Mark your diary: museum openings to look forward to in 2021 - Museums Association

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Mark your diary: museum openings to look forward to in 2021

There'll be a host of exciting new museum spaces to get us out of the house next year
The Museum of the Home is due to open in spring 2021
The Museum of the Home is due to open in spring 2021 courtesy of Jayne Lloyd

As we say goodbye to a difficult and tumultuous year, we look forward to new beginnings in 2021, with a range of exciting museum openings coming up.

Museums Journal has taken a look at some of the venues that are due to welcome the public in 2021, either for the first time or after redevelopments.

All come with the caveat that planned openings may be subject to change.

Mary Shelley's House of Frankenstein, Bath

Mary Shelley's portrait as appears in the National Portrait Gallery

Capital cost: £970,000


Opening: May 2021

Mary Shelley’s House of Frankenstein will explore the life of the young author and her iconic creation through the ages. 

Through unusual artefacts and vintage items, it will tell the full story behind the genesis of Shelley’s novel Frankenstein – the tragic events, inquisitive mind, conversations, and literary and theatrical interests that fermented Mary's imagination, before her visit to the Villa Diodati in Geneva and her infamous “waking dream” where she conjured up the first fragments of her monster. 

Frankenstein, in popular culture, will be unpacked in its own dedicated floor, while a puzzle-based Escape Room will be set in "Victor Frankstenstein’s" attic quarters, suitable for families, friends and groups. 

Atmospheric, multi-sensory environments and assorted body parts will deliver an unnervingly visceral, illuminating and entertaining experience throughout. 

Museum of Making, Derby

Museum of Making at Derby Silk Mill Pictoria Pictures

Capital cost: £18m


Opening: spring 2021

The Museum of Making will be showcasing the region’s 300-year history of making and celebrating its rich history of innovation.

On the site of the world’s first factory, Derby Silk Mill, the museum will be a place where the story of making in the region is told, with visitors able to create their own bespoke trail through the amazing collections, displayed and shared in unique ways.

Designed to inspire people's creativity and new ideas, this is no ordinary static display of objects, nor is it a traditional journey through historical collections.

With a treasure trove of objects displayed, and over a thousand more accessible in an open store of collections, the museum invites people to create their own journey through 300 years of making.

Thackray Museum of Medicine, Leeds

Thackray Museum of Medicine Thackray Museum of Medicine

Capital cost: £4m


Opening: early 2021

Follow the story of medicine through Thackray Museum's imaginative and exciting galleries.

Wander through the grimy streets of Victorian Leeds, watch gruesome operations taking place in a 19th-century operating theatre, visit a 70s-style sexual health clinic, chart how well the world responds to crisis, and discover the medical innovations that changed the world.

Through play, creativity, talks, experiences, social events and formal education, the museum is both a place to pay fitting tribute to our health heroes and inspire the next generation of big thinkers.

The Thackray recently made history after becoming one of the world's first Covid vaccination centres.

The Courtauld, London

The Blavatnik Fine Rooms, The Courtauld Nissen Richards Studio

Capital cost: £9.5m

Opening: late 2021

One of the UK’s greatest art collections will have a magnificent new setting when the Courtauld, the world-leading centre for the study of art history, research and conservation, opens its historic central London gallery late next year

The reopening follows a major transformation to restore its grandeur and create state-of-the-art facilities.

New and transformed galleries will be devoted to the medieval and early Renaissance collection, 20th-century art, and the Bloomsbury Group. New exhibition spaces will extend the Courtauld’s celebrated programme of international loan exhibitions alongside smaller temporary projects. The Courtauld’s collection will be completely redisplayed and newly interpreted.

Lambeth Palace Library, London

Lambeth Palace Library David Phillips

Capital cost: £23.5m

Opening spring 2021

The Library is the first new building on the site for 185 years and will host the Church of England’s archive; the most important religious collection in the UK, and the largest in Europe after the Vatican.

Notable treasures in the collection include a glove worn by Charles I at his execution, the prayer book of Elizabeth I, the execution warrant for Mary Queen of Scots, as well as more than 200,000 books and 5,000 volumes of manuscripts dating back to the 9th century.

Museum of the Home, London       

Illustration of the Museum of the Home development Visual by Secchi Smith

Capital cost: £18.1m

Opening: spring 2021

At a time when the subject of ‘home’ has become more important than ever before, the East London-based museum will reopen following a major redevelopment.

The renovation will double the overall public space for visitors to enjoy, including 80% more exhibition space.

The new Home Galleries will explore diverse meanings of home, with themes such as love and loss, faith, housework, entertainment, and style and taste drawing on the thought-provoking personal stories from the museum’s 300-year-old collection of objects.

Rooms & Gardens Through Time will explore historic and contemporary ways of living from 1600 to the present day.

New permanent displays will highlight changes in how we live, from the transformation of gender roles in the home to the advancement of technology and the impact that has on domestic family life.

Manchester Jewish Museum

Impression of the exterior of the Manchester Jewish Museum courtesy of Manchester Jewish Museum

Capital cost: £6m

Opening: spring 2021

The museum, which is housed inside a former synagogue built in 1873, will double in size complete with a brand new gallery, learning studio and kitchen, shop and cafe, alongside the renovated synagogue, which will also double up as a performance space.

The new building will launch a new programme for the museum, with a commitment to using Jewish stories to connect to the world and to our society.

The museum has more than 31,000 eclectic objects and personal histories in its collection, telling the history of Jewish Manchester as well as broader stories of migration, communities and identities that are a key part of the city’s diverse make-up.

Museum of Oxford

The museum's new logo

Capital cost: £3.2m

Opening: spring/summer 2021

The new Museum of Oxford will be an accessible, community-led space for collaborative, inclusive conversations about Oxford’s rich heritage and the community's place in the city’s history.

During lockdown, the Museum of Oxford has been working to continue engaging local communities. Projects to collect stories of how people experience the pandemic were shared and collected through its Oxford City Stories website.

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Comments (6)

  1. Alan Bentley says:

    Can wait to visit these but you have missed Craven Museum in Skipton also reopening after a major refurbishment

    1. Anthony Morgan says:

      I don’t wish to show Northern or subject bias but the Craven Museum is a lovely place. A nice mix of local geology, archaeology and local history.

  2. Jonathan Platt says:

    What about the c£29.4m Nottingham Castle revamp?

  3. Stephanie Byast says:

    Also Wordsworth Grasmere, opening Spring 2021. A £6.2 million project to bring Wordsworth’s story into the 21st century, highlight his relevance today and present a greater sense of intellectual, emotional and spiritual appreciation for his work than ever before:

  4. Hamish MacGillivray says:

    And what about new Garden Heritage venues? There is to open in Spring 2021 Highdown Gardens Visitor Centre in West Sussex. All thanks to £1 million Heritage Lottery funding. I have been involved over the last 12 months with team of archivists, historians and volunteers (even with lockdowns) to discover forgotten stories about its owners Sir Frederick and Lady Sybil Stern. It’s not just about plant hunters, there is a hidden Anglo-Jewish philanthropy side we discovered that had a huge impact on generations of London Jewish East End kids. All to be revealed in a display and new website next year.

  5. Sarah Williams says:

    Also missed the opening in spring 2021 of the new Battle and Tribute gallery at Tamworth Castle in Staffordshire. This exciting new interactive gallery, with £1/2 million Heritage Lottery funding will showcase Tamworth’s Saxon history as the capital of the ancient kingdom of Mercia, as well as a new Staffordshire Hoard display in a recreated Mead Hall.

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