In one of the most innovative and ambitious museum developments of the last decade, M Shed
, Bristols new city history museum, opened to the public on Friday 17 June 2011.
The museum is housed the landmark 1950s transit sheds at Princes Wharf on the historic waterfront in the heart of the city. Located less than half a mile away from the award-winning SS Great Britain and opposite the Arnolfini Gallery and Watershed Media Centre, it is at the hub of a vibrant cultural quarter of Bristol. The whole site - the sheds and their quayside - is one of the last remaining complete 20th century docksides in the UK.
The museum includes 3,000 exhibits, drawn from the world class collection of the city, telling the many thousands of stories of the people of Bristol, which have been discovered through working with experts and communities across the city, a process that will continue for the life of the museum.
M Shed, the building which gives the Museum its name, has been sympathetically restored, with the aim of preserving its historic character, while also transforming it into a 21st century museum. The work has been carried out by Lab Architecture Studios, perhaps most famous for the work they have done in Melbournes Federation Square. The development includes three main galleries, a fully conditioned temporary exhibition space, a new glazed rooftop extension with spectacular panoramic views across the harbour, workshops, a functioning train shed, a learning suite, and café, book and gift shop. Entrance to the museum will be free.
Among the unique displays are:
Models and props for Wallace and Gromit, Curse of the Were Rabbit, donated by animator Nick Park, from Bristol based Aardman Animations. Wallace and Gromit have not only established worldwide fame, but have now been officially adopted as Bristolians.
The original spray painted pink Technics record deck used by members of Bristol band Massive Attack to record their tracks in the 1980s when they were still part of the loose group of musicians called the Wild Bunch.
A 10 metre long mural of a fantasy landscape of Bristol specially commissioned for M Shed from local graffiti artists Andy Council and Luke Palmer (Acerone). Bristols rich history in graffiti including celebrated artist Banksy is illustrated in the museum.
Documents of the notorious Bristol Bus Boycott, led by a group of Bristol black campaigners, which hit the worlds headlines in 1963 and whose cause was championed by Tony Benn. The dispute was eventually to lead to the end of racial discrimination on the buses in Bristol.
Abolition campaign supporters issued tokens used as small change or keepsakes to gain support for the Abolition movement. Bristol played a major role in the transatlantic slave trade and M Shed tells many stories about those lived it, who profited and ran the slave trade in the city, those who were enslaved and those who challenged the industry.
Restored, full scale and fully functioning dockside cranes, steam locomotives and harbour boats including the 150 year old Mayflower, illustrating the important industrial past of the area, which lasted until as late the 1970s in Bristol. Access to the public to try out these historic working exhibits will be available regularly throughout the year.
M Shed will also host events including debates and discussions around the issues raised in the museum. It also includes hands-on workshops with volunteers from Bristols dock side community, who will share their skills with visitors as part of a living archive for the Museum.
The £27 million development of M Shed has been funded by Bristol City Council with the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund, the DCMS and a range of individuals, companies and trusts.
Julie Finch, Head of Bristol Museums and Archives, said: M Shed is a world class museum. It builds on Bristols great heritage to bring experts and the community together in the joint endeavour of building a new narrative for the city. I hope M Shed will become a destination for the understanding and celebration of the history of Bristol and its people and a vibrant learning resource for the future, open to all.