The Museum of East Anglian Life in Suffolk has announced it will be rebranded as the Food Museum in March as part of its 2018 transformation masterplan to interpret its collections in a way that is relevant to modern audiences.
The museum’s 40,000-strong collection has a particular focus on the social history and production of food. It is hoped that the name change will widen the museum's appeal to visitors and allow it to explore important and topical issues from environmental sustainability to wellbeing, migration and identity.
The museum's director Jenny Cousins says changing from a regional rural museum to one with a relatable thematic approach is part of a journey that will continue beyond its name change and new motto “grow, make, eat”.
It builds on ongoing work to transform the 75-acre site, including introducing new growing areas – from orchards and a small farm to a working windmill – and a bread oven that will help present the complete story of bread-making alongside the museum's watermill, which is currently under restoration.
Going forward, Cousins says the museum will look to reinterpret and reorganise its collections as well as change its collecting strategy. It is also setting up new collaborations with partners such as chefs, food activists and artists – kicking off with a temporary exhibition opening in the summer called Hedgerow and a new sculpture trail.
“It’s important for living history museums like ours that were founded in the 1950s and 60s to look at what they are doing and who they are for – and potentially make quite radical changes,” said Cousins.
“The collections we hold are no longer part of most people’s living memories, so we need to speak about them in a different way. Museums are for people to visit and to help people make sense of change.”
The museum has a number of existing projects, including a grant from the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund, which are helping it talk to different communities about what they would like to see in a food museum.