A shrine to the Maker movement is to open in Derby in the midst of a global surge of interest in the physical actions of production and repair.
It was destroyed for three centuries by fire and a wrecking ball.
But now the world’s first factory, rededicated as a modern temple for the Maker Movement, will rise from the ashes of its former self.
The Museum of Making in Derby, which opens this spring, is taking off at an ideal time in the midst of a lot of interest in developing and renovating stuff.
“Look at how popular television shows like The Repair Shop are,” says Tony Butler, Derby Museums’ executive director. “Making is doing well with the public.”
The Maker movement is a subculture that accepts the physical act of generating something and celebrates it.
The emphasis is on reusing existing items and finding fun and fulfillment in the act of making, taking hints from traditional hobbies like woodworking, textile design and metalworking.
Combine that keen interest in building with the desire of the United Kingdom to understand its new position in the post-Brexit world as it grapples with its imperial history and the climate crisis, and it may turn out that the museum is the attraction that the nation didn’t know it needed right now.
Butler said, “We’re really keen to get across the idea that every young person can be a Maker,” “The challenges we face in the 21st century, things like climate change and environmental degradation, a lot of that is going to be mitigated by technology, engineering and ingenuity, and those are the kind of makers we need in the future.”
In downtown Derby, the museum is situated on the site of a silk mill that opened in 1721 and whose claim to be the first mill in the world is rooted in the fact that it was the first completely mechanized mill operated by a single energy source.
With £ 18 million in support from the National Lottery, local government authorities and the Arts Council, it is hoped that the museum, situated in the Derwent Valley Mills Unesco World Heritage Site, can demonstrate how people in a post-Covidian world can be drawn back to town centers.
The developers of the museum state that extensive consultation has taken place with local residents, whose input has helped shape the museum. In the original plant, volunteers even washed 11,000 bricks that will be reused in the new building.
“The site has changed since the first factory burned down,” says Hannah Fox, director of museum initiatives and programs. “Parts of it have fallen down and there have been major disasters in the 300 years of its existence, but every time something happened, the city rebuilt it because it was so important.”
According to Fox, the new structure, designed by Bauman Lyon Architects, preserves the Italian tower, arches and landmark gates of the original plant, but will be “kind of a mishmash of a lot of different eras,”
“We’re redefining it for what it needs to be in this era, and that’s a place that really tells a story and inspires people to see themselves as makers,” said Fox.
Butler clarified that out of the global Maker movement, a “whole culture” has developed. “It’s not just guys with beards in their sheds in Shoreditch tinkering with old bikes. This whole culture of making resonates whether you’re in San Francisco, London or Derby.”
He said the new museum will investigate the links in its first incarnation between the factory and Derby today, home to businesses such as Rolls-Royce and Toyota.
But it will also explore the link between the Industrial Revolution and the issues of today, such as the destructive legacy of fossil fuels and the dependency of the textile industry on slavery.
“The general, pervasive view of the Industrial Revolution in Britain is very much shaped by the narrative of the ‘great man,'” Butler said. “There’s this idea that the Industrial Revolution was due to a uniquely British exceptionalism. We want to acknowledge that innovation can be driven by individual revelation and ingenuity, but the revolution also relied, in the case of the factory system, on a quick supply of workers and raw materials.”
Almost all of the 30,000 objects at the museum will be on display. “Many museums have in storage the bulk of their collections, as of