Pop Into Your Local Museum For Heritage, Culture & An MOT!?!

By David Prudames | 28 August 2003
Shows a close up photograph of the front grill and headlamps of an old car.

Photo: one of the UK's largest motor museums, Haynes has a massive collection of historic cars from around the world. Courtesy Haynes Motor Museum.

Lofty and weighted with authority, the UK's museums are upstanding academic institutions with the advancement of learning at the core of their purpose.

So a museum would not necessarily be the first place you think of going when your car MOT certificate is up for renewal. Well, think again.

When staff at Haynes Motor Museum in Somerset were looking to raise the £500,000 needed to build a new resource centre, they decided to add to their repertoire of guided tours and demonstrations by offering punters an MOT testing service.

Explaining that Haynes had been judged as ineligible for lottery funding, Curatorial Director, Michael Penn told the 24 Hour Museum how the idea of starting an MOT station came about.

"I started to look at other fund raising possibilities and we thought the only way we were going to get it was by working for it," said Michael.

Shows a photograph of a museum display featuring a range of sports cars, a crowd scene has been painted in the background.

Photo: from supercars to the Sinclair C5, Haynes is said to be the country's most extensive collection of cars on permanent display. Courtesy Haynes Motor Museum.

"This museum is a living entity, a working, breathing motor museum and we have a fairly substantial workshop, so to raise funds we decided to start a garage."

According to Michael, a lot of local garages had closed down due to mismanagement and, since a prerequisite of the modern museum curator is a sound business head, he felt he could make it work.

"There was an MOT station closing down in the village and I personally applied for the licence," he said. "I got it and we took on all their equipment and personel and now they are absolutely delighted to be working in this environment."

If the first few weeks of opening are anything to go by, then, despite Michael's admission that it will take a long while to raise £500,000, the venture appears to be a success.

"People can just turn up, but we have a booking system," he said, "and we have full books every week!"

Shows a photograph of a ferrari formula 1 car.

Photo: as well as the Ferrari F1, the Hall of Motor Sport has Graham Hill's Lola Cosworth F1 and karts used by Princes Harry and William. Courtesy Haynes Motor Museum.

When the £500,000 target is reached it will be used to build a resource centre consisting of an expanded workshop, store room and, most importantly, a library.

As Michael explained, with the motor industry constantly evolving, collating and recording its history is a major problem and one that he is desperate to address.

"This is the reason why we are doing it, to achieve our aims and objectives to make the museum into an educational tool for the future. The subject is so vast that people don't actually begin to grasp the enormity of the impact of the internal combustion engine."

"You ask someone what they have for breakfast and they might say shredded wheat, but without the internal combustion engine they wouldn't know what shredded wheat was. Then you begin to get people to understand the importance of our subject."

And with that cause to fund, why not pay a visit? You can drop the motor off when you go in and pick it up having had a look at a top collection and having renewed your MOT for another year.

More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned:
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