Buxton Museum & Art Gallery re-opened last month, following a £1.5m redevelopment, funded by the the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Wolfson Foundation, Derbyshire County Council, Arts Council England, The Paul Mellon Foundation and other benefactors to redevelop the galleries and improve facilities in the building.
Obviously we wanted to take a look at how things had changed, particularly in the first floor exhibition – Wonders of the Peak, where the biggest and most drastic changes were promised. More to the point – is the bear still here? (He used to roar without fail when visitors approached his ‘cave’!)
First up, the museum exists to tell the story of the geology and archeology of the Peak District landscape. Some people don’t know that. Specifically the Wonders of the Peak exhibition tells this story, beginning millions of years ago up to the present day.
From immediately entering the museum, you can see things have really been modernised and the entrance and foyer is such a huge improvement and the gift shop has had a complete re-design with lots of new merchandise – which might we add, looks brilliant; lots of lovely vintage Buxton postcards, mugs, coasters, cushions, t-shirts and more. The gift shop is now certainly on a par with any major museum gift shop such as Manchester Art Gallery, Manchester Museum etc. and the merchandise choice has clearly been well thought out as part of the revamp.
The ground floor Gallery 2 and Boyd Dawkins study room (a room dressed as a Victorian study) remain largely unchanged except for some of the display cabinets being modernised and new panels to explain the displays which were a welcome addition. The current exhibition by Malcolm Ryan in Gallery 2 is extremely worth seeing, if, like us, you enjoy vivid, bright coloured art works – don’t miss this.
It’s fantastic to now see a display dedicated to all that is Buxton at the museum too, located in the foyer – which has some fascinating objects to look at. What’s noticeable is that Buxton has been given some space – where as previously it was scattered about in the collection and not obvious.
The ‘timeline’ design of the Wonders of the Peak exhibition has continued, as it was previously, but far more easier to follow and understand; there’s various pointers on the displays where to look, and to be honest, it was like a light going on when we were walking round – it really felt like finally we could understand the display and really grasp the story behind objects on display, where as previously it felt confusing with little explanation.
Again this exhibition definitely gives any other major museum a run for its money and having visited many over the years, we can honestly say the displays and design of the ‘new’ museum is just as good as any of the major players in Manchester or places like the British Museum (personally we prefer the displays here and they much look nicer and not as clinical as the British Museum). Oh, and regular visitors will be pleased to know the Buxton Bear is still in residence here! And his growl will be back once the museum is completed…
The 35th Derbyshire Open art competition finalists exhibition is now on display in Gallery 1 on the first floor and the range of styles of the work is great to see and the quality of entries are superb as always – well worth a look if you’re here; visitors can vote for their favourite and the entry with the most votes with win Visitors Choice Award – announced soon. Again this gallery is largely unchanged – it’s always been a nice space to be in where you can take a seat and really enjoy exhibitions.
There are also brand new toilets and the museum now has a lift, which was much needed – big enough for prams too. The staff are extremely helpful and knowledgable as always and were keen to talk to us about the redevelopment with great enthusiasm. Everything is still work in progress and a grand opening is planned for September 2017 when everything is completed, so watch this space…
With the Crescent hotel opening in 2019 (an 80-bedroom, 5 star luxury spa hotel) and continued development in the town with various other projects, Buxton Museum & Art Gallery is now ready for all the additional visitors the town is likely to see.
Buxton Museum & Art Gallery, Terrace Road, Buxton, Derbyshire, SK17 6DA
Tel: 01629 533540
For more information about Buxton Museum & Art Gallery and find out about events and activities (there is a regular programme of events, many of which for children), go to www.derbyshire.gov.uk/leisure/buxton_museum