Museums and Galleries Month 2002 Starts Now!

By Simon Rose | 29 April 2002
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Right: meet King Henry VIII and enjoy a Tudor day out to Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire on Sunday May 5, and Bank Holiday May 6.

Museums and Galleries Month is back - and, like Henry VIII above, it's bigger and better than ever.

The month was launched in the North of England on Monday April 29 by MGM Joint Chairman, Loyd Grossman. Loyd is also Chairman of the Trustees of the 24 Hour Museum.

The launch razamatazz next moves to Shakespeare's Globe on the South Bank of the Thames on April 30 for a national opening.

Running from May 1 to June 4 2002 - with some 1500 museums, galleries and heritage attractions participating - it is the biggest event of its kind in the world, run by the Campaign for Museums and engage (the National Association for Gallery Education.)

The annual festival has been extended to include the Queen's Golden Jubilee Weekend and promises to have something to interest people of all ages.

Left: plenty going on in the principality - especially at Wrexham County Borough Museum.

Every part of the UK will have a Jubilee-related event in one of its museums. For example, Wrexham County Borough Museum is asking people to bring along their own photos, memorabilia and even (perish the thought) 'tacky' souvenirs.

Those wanting a break from 'Jubilee fever,' need not worry though. As well as the 'Jubilee' theme, there will also be a wide range of other exciting themes and events.

Left: newly re-opened Hackney Museum in London joins a host of smaller venues in "Great Places in Small Spaces"

'Great Places in Small Spaces,' a kind of mini-festival under the MGM 2002 umbrella, aims to raise awareness of London's smaller, lesser known, attractions.

Right: going underground at the Museum Of London.

The scheme has 75 smaller museums and galleries participating, and is supported by BBC London, BBC History Magazine, the London Museums Agency and the Museum of London.

Budding local historians have the opportunity to get involved with Local History Week - another mini-theme within MGM 2002, running from May 4-12.

Click here to visit the Local History Week dedicated website: there are events all over Britain during the week and the website has a map which allows you to find the nearest near you.

There is also a theme of 'Celebrating Friendship', which is linked to the Festival of Friendship at this summer's Commonwealth Games in Manchester.

And by the way - there's a fantastic website to publicise arts activities during the games - click here to get an eyeful of the vibrant and exciting Cultureshock website!

With 1500 participating venues across the UK, it would be virtually impossible to list all MGM 2002 events here. For details of what's going on in your area visit the MGM website - www.may2002.org.uk

To get you in the mood, the 24 Hour Museum takes a look at some of the events that have caught our eye.

Time Team enthusiasts stumped by any strange object they have unearthed while digging or gardening can have its secrets unlocked at Oakwell Hall Country Park, near Batley, West Yorkshire.

Right: they've been digging at Oakwell.

Oakwell is holding an 'Unearthing the Past' day on Sunday 26th May. Experts will be on hand to help identify mystery objects and reveal a bit about their history.

Visitors will also be able to find out about some of the items and objects unearthed during recent archaeological digs at Oakwell.

The Royal Family: A Centenary Portrait by John Wonnacott, 2000 © John Wonnacott

Left: The Royal Family: A Centenary Portrait by John Wonnacott, 2000. © John Wonnacott

In London, the National Portrait Gallery has assembled its majestic Royal portraits, including Andy Warhol's Queen Elizabeth, and there will be a Children's Royal trail around the gallery. The Royal portraits will be on view from May 1 until June 6.

Staying beneath the sound of Bow Bells, Sutton House in London's East End is having 'A Right Royal Knees Up.' Children and adults visiting the house can dress up and join in a royal feast, with singing and dancing. Click here to see the National Trust's webpage for the house.

Right: get them to earn their pocket money at York Castle Museum.

On May 4, York Castle Museum is hosting the event 'Wedding Belles.' Step back in time to eavesdrop on recreated preparations for two old-time weddings, with the help of the overworked seamstress Miss Marston.

Left: I beg your pardon, but what is a Pokemon card, sonny? Recreated traditional sweet shop at York Castle.

Somewhat intriguingly, the event boldly promises to uncover the truth between romance and real life!

Oxford's Pitt Rivers Museum is the venue for 'Bone 'n' Stones': Oxfordshire Objects.' Strange but true, a surprising number of local objects are hidden amongst the crowded Pitt River displays. The Friends of the Museum will be taking guided tours to help visitors track them down.

Carved canoe prow, Solomon Islands, c. 1939. © Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford.

Right: don't mess with me...I'm in the new Body Arts collection at the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford.

Also at the Pitt Rivers as part of MGM2002, on Friday May 10 there will be an informal opportunity to view the new Body Arts displays after hours and with Museum staff on hand to answer your questions.

Loyd: we're launching a debate as well.

Loyd Grossman, Joint Chairman of Museums and Galleries Month, says: "The month is a time both to enjoy our museums and galleries and also to enter into spirited discussion about their purpose and future."

With this in mind, there will be four debates during May - which are sure to provoke some lively exchanges.

'A box of matches is the curator's best friend' is the topic of discussion at the National Portrait Gallery, on Thursday May 9 at 7 pm. The debate will ask "What is the point in collecting?" - and explore how the collections in museums and galleries recollect our past, resonate with our present, and how they will be important in our future.

'Going back to our roots' will debate our modern understanding of heritage and history, its importance in our lives and the current ascendance of particular and local histories. The venue will again be the National Portrait Gallery, in London on Friday May 17 at 6.30 pm.

'Stamping on tradition' sets out to discuss the role of tradition in culture and politics now that old certainties are gone. Are we in danger of destroying or modernising customs from the past just for the sake of it? The debate takes place at the Estorick Collection, on Monday May 20 at 6.30 pm.

The final debate will be held at the Royal Society for the Arts in London on Wednesday 22nd May and asks: "Truth and meaning - are museums doing their job?"

The next MGM 2002 update featuring news of the opening in London will appear on the site later this week.

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