Today I was really looking forward to having some time on my own, exploring the museum. I was here before the public opening and it felt like a real treat having it (almost) all to myself. There was smoke coming from the chimneys, fields full of animals and folks in costume going about their daily business, setting up for the day ahead. I knew the peace wouldn’t last long and it was difficult to pick which bit to visit first. Regular visitors will know how hard it is to see everything in a day but I was going to give it my best shot! I decided to head for the town as I knew this would get busier later and I wanted to make the most of being able to wander in and out of the houses in the terrace. Within an hour, the memory on my phone was filled with photos and my head was feeling similarly full of thoughts and ideas for stories. I realise now how many people I see around the museum with cameras attached to their faces and I can really see why. It feels like such an immersive experience that there is something in you that wants to capture that feeling and sense of place. Something I’m not sure I have the photographic skills for but I’m sure many visitors do! For me, being unable to take any more photos was something of a blessing as it allowed me to be more present in the experience of exploring everything the museum had to offer.
As it happened, I didn’t get very far from where I started as there is just so much to see in the town, including a sneak peek at the new Chemists opening in the town. I was lucky enough to be able to have lunch outside, giving me a chance to indulge in some people watching and soak in the atmosphere of the museum. Lots of people had the same idea and the area around the bandstand was filled with families and friends, enjoying just being here. The ‘pay once, visit for a year’ pricing, definitely seems to encourage people to just enjoy spending time here without the pressure of getting round everything in one go. It feels like this then makes it a more enjoyable experience, not just for them, but for other visitors as everyone is much more relaxed.
After lunch, I spent some time at Rowley station where I was fascinated by the levers and their labels in the control tower. I then wandered down to the pit village – the smells of the fish and chip shop were hard to resist but I stayed strong and spent the rest of the afternoon wandering in and out of the various buildings. I love the little cottages here and the sense of community you get from them and the proximity of the school and church. Even though I haven’t seen the half of it, I’ve really enjoyed getting to spend some proper time in the exhibits, getting a sense of the museum’s visitors and starting to scratch the surfaces of the rich history that is kept alive here.