Black Country Living Museum

Last Saturday I went for a trip to Black Country Living Museum. Since I was still in Jakarta, I already know this place and had wanted to go there. Yes, I am such a sucker for this travelling this. Sometimes it seems that I can’t wait to go out again, to travel again, and to have another adventure. Anyway, finally I got to go to the Black Country Living Museum.

I was interested to go there because of its unique concept. It’s not a regular museum, not the one where we come in and see the collections inside glass boxes. It is literally a living museum. The complex consists of buildings, transportation tools, workshops, shops, restaurants – just like a town. There are also people acting like they are living there. They wear the old fashioned clothes, speak in the ‘Black Country accent’, and do like different kind of jobs. It was a very distinct experience.

I went there with my husband, his friends, and a big group from the university. The first thing we did was watch an introductory video about Black Country. So it actually was an area that produces tools. Its natural resource had something to do with mining (pardon my lack of knowledge). So the whole area worked as people who are producing different kinds of tools, such as glass, chain, and anchor. It was said in the video that the anchor in Titanic was made in Black Country. As industrial area, Black Country also had quite advance modes of transportation at that time, such as trams, boats in canals, and buses.

As we walked into the area, there was this massive open area. We could see buses, cars, and motorcycle come and goes. We went to the mine office building, got prepared, and actually went into the mine. We went underground with limited light and it was quite an interesting and unusual experience for me. It was the first time I went into a mine – well, I don’t know when I will do that again basically. There was this kind of diorama showing what happened in the mine. What amazing was that we had to stop in several points and there will be narration of the ‘mine worker’ who is presented in the diorama. I don’t know but it was kind of amazing that they can build something like that – very educating and full of knowledge and history but not boring.

There are many buildings in the area of Black Country Living Museum. We go into some buildings and heard stories from the people there – you know the people who dress up like they really are living in the Black Country in the 1800-1900. The area actually divided into 2 parts, the first one is the kind of industrial space which is the mining with its machines (which is still working, amazingly!) and the other one is the town. We had to be careful walking there because there are buses, cars, and motorcycles. Those are the transportation which is a part of museum collection. They are all working very well and the museum people drive it for show.

We went to some shops and listened to the explanation from the shopkeeper about how people used to live in the past. We also learned about the money – which was different with the money system nowadays. We came into two very different houses, one is the house of a quite well-off family and one house is called Back to Back house because the houses were attached to each other and despite of its size tens of people lived there. The stories told were interesting. It was enjoyable and I could really imagine living at that time.

Oh! And we also saw this chain-making attraction. Basically it just a person playing as a chain maker and he showed us how to make chain. He also explained about how people get paid at that time and how women get paid lower than men. That’s maybe why the women in the museum wear this pin stating ‘Vote for Women’ on their clothes.

At the end of our visit we watched a black and white silent movie in the cinema. Yes, there is a cinema in Black Country Living Museum. Just like the old days (who am I talking like I know the old days), there are just benches in the cinema and the movie was funny. It is amazing how people in the movie can really act up to the point that the audiences understand what they mean although they are not speaking at all. Oh, but there was some kind of subtitle explaining briefly about the setting of the movie – but that’s just it. We looked at the school – there was really a class going on at that time – and finally we hopped on the tram to go back to the main reception building.

It was a very nice and memorable visit, I think. I don’t know if there is any other museum that offers this kind of experience, but it sure is my first one. I’m glad that I decided to go and let’s plan the next visit!

More info about BCLM: http://www.bclm.co.uk/

Photos: personal collection and https://instagram.com/ryantoanugroho/

Oct 10, 2015

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