Derby public give their views as the Silk Mill starts work on shaping new exhibitions

October 29, 2013

A groundbreaking venture to get the public involved in the project to re-open one of the Midland’s most historic venues got off to a flying start when scores of visitors shared their thoughts on some of its most precious artefacts.

Derby’s Silk Mill, which is built on the site of the world’s first factory, is set to open its ground floor space next year following a £700,000 re-fit, during which its operators, the Derby Museums trust, will install brand new furniture, display cases and exhibitions in order to tell the story of the city’s industrial history and engineering prowess.

What makes the re-fit process unusual is that members of the public are being invited to design and manufacture the furniture and fittings themselves in a project called Re:Make the Museum, working alongside curatorial experts from Derby Museums, London-based design experts TILT and architects Bauman Lyons.

Running alongside the project is a series of open events where the public are invited to help staff decide which items from the museum’s 7,000-strong collection, which include aero engines made by Rolls-Royce, a hand axe dating back to the Stone Age and artefacts from the Midland Railway Company, should go on display and how they should be interpreted.

The first session, which took place at Derby’s Museum and Art Gallery at the end of September, saw staff lay out around 70 objects from the Silk Mill’s collection – plus many more photographs of items – and attracted around 50 people, who shared their anecdotes, views and ideas.

Hannah Fox, Silk Mill Development Manager at Derby Museums, said:
“Our collection is vast and extremely eclectic, which means that there are countless different strands connecting the items, and so it was brilliant to find out what themes chimed strongest with the people who will ultimately visit us to view our exhibits.

“We got a tremendous amount of stories and reactions which we will be able to use and the interest that it generated was a huge endorsement of the citizen curator philosophy that is behind the Re:Make the Museum project, which in itself is something we are extremely excited by.”

The trust has invested in new computerised CNC equipment in order to make the furniture and is putting together a comprehensive programme of making sessions between now and the early part of next year.

The Silk Mill’s ground floor refurbishment will act as a forerunner to a major project to turn the venue into a significant and groundbreaking venue that will showcase Derby’s illustrious industrial history, while offering visitors the chance to explore the maker, creator and innovator in themselves.

It will also be designed to help inspire a new generation of Derby engineers, designers and makers, whose knowledge, skills and experience will help the city to thrive in the modern economy.

To find out more about the Remake the Museum scheme visit

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