Stories of Change: The Museum of Making Live Project


Photo of Derby Silk Mill archive, Renata Tyszczuk

Derby Silk Mill, the site of the world’s first factory, has recently been awarded £16.4m by the Heritage Lottery Fund to redevelop the entire building and become the Museum of Making. One of the principle aims of the new museum is to provide access to 100% of the collections for visitors through a visible storage solution. This will require the use of innovative and integrated furniture that is able to display, store, conserve, interpret and provide access to collections. Traditionally, this would be achieved through the use of commercially produced racking and cases but Derby Museums don’t do things traditionally.

In October and November 2015, Sheffield University Masters in Architecture (MArch) and Masters in Architectural Design Students will work with Derby Silk Mill and Derby Makers to design and prototype solutions. The collections have many requirements including those relating to display, interpretation, conservation and access. It is hoped that the outcome of this project will help to inform the direction of the visible storage solution and will form the basis of a wider co-production project that sees volunteers from the city of Derby making the visible storage solution in partnership with them. This Live Project is part of the Future Works strand of the AHRC Connected Communities project Stories of Change, and so will raise questions of energy, past, present and future.

Derby Museums currently have extensive collections in all major subject disciplines, built up since the 1870s and including objects of local, national and international significance. There are records for approximately 128,000 items, which, including groups is likely to mean an overall collection size of 250,000-300,000. The Collections of Making and Social History account for approximately 25% of the total collection by volume. It is understood that the 9235 records for this collection vastly under-represent the true figure. In keeping with most major museums, and consistent with Derby Museums collections in general, the great majority of the Collections of Making and Social History are not physically on display at any given time. At present, approximately 96% of this collection is in storage.

Project Aims for Collections

There is now considerable experience across the country, and abroad, in operating visible storage solutions. The range of approaches stretches from an accompanied-access ‘Discovery Centre’ style solution, as used by Leeds Museums and Galleries, to a fully-accessible gallery-style visible storage solution, as used by the Brooklyn Museum in their Henry R. Luce Center for the Study of American Art Visible Storage Study Centre and the National Railway Museum in their ‘Warehouse’ display.

Through a combination of visible storage and digital access, visitors to Derby Silk Mill will be able to access the entire Collections of Making and Social History during their visit. Utilising digital interaction, users will be able to form their own links through the collections and explore themes and narratives that could potentially provide them with a sense of ownership, both of the collection and of the city they represent.


It is hoped that the outcome of this Live Project will help to inform the direction of the visible storage solution and will form the basis of a wider co-production project that sees volunteers from the city of Derby making the visible storage solution in partnership with the Silk Mill. Put simply, whatever is created as an output of the Live Project should, in principle, be able to be replicated in-house and by co-production volunteers using sustainable materials that can be easily sourced and worked in our workshops. This would ensure a meaningful legacy for the project and provide new, wide-reaching opportunities for co-production volunteers during the capital works.

The project direction may also be influenced by the project architects and exhibition designers, who will be stakeholders in the overall DSMMoM project. This provides an additional opportunity for the students to work on a live brief. This project will involve working at the Makers Space and Workshops at Derby Silk Mill. Students will receive an induction and support from the skilled team.

The design should be consistent with the overall vision for the visible storage solution and that of the Museum of Making as a whole. They must also meet the Benchmarks in Collections Care and Arts Council England Accreditation standard for object display and conservation. The Curator of Making, Daniel Martin will coordinate this. The key requirements concern:

  • Light
  • Temperature
  • RH and moisture
  • Materials
  • Pest control
  • Security
  • Handling and access

The Live Project will help shape the future of a World Heritage Site, and make a difference to the lives of people in the city, Derby Silk Mill and Stories of Change.

(Edited text from Daniel Martin- Derby Silk Mill Curator of Making)


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