Discussion in 'National Railway Museum' started by MellishR, Aug 7, 2021.
No doubt about that...good point, well made.
The sad thing to me is that we could see at one time that the NRM were the real preservationist-minded group, complemented up by the heritage railways but both parties seemed to be moving ever further down the commercial route and further away from the preservation/heritage ethos. The recent article by Chris Price in the "Trackside" magazine brought it home to me that present and future generations of heritage railway managers are more concerned about preserving bottom lines and employees jobs than heritage. What I thought was very telling about his article was that nowhere did he mention the idea of improving and broadening the quality of the offering. IMHO heritage railways should be looking more closely at Beamish, which seems to have settled on a far better balance of heritage and commercialism.
At one time the NRM generated it's own income and was fairly autonomous. The government put a stop to that by making museums free entry and the NRM became centrally funded. This meant they lost most of their autonomy and now have to rely on whatever the Science Museum Group provide and not surprisingly the SMG have a different outlook on what the NRM should be doing to what the old guard at NRM used to do (and hence what they will fund).
Excessive financial support has led to unnecessary expansion chasing the numbers and opening the loss making Locomotion, a return to full self finance ( although there was always grant support) and a substantial reduction of duplication in exhibits on a much smaller site would find favour amongst most enthusiasts. Do we need the Chinese exhibits or more than one of each type of loco ?
Would the general public really notice its disappearance from the Science scene ?
Indeed - and as proof of this the NRM is moving steadily away from being a Railway Museum and becoming, instead, a Science Park. Nothing wrong with a Science Park, and visitor numbers will show that, but does the National Railway Museum have to be dismantled to facilitate this. Perhaps I'm just old fashioned in my view of what a railway museum could/should be.
Agree with this, plus the undeniable fact that a majority of younger people are just not as interested in our transport history as we are, and as our forebears (the generations who spent their lifetimes working on the Railways) were. Try to find a younger museum employee who can impart true knowledge of our Railway history, learned from their elders... It's not easy.
We face the same problem at the bus museum, I see it the opposite way around... Younger parents telling their children that every half-cab double decker they see is "a Routemaster", or when the child asks how old it is, I've heard parents tell them "oh, it must be from the 1920s" - This standing at the side of a 1950s vehicle.
That sense of exploration, of finding out facts, of asking people who can tell them about things, is rapidly disappearing. This leads in turn to a generation of Museum staff who don't have to impart any technical information, and so that information is lost. This is, to me, where the NRM has lost its way - It used to be a very educational place to visit as a youngster - There was always someone on hand to explain all sorts about the mechanical side of Locos, or the historical side of carriages and other exhibits. Last time I visited I saw very little of that, and it made me sad. I know it won't be for us to worry about, but how much or how little will future generations care about the exhibits we have left them?
To me, the internet has killed a lot of hands-on learning for the younger generations today - It's far too easy to go to a place, look at something, not understand a thing about it, then look it up on the web at home... All well and good, as there is plenty of info on the web - but if you don't know what you're looking at in the first place, you don't know what to search for at home.
Exactly. There's nothing wrong with Science Parks, but we already have them. The NRM is something different, and was always run that way. It was a Museum of our Engineering achievement. How many of today's young people know and appreciate what proper Heavy Engineering is? We live in a country where the car industry is considered as Heavy Engineering. I've seen students at my workplace utterly mind-buggered when they see what Britain used to make for the world. These are university students, who can't comprehend the sheer scale of the things we once made.
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