From a Pin to a Piano – A People’s Museum of Barrow

Barrow’s famous moose will be coming out of the vaults for a special one-week celebration of the historic sights & sounds of Duke Street.

The huge moose’s head is among the most fondly-remembered artefacts from Barrow Museum’s previous home above the town’s library.

Now it’ll be on display for one week only at 105 Duke Street from March 27-Apr 1 as part of a multimedia installation exploring memories of the old museum, Pass’s Department Store and The Public Hall.

“It was above the door as you went in, enormous it was!” said Walney resident Margaret, one of the old museum’s regular visitors whose memories will be among the sounds in the exhibition. “As a little child, going up the stairs it was quite something!”. It’s said mischievous boys would sneak up to pat it on the head.

Margaret’s among many Barrovians whose memories of Duke Street have been recorded as part of the Re: Discover Barrow project funded by Historic England.

“We wanted to make this installation inspired by those conversations,” said Andrew Deakin of the Barrow sound art organisation, Full of Noises. “A lot of people remembered the museum above the Library as a special place and wanted to see some of its treasures again.

“We’re aiming to recapture the random & quirky atmosphere and spark conversations about what a museum should be.”

Alongside 20 museum loans including a large Penny Farthing, will be installations inspired by Pass’s Department Store which traded on Duke St until 1962.

“Pass’s had this fantastic boast that you could get anything there summed-up in the tag line ‘From a Pin to a Piano’,” said Andrew Deakin.

“We’ll have a sewing room and a music department with everything from gramophones to cassette players and a listening booth where people can play some original Pass’s records.”

Memories of dances at the nearby Public Hall will also feature with scented smoke & ambient sounds plus silent video and animation from artist John Hall featuring the Margaret Hetherington School of Dancing. He’s captured the stories of former Barrow Mayor Pat Jones too who met her husband on the Public Hall dancefloor.

Friday-night dress designs can also be whipped-up with an interactive video kaleidoscope powered by a vintage sewing machine created by Chris & Jennie Dennett of Artfly.

The Museum’s infamous Mummy’s Hand will be digitally conjured and visitors will travel through time with some green screen magic, transporting themselves into historic pictures of Duke Street from the Sankey and Francis Frith photo collections.

“It’s fun to see yourself in sepia and walk with the people on the street, including some very naughty-looking lads in caps,” said Chris Dennett of Artfly, whose screen has recently been helping put people into the watercolours of Minnie Pratt at The Dock Museum.

The exhibition has received invaluable support from Susan Benson and staff at the Barrow Archive and Local Studies Library, as well as Charlotte Hawley, The Dock Museum’s Collections and Exhibitions Manager, who has also been collaborating on the exhibition:

“The old Barrow Museum collection came over to the Dock Museum after it was built in 1994. With over 20,000 objects in storage, sadly there isn’t room for everything we hold to be out on display all the time.

“Having temporary exhibitions like this is a way to share more of the collection. It’s not possible with the most delicate items but it’s great to get out what we can. Giving people access to these objects is just as important as looking after them. I am so excited to see the Moose head on display myself and to hear people’s memories of it. It is what makes my job so special!”

‘From A Pin to A Piano – A People’s Museum of Barrow’ opens on March 27 at 105 Duke Street, open 11 until 5 daily.  Entrance is free.

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