When the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television was set up in 1983 it was at a time of optimism for Bradford. Bradford was the first deindustrialising city to launch a tourism campaign – Bradford: A Surprising Place – celebrating equally the Brontës, curry and rolling out a red carpet for the first arrivals. The new museum was part of that moment.
Yet twenty years later a different story was being told. Further severe funding cuts looked likely in the 2013 Comprehensive Spending Review, leading Ian Blatchford, the Director of the Science Museum Group, to indicate the potential need to close one of the group’s northern museums (also including National Railway Museum, York; Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester). 45,000 people signed The Bradford Telegraph & Argus petition to keep the museum open.
Now we are five years on. The museum did not close and it has started to reinvent itself.
The reinvention has focused on two key strategies. The first is to make the most of its roots in the Science Museum, with the new Wonderlab and the change of name to the National Science and Media Museum. The second is to become better connected in Bradford.
The Bradford’s National Museum research project is part of this reinvention. Over the next three years we’ll be experimenting with how these two new strategies of focussing on science and technology and celebrating being a distinctively Bradford museum can be combined.
They’ll be lots of ways for anyone interested to get involved:
- Open Conversations: We’re starting by launching an open conversation about Bradford, and about the museum in Bradford.
- How the museum came to be in Bradford: We’ll be looking at the histories of the museum: how did it come to be here and how can being based in Bradford shape the museum’s future.
- Telling Bradford Stories: We’ll be exploring the unique opportunities for interpreting the science and technology of media that come from such a cosmopolitan and well-connected city.
- Translocal Connections: We’ll be using the idea of Bradford being well connected to other local places in ways that bypass capital cities and global cities (such as London or Mumbai) – which we’re calling translocal connections. We will be doing this to see if we can respond to the networks that are in and stretch beyond Bradford to reimagine the role of the ‘national’ museum.