The Story Museum rocks
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I do love to be the bearer of good news.
Last weekend I checked out the newly opened Story Museum in central Oxford – just down by Modern Art Oxford in Pembroke Street, and across the road from Christchurch College). And let me tell you, it was utterly FAB.
Ideally for kids up to 13 (any older and they may be grunting their way around), the museum has lofty ambitions to be a global centre for children’s stories and storytelling and with support from the likes of Phillip Pullman, Michael Morpurgo and Julia Donaldson it has every chance of achieving its aim.
The museum is made up from loads of higgledy piggledy rooms on several floors off the bright central courtyard above, well suited to its opening exhibition 26 Characters, where 26 famous children’s authors have chosen their own favourite story from childhood, dressed and been photographed as their favourite character, and then had a ‘scene’ created around the photo.
So kids can scrub the decks on the Treasure Island pirate ship with Phillip Pullman dressed as Long John Silver looking on from the prow. My absolute favourite room was Narnia, where we went through (what else) a wardrobe of fur coats and into a winter wonderland of twinkly snow and magical forest, under the majestic gaze of the Snow Queen (Holly Smale).
The exhibition is inventive but there are extras that make it just a bit more special. A talking throne where you approach it with set of words that you can choose.
There’s an enormous dressing up rail that targets adults as well as children (as you can see, I was having quite the time of it).
There’s a story wheel, which encourages kids to make up stories on the spot by turning the wheel and selecting character, place and subject – my kids were rooted to the spot for ages, they loved it, and the staff are obviously very passionate and excited about their new facilities and eager to engage the kids.
There are audio rooms where you can listen to recordings of books by Olivia Colman and Christopher Eccleston. There’s also a quiet space where you can pick up the books from the exhibition and sit down to read them, or just admire the 26 Characters photos in a more traditional setting.
Downstairs there’s a cafe (not yet installed, so you’ll have to pop by Modern Art Oxford for your cuppa for now – no hardship as entry is free) and a little shop where you can buy the books. Cass proclaimed it 11 out of 10 and I’d say the sweet spot in terms of age is 5-10, though I’d definitely take my 12 year old too.
Good news for older kids too. There’s currently a teenage den underway at The Story Museum too, after consultation with real live teenagers (apparently strobe lighting and gaming is involved, quel surprise), which is great news. I think a lot of museums don’t consider teenagers properly, or put much effort into engaging them, so I’m all for whatever gets older kids through a museum door.
So there we go, whoppee! A fab new indoor option for a miserable day, or a lovely end to a walk and picnic through Christchurch Meadow/down to the river. By the way, Phillip Pullman is reading from Treasure Island at the Museum this Sunday – another reason to leg it there asap, as if you needed one.
The Story Museum, Rochester House, 42 Pembroke St, Oxford OX1 1BP. Tel: 01865 790050. www.storymuseum.org.uk