritage attractions means that we can more effectively care for and make our unique collections available for future generations,” said Hall.

“This project will be undertaken utilising the specialist skills of a range of staff from across the trust - something which simply would not have been possible for staff at any one museum to achieve without the others.”

A dozen of the 14 galleries at the museum will be “re-energised” and upgraded during the next year, with the Grade I-listed Grammar School – unused for 30 years – turned into an exhibition, event and education space.

“We have been working on plans for this project for over six years now, so it is brilliant to know that work is finally getting started,” said Hall.

“During the majority of the work the Museum will remain open to visitors, and there will, as always, be plenty for visitors to see and do.

“As with any major redevelopment project, certain areas of the Museum will be completely closed to visitors whilst they are being transformed, with different areas being closed at different times throughout the project.

“There will also be a small number of occasions when we have to close the museum completely for around two weeks at a time, although it is our top priority to keep these closures to an absolute minimum.”

The European Regional Development Fund, the Heritage Lottery Fund, Biffa Award and the Garfield Weston Foundation have backed the transformation, while Arts Council development funding will pay for the resurrection of the archive photos.


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A photo of a diagram blueprint for a proposed transport gallery full of various vehicles
A new community learning programme will launch alongside the new-look gallery© Studio MB / Culture Coventry
A photo of a diagram blueprint for a proposed transport gallery full of various vehicles
Part of the building will be closed in phases© Studio MB / Culture Coventry
A photo of a diagram blueprint for a proposed transport gallery full of various vehicles
More than 500 vehicles are held in the collection© Studio MB / Culture Coventry
A photo of a diagram blueprint for a proposed transport gallery full of various vehicles
12 of the museum's 14 galleries will be transformed© Studio MB / Culture Coventry
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