May is Local and Community History month. I absolutely love immersing myself in fascinating tales of the past. Whether it's fairly modern history, or that from many thousands of years ago- it all requires some level of imagination; because of that, you can get quite lost in it all. From simply listening to grandparents tell stories about their childhoods, to seeing ancient artefacts on display in museums, I've always been interested in the subject.
Living in the Midlands means we have the perfect base for exploring in all directions. The area is full of amazing, historical places to visit, making some great days out. Just a few of these (all included on the game changing AccessAble App, of course!) include the Birmingham Back to Backs, Shakespeare's Birthplace, Aston Hall and Castle Bromwich Hall and Gardens.
A few months ago, Dan and I had a day off together, and thought we'd do something a bit different. We wanted something close to home, and something that wouldn't be too pricey (really pushing the boat out for a romantic day together!). So, we decided Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery would be ideal.
Our first consideration as with any day out, is accessibility. Now, you can't accuse Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery of failing to provide access information. They have an Access Statement which gives lots of information; access from the street, nearby parking, door widths, level access inside, accessible toilets, lifts etc. I feel slightly guilty for having the nerve to moan, because it's fantastic to find somewhere with such a detailed access statement with photos included. BUT, the statement is twenty-four pages long. And let's be honest, who wants to have to read twenty-four pages of information just to have a quick spontaneous trip out to a local museum? Not us.
I should make it clear that we wouldn't want the museum to shorten their statement and in-turn compromise any of the important detail. This is where AccessAble is useful for us; when we don't want to trawl through reams of pages of information, or when a venue poses the opposite issue and provides next-to-no access information, we head to the App. Unfortunately, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery isn't featured on AccessAble yet. Thankfully, LOADS of other places are.
There are some amazing collections and exhibitions at this museum. The Staffordshire Hoard, an ancient Egyptian collection, and some mystifying paintings (including Pre-Raphaelite works) are all on display. But for us, the best exhibition was one called 'Within & Without: Body image and the self'. This exhibition looks at how social, historical and cultural factors all affect body image, and how this is expressed via objects and artworks. It explores how body image impacts on issues including social status, gender, stage of life, health, aesthetics, religion, politics and sexuality.
Most interestingly and thought-provoking for us, was the inclusion of disability within this exhibition. Old prosthetics and rickety, old, wooden wheelchairs were amongst the objects on display. We both have loads of praise for this exhibition- it's worth seeing.