Not so dusty
Volume 39, Number 6, June 2001
AS CHILDREN many of us shuddered at the thought of visiting museums, usually seen as dry and dusty places, they often failed to inspire anything more than apathy amongst visitors and seldom fulfilled their potential as powerful places of learning where you could revisit the past, marvel at the present or wonder at the future. Part of the reason for this apparent failure was lack of funding and part was due to the simple fact that, unless you were visiting one of the large London museums, many curators simply didn't have enough knowledge about all the exhibits to be able to provide the answers to all the questions asked of them. After all you cannot expect a natural historian to be a military historian too, cannot expect an anthropologist to know the intricacies of the cretaceous period and cannot expect an entomologist to be completely au fait with the North American Indian and their ways. Whilst the subject of funding has been slowly addressed in recent years with lottery grants, etc., the problem of knowledge is a difficult one to address, with smaller museums simply unable to employ experts in every field, which has often led to certain areas being neglected whilst others have been "over-subscribed". Of course there is one type of museum that does not suffer from this particular problem, it is the type of museum where every curator knows their exhibits, and the history behind them, intimately; where every curator isn't just interested in what their museum houses but is passionate about it, where any questions fielded are likely to be answered in far more gripping detail than the questioner ever dared hope and where every item, regardless of its place in chronological history or indeed its purpose or function, is intrinsically linked to everything around it-they are of course the Regimental and Corps Museums. Almost all Regiments have, or have had a museum dedicated to them, although amalgamation of regiments over time has meant mean that some regimental records, archives and artefacts are bunched together in places you might not necessarily expect-for example the Devonshire Regiment amalgamated with the Dorsets leading to any exhibits relating to the Devon Regiment being currently located in Dorchester, Dorset, rather than in the county after which the Regiment was named. In the case of older regiments that were amalgamated and then amalgamated again (and again) this often means some detective work is necessary in order to find out exactly where to go, but it is almost always worth the effort. In the past we have tried to bring you a little of the flavour of some of the museums and what they can offer and last month's Tank Museum article has proved to be particularly popular. We hope to continue this in future editions of MEDAL NEWS and will be including articles on the Shropshire Regimental Museum, Shrewsbury Castle; the Royal Welsh Fusiliers Museum, Caernarfon Castle and the Royal Engineers Museum, Chatham. However, such articles as these can never be a substitute for an actual visit to these museums, which are guaranteed to appeal even if your interest isn't necessarily with that regiment, so perhaps now is the time to set aside those childhood memories of trips to dry and dusty halls and to investigate the fascinating world that museums really can be. Full details of the Regimental Museums in the UK, including opening times (correct at going to press) can be found at the back of the MEDAL YEARBOOK 2001-a few copies of which are still available.
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