Out and about: The Museum of Making

Written by Claire Messenger, Manager, International Training Programme

The Museum of Making showcases Derby’s 300-year history of making, design, and manufacturing. The museum’s stunning home is an old silk mill – considered to be the site of the world’s first modern factory – and takes its cue from the innovation and creativity found both in Derby and its surrounding area.  Being part of a site of global significance within the Derwent Valley Mills UNESCO World Heritage Site – the ‘valley that changed the world’ – ensures the museum can share the story of the Derby’s pivotal place in the Industrial Revolution.

Visiting the museum for the first time earlier this year, I was so impressed by the way they have managed to preserve the feel and aesthetics of space, maintaining the beautiful structure of the former mill and enhancing it with carefully selected items from their collection.

Museum of Making entrance hall

The museum’s collections – wonderfully presented – range from the world’s smallest engine run using a human hair, to a seven tonne Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engine hanging in the foyer.  With 30,000 objects on display, presented by material, the galleries tell the story of ‘making’ in the city and its environs.  Much of the collection is cleverly displayed in open storage – always a joy to see – allowing the museum to present more of its collection in the spaces available.

Open storage at the Museum of Making
Museum of making open store

What makes the Museum of Making standout, is the connections it has made with the local community who are integral to its creation and development.  As well as a lively programme of events and exhibitions, the museum has partnered with Rolls Royce to inspire young people to develop their own skills in science, technology, engineering, arts and maths, thus helping to shape the innovators of the future.

An important space in the museum is a workshop full of specialist equipment and skilled staff who are on hand to support modern makers and encourage innovation. Here visitors are challenged to express their creativity and be inspired to reveal their hidden talents.

For me, a favourite gallery was Railways Revealed which looks at Derby’s impact on the world through the railways.  As a hub of rail transportation connecting cities of the Midlands with London, Derby was a leading player in the railways that built the UK and remains home to many of the world’s leading companies in the rail sector.  And a particular highlight is the working model of the Midland Railway as it would have been in 1906.

Model railway at the Museum of Making

Derby Museums Museum of Making was one of the worthy finalists for the Art Funds Museum of the Year 2022 and you can enjoy a short video tour here – https://www.artfund.org/museum-of-the-year/meet-our-finalists-2022.