After five years of work, Derby’s industrial museum, rich in exhibits that commemorate the huge and varied heritage of the city, is now open to the public, with free entry, as the Museum of Making.
It occupies the much-altered Silk Mill building, on the site of an early mill dating from 1704. What survived of Thomas Lombe’s 1722 building was destroyed in a fire in 1910, and the rebuilding carefully replicated the five-storey original as a three-storey building attached to the surviving distinctive tower.
Using the best of modern display techniques in a variety of ways, the Museum draws together the varied contributions Derby has brought to the world.
Visitors walk into a new atrium beneath a suspended exploded Toyota Corolla Hybrid car, manufactured south of Derby at Burnaston, and look towards a seven-tonne Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 aero engine, also suspended above the staircase.
There are close-up views of the Trent 1000 upstairs, with an opportunity to compare it with the earliest Rolls-Royce Eagle engine that began production in 1915, one of the type which powered Allcock and Brown’s pioneering non-stop Atlantic crossing in 1919.
There’s a bewildering array of objects and images relating to Derby’s involvement in iron-founding, railways, engineering and textiles, and its association with such diverse figures as the physician-inventor Erasmus Darwin, the painter Joseph Wright and the clockmaker and scientist John Whitehurst.
The pinnacle of this cornucopia of Derby memorabilia is the ‘Railways Revealed’ exhibit, which includes the latest version of the Midland Railway model layout, the grandchild of an original which has delighted Derby children and enthusiasts since 1951.
The Museum is an appropriate gateway to the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site which stretches northwards as far as Cromford, which ties together an astonishing variety of historic monuments of the early Industrial Revolution.
In view of the quality and significance of the Museum’s collection, it’s odd that it’s been given the vapid branding ‘Museum of Making’.
It could be anywhere.
I choose to call it the Derby Silk Mill Museum, so that people know where it is.
Update: Charlotte Higgins’ article in The Guardian (July 1st 2022) articulates exactly why the name ‘Museum of Making’ was chosen: Go to Derby: see how a museum can help shape a better future | Charlotte Higgins | The Guardian.