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Museum of East Anglian Life – Looking to 2013

Happy New Year to all MEAL Blog readers, we’re kicking off the year with a blog from the director himself, Tony Butler, as he takes a look at what you can expect to see from the Museum in 2013.

Last year was a watershed for the museum with the opening of Abbot’s Hall and Crowe Street Cottages. The £3m endeavour greatly improved the look and feel of the museum. Moreover it not only provides new and attractive permanent displays but purpose built temporary exhibition gallery. This has really widened the vista of activity at the museum.

Abbot’s Hall opened in April 2012


Whilst there’ll be no new buildings opening in 2013 there’ll be no shortage of new developments. We are re-branding the museum. There will be a new corporate look which encompasses the gamut of work we do, from events, to working with the community, to traditional skills to new exhibitions. We are not changing the name but are dropping the use of the shortened MEAL (few people really liked this). We will launch a new website in March which will be more attractive, easier to use and have more information about our activities. We’re also developing a mobile app for use around the museum site, with stories, poetry and songs about the heritage of East Anglia.

A brand new exhibition programme will be an eclectic mix of art and crafts. Proposed shows will feature material reflecting contemporary rural culture, work by Outsider Artists, Welsh Quilts, work by Artist Les Bicknell inspired by the details and fold of the museums working costumes, and prints and drawings by early 19th century rural engraver Thomas Bewick. All the exhibitions will be in Abbot’s Hall where admission is free.

Current exhibition ‘I Spy the Countryside’ in the temporary exhibition space

Later in the year we’ll be partnering with The Mix in Stowmarket to work with young people to create on-line content about local heritage inspired by the museum. There will be film, music and art which will take a prominent place on the newly designed website.

The museums events programme will be bigger than ever. There will be the popular perennial events such as the Beer Festival, Traditional Music Day and Bonfire celebrations. There will also be activities which draw on the heritage of the region, with the Countryside at War, Steam and Crafts Weekend and an event with Aldeburgh Music to mark the centenary of Benjamin Brittan’s birth. We’ll also be hosting more live demonstrators, chances to meet museum experts and guest lectures.

The Countryside at War event in 2012


As well as these public activities the museum continues to develop work with vulnerable adults. For the last year, through a project funded by Comic Relief, mental health service users, have contributed, art and poetry to the displays about the old St Audry’s asylum in Melton. We’ll also continue to run supported volunteering programmes for learning disabled adults.

Work from the ‘Remnants’ project in the St Audry’s room


We very much hope or volunteer force will continue to grow. There will be chance to get involved with work in the Abbot’s Hall walled garden, with the museums working collections or within the museums 80 acres of Suffolk countryside.

The Museum of East Anglian Life is more than a museum. It’s not just a good day out  but a major contributor to the well-being of the community. Please support our work, buy a season ticket and grow with us through history.

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