Closing the Bakelite Museum

The Bakelite Museum opened in 1985 in London, moved to Somerset in the mid 1990s, and closed in 2018 when the lease expired. A new film by Fiona Candlin and the Derek Jarman Lab documents the museum and its process of closing.

Small museums often close leaving very few traces behind them, sometimes as little as a few entries in old guidebooks. But recording them more fully has great historical value. As Fiona writes:

It is important to document micromuseums because they often embody the concerns of specific groups at particular times and in particular places. Understanding what those concerns are is a means of understanding what people cared about. And it is important because micromuseums often construct exhibitions that have no obvious counterparts in major museums. The Bakelite Museum was a case in point because many of the artefacts were organised to create surreal juxtapositions or visual jokes. Tiny plastic living room furniture that was made for a doll’s house, including a television set, was placed on top of a television set, a dentist’s case of plastic false teeth and a clock embedded in a plastic ostrich with bendy legs were placed on a Bakelite coffin to form a memento mori, and wooden shoe-trees surrounded an electric heater evoking images of footwear being kicked off and feet warmed. 

The full feature on the film is on the Derek Jarman Lab’s website.

Types of museum closure

I’ve written a blog for the Mapping Museums project on types of museum closure. It’s the first published product of my ongoing PhD research. As I write in the blog:

Not all museums close in the same way. My own research into museum closure in the UK over the last sixty years shows that there are different types of museum closure, and some have more impact: they are more final than others.

Read the whole piece here: http://blogs.bbk.ac.uk/mapping-museums/2020/04/29/types-of-museum-closure/