‘A museum should not just be a place for fancy paintings but should be a place where we can communicate our lives through our everyday objects’ – Orhan Pamuk
If you’d have asked me what my ideal way of spending a Saturday afternoon I’d be talking for a very long time before the word ‘museum’ ever passed my lips. However that’s exactly where I found myself last Saturday as I went along to the first day of the Discovery Museum’s newest permanent exhibition ‘Charge!’*
Of course it’s not probably something I would have ordinarily gone to had it not been the fact that dad works there and had a hand it putting the whole thing together. As such we were treated to a personal tour from the man himself, and whilst I may scoff at how middleclass I’ve sudden become, and I definitely did stress too much over what one wears to a museum on a Saturday afternoon, I ended up having a brilliant time (and I’m not just saying that because my dad will be reading this – I promise!)
I grew up in an Army family, living in Holland and Belgium for the majority of my childhood so I have always been a fan of anything Army related. Charge! Is the Story of England’s Northern Cavalry bringing together collections of The Light Dragoons and the Northumberland Hussars since becoming the Command & Support squadron of the Queen’s Own Yeomanry. Both regiments, which are formally affiliated to each other, are the only cavalry divisions today which exclusively recruit from the North of England.
Rather than following a traditional chronological format the exhibition is laid out in categories instead, which I find much easier to follow as you can see side by side the contrast between traditional and modern incarnations of the regiments. Despite the exhibition room being relatively small, there’s loads to see and read about. I also love how interactive it is (so definitely somewhere you can keep the kids interested for an hour or two). A real highlight for me where genuine copies of letters that had been sent home to family members from World War II (which were also available to listen to audibly).
There’s replicas of some of the regiments uniform to dress up in which displays perfectly the evolution of military fashion (if fashion is the right word!) and examples of different ration packs and that are taken into the field – something which brings back memories for Dave who took many a ration pack with him on his bike trip round the word in 2009 courtesy of the British Army – the fruit biscuits are amazing apparently!
The balance between interest for young and old is just perfect in my opinion, there are games for the children to play throughout, explaining about different animals who were kicking about during that time – the story of Peter the cat is my particular favourite. And ever wondered what a soldier smells like after 2 months in the field? Wonder no more as there are smelling pods which have recreated different scents of battle. Believe me when I say it’s not for the faint hearted – and I’ve smelt the inside of a cricketers dirty kit bag!
If you’re not particularly pushed for time, half an hour in the cinema room would be time well spent which has multiple short films on display featuring real soldiers and their families talking about their experiences – good and bad. Some of the films are difficult to watch but extremely well put together and really brings home what soldiers go through.
Much as my dad’s my biggest fan, likewise, I’m his and it’s lovely to see him able to work on something he’s so passionate about (he himself was a member of The Queen Own Yeomary before he retired a few years ago) and the team at the Discovery Museum have put on an excellent display.
* Don’t worry, we went to the pub afterwards!