In May of this year the Museum of Bath at Work entered the Luigi Micheletti Award organised by the European Museum Academy. The Award is given each year to the best Museum with industrial or social history as a basis of its collection, and over two hundred museums across Europe entered in 2018. The judges visited the Museum during the summer, and although we did not win we did receive this supportive and encouraging report.
“This is a delightful museum giving an interesting overview of the industrial and commercial heritage of Bath.”
Two museums represented the United Kingdom this year. The MUSEUM OF BATH AT WORK was founded in 1978, the initiative coming from the designer Russell Frears, who had worked in the U.S. with Charles and Ray Eames.
The closure of J.B. Bowler’s local brass foundry, workshop and mineral water factory and its 400,000 objects formed the collection’s starting point, which is housed in an impressive historic building (1777), a former Real Tennis court. Kenneth Hudson, the museologist who is specially honoured in the exhibition, acted as an adviser during the early years.
This Museum is the only cultural institution in the city that deals with the history of ordinary Bathonians and relies heavily on its 40 volunteers. Founded as an industrial museum, the focus has shifted more to the social history of the city. The Heritage Lottery Fund funded an exhibition, ‘Knowing Your Place: Bath in Twelve Picture Alphabets’, which featured alphabetical lists from the 12 areas making up the city of Bath. The 312 suggested local features included buildings, local personalities, natural features, archaeology, traditions and stories, all relating to the working life of those who submitted them, providing a unique perspective on the city and created by its citizens.
This is a delightful museum giving an interesting overview of the industrial and commercial heritage of Bath. It shows what can be achieved with a minimum of staff and budget, adapting its strategy to developments in society. The collection is the real star, impressive in its unique authenticity. The enthusiasm of those responsible deserves much more support.