Embrace the past and go visit a museum

PUBLISHED: 21:16 13 September 2018 | UPDATED: 11:05 14 September 2018

The train platform at Beamish Museum

The train platform at Beamish Museum


Nick Conrad has been up in Yorkshire and was bowled over by a brilliant museum - and suggest you should go and check one out and engage with the past

I’ve just had the most enjoyable few days stuck in the 19th and early 20th century with a small detour via Viking York. So, what is the timeless appeal of time travel? Having spent the most wonderful week travelling across northern Britain visiting museums and attractions with my family, I think more of us should be taking trips to support our local collections, especially with our children. The UK has an abundance of free and reasonably-priced attractions, which are equally as informative as entertaining.

I visited the iconic York Rail Museum, Captain Cook’s house, Mother Shipden’s Cave. At Jorvik, electric cars catapulted us through the sights and smells of the Viking settlement. The Tardis is redundant when you have amazing experiences like this to draw upon.

I’d like to champion one attraction in particular…the spectacular open-air museum Beamish will catapult you back over two hundred years! Visitors to this outstanding national treasure can walk in the footsteps of Victorians, go to school like an Edwardian child and even pretend to have their teeth pulled like one. The museum, held in trust for the country, is also developing a 1950s village.

The popular museum, set over many hectares, is the North East’s number one attraction welcoming nearly 800,000 visitors each year. 
In Norfolk we have some excellent museums which also leave a lasting impression on visitors. I first visited Beamish in my school years; I’d quite forgotten what a mind-blowing, fantastic, completely awe inspiringly special place this is. In fact, I loved it so much I ripped up my itinerary cancelled a trip to Yorkshire to ensure I could go for a second day.

I’ve never gushed over an attraction like this before – so what makes Beamish special? I promise you…this is the closest you’ll ever get to time travel. You really do get a sense of the past. I spent two blissful days discovering what life was like in North East England in the 1820s, 1910s and 1940s. Beamish is a living, breathing working museum. Costumed folk bring to life the Town, Pit Village, Home Farm and Pockerley Old Hall with interesting stories and information. Trams, old buses and steam engines whiz by offering visitors a ride across the vast site.

But here is the bit that absolutely blew my mind! The buildings you see at Beamish are not replicas. They have been brought, brick by brick, from around the region and rebuilt to give visitors a real sense of history. From churches, bakeries, whole rows of terrace houses, school and a cinema, all these historic structures have been painstakingly relocated and lovingly reconstructed.

The alluring idea of time travel goes all the way back to ancient myths. I’m a keen student of history, to allow your imagination the freedom to immerse yourself in an experience is truly liberating. Allowing our imaginations to transport us from our reality to a different world is extremely healthy. Where would you go? The deck of the Titanic as she sank, the trenches of the Great War, Dallas on the day JFK was shot? By embracing our past, we learn how to deal with present challenges and our dreams for the future.

I think we should embrace our fantastic and innovative museum sector. Long gone are the stuffy collections of dusty artefacts with endless information boards. The public now want ‘experiences’ and at Beamish, you’ll get one. Our National Museum network is similar. I can while away hours at the Imperial War Museum, be baffled and amazed at the Science Museum or impressed by the sheer size of the York Rail museum. We should love, support and embrace our National and local museums alike.

These are places to look, absorb and learn. By understanding our past, it builds my appreciation for the present, and my excitement for the future.

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