It was a very rainy Saturday afternoon in September when I visited Coventry Transport Museum to write this article, and entering the museum was a very welcome respite from the cold. I first visited Coventry Transport Museum (hereafter CTM) as a very young child, with my older brother and my grandparents in the mid-1990s. My grandad had spent much of his working life in Coventry’s car factories and a fair amount of his non-working life working on something or other down in his garage. This meant CTM was the perfect place to take my brother and I on rainy days we were visiting from Sheffield, somewhere he could show us cars like those he worked on and pass on his passion for finding out new information. I used to love these trips, which later included my younger brother, and I know they really ignited my love of museums and set me on my eventual career path. It had been at least 15 years since I’d been to the museum and in this time the site had been part of a major redevelopment, so I was keen to see what changes had been made.
The wayfinding throughout the museum is done with the use of traffic signal arrows, something that I and the rest of my group enjoyed. My group also included my Nana who has lived in Coventry all her life and was able to add another level of information to some of the objects, as she could remember them being in use. She is also a wheelchair user and found the accessibility to the museum very good indeed.
The museum does a great job of showing how interlinked Coventry has been with the transport industry from its days as a bicycle manufacturing hub to its move towards motorbikes and eventually to being known as the UK’s ‘motor city’. Each gallery follows on from the last, taking a timeline approach to the Coventry’s transport history, starting in the mid-1800s and going right through to the modern day, looking at the vehicles themselves but also the effect they and the industries themselves had on the people of Coventry. The museum also doesn’t shy away from the difficulties the city has faced in the last few decades with the decline of the motor industry in the when many of the city’s car factories stated to close. There is, however, an inkling of a brighter future for Coventry’s transport industries shown in one of the last galleries, with Research and Development projects from companies such as Jaguar Land Rover taking centre stage.
What I really loved about the Coventry Transport Museum is that it really is Coventry’s transport museum. It tells a clear narrative about the relationship the city has with transport, rather than trying to tell the entire history of transport for the world which, along with being nearly impossible, would in my opinion deliver a less personal experience. Coventry is an everchanging city and it’s relationship with transport is something that shines through in this museum.
Opening Information/Getting There:
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Eilish Clohessy is the Assistant Curator of Making at Derby Museums. Since 2015, she has been working with colleagues, volunteers, members of the public and strategic partners to co-produce the creation of the Museum of Making at Derby Silk Mill. Eilish also leads on 3D imaging for Derby Museums, working with volunteers to produce over 130 publically available 3D models so far.