Photo by Steve Daniels (CC BY-SA 2.0)
In a year of uncertainty, books have been a great comfort, solace and source of hope to us all. Alongside the wealth of books published over the past couple of months, a whole museum dedicated to our beloved tomes has been given a new lease of life.
The Story Museum in Oxford re-opened on 24th October to much celebration, both locally and nationally, as previously featured on BBC News. A long-awaited renovation of the museum, which first opened in 2003, had to be suspended due to the UK Covid-19 lockdown; but now after several months anticipation, the museum has reopened its doors. Their hope, with this new look, is to welcome generations of bookworms to their literary wonderland.
£6m and nearly three years of construction later, a series of Oxford buildings have taken over from the temporary lodgings the Museum resided in. A Victorian property, a telephone exchange and an old post office have been blended to present a new colourful narrative in the form of the Story Museum’s new look. As the Story Museum advertises itself, “we celebrate stories in all forms and explore their enduring power to teach and delight”, and this is nonetheless the case in the Museum’s magnificent transformation.
Although the Museum is now open for business and tailored to bookworms of all ages, it has certainly had to rethink its approach to engaging children in a love of reading. As many museums practice, sensory interaction is a huge part of a child’s experience in museums and art galleries. A tangible encounter with stories can be crucial in turning a child into an avid reader, but, as we all know, there is great power in the imagination, and what a relief that power is in an age where children can’t meet or pass objects around!
Aside from the Covid-19 barriers of social distancing and reduced visitors, the Story Museum is back to normal and hoping to fill its new home with tales, rhymes and legends. Each room is dedicated to a different theme, whether it be a specific book or a theme, such as the stories trees would tell us if they could talk. It sounds magical, doesn’t it? Well, look a little closer and you’ll find an alleyway of coats to trek through, leading to a snowy forest, just like Narnia. From here, you can play pooh-sticks in the One-Hundred Acre Wood with Winnie the Pooh and delve into Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. These are all immersive encounters with classic children’s books, both allusive and enchanting in their approach to just how rich and extraordinarily real fiction can be. The Story Museum promises features like The Whispering Wood, The Enchanted Library, and a trip into their incredible archives, which house thousands of well-beloved children’s stories and classic novels.
This may sound like a place just for children, but in the midst of a pandemic, now more than ever we can see the importance of telling stories and escaping to other worlds. When it is safe to travel and explore the world beyond Bangor, why not stick The Story Museum on your bucket list and get lost in literature? After all, the books we love as children really do stick with us for a lifetime…
The Story Museum is now based at 42 Pembroke Street, Oxford, open 9-5:30 every day bar Mondays. You can also visit the museum and discover their collections at storymuseum.org.uk