Seventy museums combine

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Oxford Castle Unlocked

I had no idea that there were seventy different museums just in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. And that got me to thinking. How many local museums in your own area could you mention?

Those 70 have come together in a body called the Thames Valley Museums Group to launch a new initiative to encourage visitors to be aware of the exceptional range of museums in the region celebrating art, sport, archaeology and history. Granted you might have heard of some such as the Ashmolean in Oxford, Didcot Railway Centre or Pitt Rivers but I bet those who live in the three counties couldn’t name more than a handful. As for all seventy?

How many of us visit our local museums or galleries? Even though I write about them I have been to just four or five in my own county. The hope is that by combining each will benefit from the additional media coverage they will get. Initially it will also remind people living in those three counties what they have on their doorsteps.

We forget sometimes, the range of museums that we have and the members of the Thames Valley Museums Group serve as a useful reminder of what sort of museums we have. They aren’t just places with stuffed animals, local industry relics, pictures of people we have never heard of and a seemingly ordinary piece of furniture or two. In this area there is a museum to one of the greatest of children’s writers, Roald Dahl Museum & Story Centre in Great Missenden; the fifteen year old River & Rowing Museum at Henley which celebrates one of the most successful sports we have had in recent years and another – not quite so well known – the National Badminton Museum in Milton Keynes.

There are two former prisons, the Buckingham Old Gaol Museum and Oxford Castle Unlocked; museums recording rural life such as Chiltern Open Air Museum in Chalfont St Giles, the Museum of English Rural Life in Reading and the Waterperry Rural Museum which is near Wheatley and one of the most important houses between the wars for political society, Cliveden in Maidenhead.

Yes the bigger and more intellectual museums might be better known but what this iniative also tells us that there is more around in your area than you might think. And don’t they provide a good place for an afternoon out.

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