The National Media Museum in the heart of Bradford City Centre celebrates its thirtieth anniversary in 2013. Boasting over 3.5 million items in its collection, and with several thousand more bequeathed to the museum by the BBC recently, it is unrivalled in its significance to archive television, film and photography.
It is well worth planning your visit beforehand to take into account the galleries and wealth of exhibits potentially on offer. The key highlight is Level 3 where you will find the Experience TV, TV Heaven and BBC Studio galleries. The absolute highlight of your visit, you can trace the development of television and your favourite characters and shows with the aid of props and exhibits stretching back decades.
Experience TV takes you on a journey from the first transmitted images through to modern day high-definition images. From Bakelite to plasma, there are even TV cameras from yesteryear in this extensive collection. You can even turn your hands to making your own TV programme, or presenting the weather thanks to the mock studio. A little creaky around the edges perhaps, it is the nearest that you’ll get to trying your hand at making television short of a trip to Television Centre!
The TV Heaven galley meanwhile has a veritable treasury of props, from George and Zippy from Rainbow through to the most fearsome of Doctor Who’s enemies – a Dalek! Not only that, but you can take your pick from one of several hundred TV programmes to watch – ideal for cult television enthusiasts.
The Games Lounge on Level 5 seeks to trace the development of computer games from Pong to the Kinect. Younger minds will no doubt find the display of interest, but for adults, it may be disappointing. Whilst the table top arcade machines and arcade cabinets have a nostalgic air, I felt Manchester’s Lass O’Gowrie pub had amassed a bigger and better collection of retro goodness. Neither was the games timeline a particular success for me, I had hoped for more on the development of key games – where were Sonic, Mario, Crash Bandicoot? Hopefully this is an exhibit that will grow and mature over time.
Also housed on Level 5 are examples of some of the most famous animated characters. From Wallace and Gromit to Morph through to Ray Harryhausen’s immensely respected work you can marvel at the intricately detailed sets and animation cels from these masterpieces in a entertaining exhibit. One key object in this collection is one of the sets from Wallace and Gromit’s The Wrong Trousers complete with Wallace hanging from the ceiling!
With seven permanent exhibitions covering television, computer games through to animation and photography, there is sure to be something for everyone no matter what age. It is well worth taking a trip to the photography gallery in the Lower Basement to see the timeslice in action (think the motion freezing on The Cube). It also was the location of Britain’s first IMAX screen and still regularly plays specialist and blockbuster films. This, of course, currently includes The Hobbit – in IMAX 3D no less.
There are temporary exhibitions from time to time within the museum, past exhibits have included Blue Peter amongst others. The current exhibition, running until February is Life Online. Tracing the social, technological and cultural impact of the internet, the temporary exhibit on Level 7 is far less interesting than the permanent exhibit in the foyer. This particularly is utterly fascinating as you delve into the history of the internet – complete with hilariously ‘old’ modems and mobiles!
The overpriced shop is something of a disappointment, not really offering anything specialist or particularly memorable for a visit to the museum. There doesn’t even appear to have been a guidebook available on my visit. Neither can I comment on the quality of the cafe, which was very busy on my visit, as Bradford City Centre proved to be a bigger lure.
The National Media Museum is an essential visit for those interested in television, film or animation. With more exhibits and even more hidden behind-the-screens, it comes much recommended. There is plenty to keep youngsters entertained, and there is still lots left for more inquiring minds. For those that plan their day in advance, they will get the most of a trip to the National Media Museum.
For further details including directions and opening times, head on over to the National Media Museum website.