I caught up with Phil Redmond, Chair of National Museums Liverpool, a couple of days ago and asked him about the new Museum of Liverpool and what is in store for us on the museum and galleries front in the coming months.
This is what he had to say;
PA – When did you first visit Liverpool’s museums and galleries and what inspired you?
PR – Too young to remember very first visit. I think that it’s part of our DNA as scousers. This place has such a range and depth and breadth of the collection. It was such a fantastic place to be. As a very young man I remember the giant crab! The Samurai exhibits also. Just the scale and range of exhibits.
PA – Were you a frequent visitor in your youth or did you have to be dragged there by school etc?
PR – Quite frequent, my mum and dad used to take me. I used to drop in when sagging off school if it was raining! Later when studying at the Picton I used to come here too.
PA – Recent years have seen significant investment in museums and galleries in Liverpool. Maritime Museum in 1984, Tate in 1988, renovation of World Museum Liverpool in 2007 and renovation of the Bluecoat in 2008. Attendances are larger than ever. Why is this?
PR – I think it is two things. One is, austerity is no stranger to Liverpool and coming to the museum is a good value day out. The other aspect is that people are not always interested in daft TV programmes, people want a richer experience which the media does not always offer.
PA – Do you think that museums and galleries can drive wider cultural activities, music, art etc, not just receptacles of artifacts? If so, how?
PR – I think that they are about the stories about the artifacts and about context. Also the stories are saying this is what happened then and can it happen now? We are getting more and more visitors coming to the city and the museums are the second most visited attraction in cities. The museums offer an activity that can be used in between the other things like shopping, theatre etc. We need to increase the dwell time in the city and museums can do this.
PA – Museums have recently, tentatively opened in the evening. Is there more scope for this?
PR – I think that this is one of the things behind the ‘Big Society’ thing that has been lost in the recent debate. If we want people to linger after work or do something prior to the theatre or whatever we need to fill that 5-00 to 8-00 o’clock gap. We are funded to open between 10 and 5 and we need to find a way to do this. We can create a different vibe by getting families to come into the city in the evening. Also with football games, we can attract visiting supporters to visit if we are open.
PA – The new Museum of Liverpool is opening later this year, in July. In my opinion a stunning building in a great location. Apart from acting as a traditional museum, will it have other functions?
PR – Well, there are but initially we are concentrating on getting 6,000 objects out of storage so the first objective is to get it up and running as a museum. There are plans down the track to do some theatre in the museum and some theatrical interpretations of the objects. There will be a good cafe though!
PA – My next questions was going to be about volunteers but I guess you have answered this.
PR – We have 500 volunteers and it’s about getting volunteers to extend what we do. If we can get volunteers to help us extend our day that is important. Also, we have an obligation to offer roles to people who may be unemployed or whatever and the volunteer programme can do this.
PA – Just one Capital of Culture of question to finish! If you were to go back in time and do it all again what would you do differently?
PR – Ha ha ha! I think that I would give a typical scouse cheeky answer and say that I should have got control earlier! The message I am trying to get over to Derry now is to not forget the local people. I think that had I got control earlier 08 would have been better!!