M Shed is Bristol’s newest museum and boasts the motto: ‘Your museum – your story’. And with exhibits including Rick Hurst’s donated skateboard and trainers on display, Minuteman Press Bristol quickly realised that M Shed is no ordinary museum.
We were fortunate to obtain tickets for the launch of M Shed, a significant moment in the history of the Bristol.
The new museum is located in a former mid-20th Century transit shed, the detail of which has remained exposed to create an atmosphere of nostalgia. The link with the museum’s external industrial environment has also been maintained with views of the working steam trains, cranes and the occasional ship passing by (though increasingly rare).
M Shed consists of three galleries each divided into sections: Bristol Places (ground floor), Bristol People (floor one) and Bristol Life (floor one). An exhibition gallery and roof terrace are located on floor two.
The galleries display a variety of attractions, from the momentous to the everyday, hence the skateboard! But it is this mix of the ordinary and the historical that make M Shed remarkable compared to other museums.
Interactive terminals in each section encourage visitors to learn more about the exhibits through fun games and local stories. Rather than the conventional writing on walls and panels, this approach looks set to maintain the interest of visitors in the years ahead while being easily updateable. It’s well presented, high tech and cutting edge.
The walk-on Bristol Lodekka double decker bus and working traffic lights were a particular highlight for the children who accompanied us, prompting cries of: ‘Anymore athat yer off da bus, I oan’t tell ee again!’ Wallace and Gromit exhibits also rated well with the youngsters! There are many opportunities to touch, try on and actively explore various items, which are appreciated by both adults and children.
The ground floor exhibition is organised into regions of Bristol, presenting a logical layout for the uninitiated visitor, with a display of historical maps at its centre (who knew there were so many ways of spelling Bristol? Brygstow, Brightstowe, Brightstovve etc). Minuteman Press Bristol noted the empty frames in each area of the Bristol Places gallery providing an opportunity to add a personal message and leave a lasting contemporary contribution to the exhibits.
It was great to see our friends at the Grant Bradley Gallery preserved for posterity in a high profile location. Not forgetting the largest bomb ever found from the Second World War, which was defused in Bedminster and paraded through the streets of London.
Links with Bristol Museum were evident throughout M Shed, examples including art and mapping, but without duplication. The positioning of the two museums has evidently been carefully taken into account.
Bristol People and Bristol Life on floor two contain a rich tapestry of the characters and fabric of Bristol, brought to life in film, audio and tactile exhibits and displays. Detailed consideration has been given to the most effective communication of information to the visitor in an exciting experiential way: the result has been a huge success.
The Nintendo system was an unusual choice for an exhibit that brought a smile to many, but it does have its place in social history. A fascinating (and macabre) display concerning the Bristol Riots of 1831 featuring a carved humerus. Film footage of the St Paul’s riot in 1980 provided an intriguing comparison.
The giant map of Bristol and its surrounding environs covering the ground floor is a great example of M Shed’s interactivity. Families crouch searching for their homes and other familiar locations (fun to observe), while from the second floor balcony others peer down between hot air balloons to gain a bird’s-eye view of the city.
The view from floor two is breathtaking. Cabot Tower, Wills Memorial Tower, Arnolfini, Bristol Cathedral etc… it’s all there. It’s an unusual perspective of the city that we all thought we knew well.
Concluding comments from other visitors included:
- Just what Bristol needed. What a fantastic experience
- Highly interactive
- M Shed is money well spent
- Not what we were expecting
- Very impressed with the exhibits and their display
- A lot for children to see and do, whilst learning about the city of Bristol
- I love Bristol, I wish we could stay forever
M Shed is at Princes Wharf, Wapping Road, Bristol BS1 4RN. 0117 352 6600 and best of all it’s free to visit.