When the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television was set up in 1983 it was at a time of optimism for Bradford. Bradford was the first deindustrialising city to launch a tourism campaign – Bradford: A Surprising Place – celebrating equally the Brontës, curry and rolling out a red carpet for the first arrivals. The new museum was part of that moment.
Yet twenty years later a different story was being told. Further severe funding cuts looked likely in the 2013 Comprehensive Spending Review, leading Ian Blatchford, the Director of the Science Museum Group, to indicate the potential need to close one of the group’s northern museums (also including National Railway Museum, York; Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester). 45,000 people signed The Bradford Telegraph & Argus petition to keep the museum open.
Now we are more than five years on. The museum did not close and it has started to reinvent itself.
The reinvention has focused on two key strategies. The first is to make the most of its roots in the Science Museum, with the new Wonderlab and the change of name to the National Science and Media Museum. The second is to become better connected in Bradford.
The Bradford’s National Museum research project is part of this reinvention. Since 2017 we’ve been experimenting with how these two new strategies of focussing on science and technology and celebrating being a distinctively Bradford museum can be combined.
The Bradford’s National Museum story so far…
In 2019 we opened Above the Noise: 15 Stories From Bradford. This was a cruical part of our action research design and a way of exploring our key research questions. Following Above the Noise we spent six months reflecting on the process from all perspectives and using this process to refine research questions for the final phase of the research. You can read the report here.
In Novemeber 2019, the research team, museum staff and collaborators visited Chicago and Washington DC, meeting people and exploring ideas and practices that have shaped work – especially work on race and systemic racism – since.
2020 is the final year of the project. We now have an active Bradford’s National Museum staff group shaping and informing the action research as well as exciting new projects. To name two, Tim Smith’s River of Tea: From Begal to Bradford (looking at the role of tea in bringing people from especially Sylhet to Britain) will be part of the NSMM’s Ideas Hub (Spring 2021) and BCB is leading on Bradford Corona Chronicles reflecting on the experiences of lockdown in Bradford and the role of media technologies in people keeping in touch with family, friends, work and news.