Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery was opened in 1874 with a library which was later transferred to the Co-op Emporium in Town Hall Street.
It was the second purpose built Museum & Art Gallery to be built after the British Museum. Its collections are known to students and researchers throughout the world. Why? Because it has the largest collection of icons outside of the Victorian & Albert Museum and has the 2nd largest collection of Japanese woodcut prints in the country.
It houses the Hart collection of books, coins, medieval manuscripts and prints, which is unique and along with the Bowdler collection of world beetles & many donations of valuable pictures and collections donated by the Victorian industrialists of the town.
It has a room providing an historical insight into the cotton industry of the town and district with examples of looms manufactured and used in the largest weaving centre in the world.
Many companies over the years have contributed to the development of the town, apart from those associated with the cotton era, including brewing – Dutton’s, Lion and Thwaites and Mullards the largest employer for many years; there is no room to show the history of the Police and Fire service; of the inventions of Drs Shorrock and Mercer i.e. tufted carpet production and Netlon & Teflon; along with the wallpaper industry which Lancashire was the centre of the world’s production for many years and others.
Because of this many other donations are not able to be shown because of space. It was the reason for the Town Council buying the former town centre bar Bentley’s next door, in order to expand and show off the hidden secrets that the museum has. Recently some of these secrets were sent to London to be viewed!*
Now the Town Council in its wisdom has decided to use the building for another purpose, which means that the museum will never be able to expand unlike other museums up and down the country which are thriving, showing off their respective towns and cities heritage, with cafes to attract customers.
Blackburn museum opens from Wednesday to Saturday 12 noon to 4.45pm being closed on Sundays and Bank Holidays. What sort of message does this give out?
No records of visitors are kept but we do know that there are visitors from all over the country and from abroad who are amazed at what is on offer. But there are those who miss out because of the opening hours.
The limited staff who are left to run the museum, which includes doing the cleaning, do as good a job as they can, especially with local schools, but their moral is stretched to breaking point and there is no time for research, or budget for purchasing Blackburn Heritage items that come up for sale from time to time in auction rooms around the country.
Our councillors will tell us that there is no money. How is it then that other towns such as Bolton can find the money? Our Chairman recently visited the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester which was heaving and has a new wing with a restaurant that had queues outside waiting for service.
It really is time that the people’s representatives realized that the heritage of the town can be used to bring into the town much needed jobs and with the use of the internet advertise to the world what a great town Blackburn once was and still is!