Published on | General
As I sit here in my West Midlands Police Museum polo shirt, fleece and lanyard, sipping a cold glass of Sauvignon Blanc, I feel it is the perfect time for the next Diary of a Heritage Manager blog.
I had intended for these to capture the excitement and activity in the delivery phase of our Heritage Fund bid, but the past six months have been such a whirlwind I have not had the chance. I would still like to do other blogs on specific topics such as our site in Coventry, our incredible volunteers and the NPCC Heritage Portfolio that I set up with Chief Constable David Thompson. I finished the last one at the point of getting our lottery funding and the subsequent COVID pandemic and Lockdown.
The past two years have not been what I would have expected at all. From everything initially slowing down due to many of the staff we were liaising with at Trios Group (our main contractors) being furloughed, as they returned to work and we received permission to officially appoint them, things started to pick back up. A few months later we appointed The Creative Core to deliver our interpretation plan and things started to get very exciting. They injected new enthusiasm and ideas into the project, introducing the Lock-up mouse, a huge Trompe l’oeil painting in the entrance and gave us the opportunity to squeeze three motorbikes, a horse and a tardis into the Lock-up. No small feat!
In September 2020, just as my two year fixed term contract on the heritage project was about to finish, the role of the Heritage Manager was advertised. This was my dream job – being able to deliver everything that Inspector Steve Rice and I had planned for during the previous five years since it was announced Sparkhill Police Station would be sold. I was successful at interview and officially started at the beginning of November. 2021 was all about getting the collection ready to move, ensuring the building was just right, and recruiting the perfect team to run the museum with me. Helen Taylor was brought on board from the Black Country Museum as Museum Manager, bringing us the experience we needed with collections care and management. Then Steve Rice (now retired) came back as our first heritage officer, bringing his wealth of experience of 30 years of policing and of working on the project itself. Steve had spent most of the previous year working on refurbishing a police box, retrieved from a garden in Coventry. Carefully restoring it in his own time, into the fantastic exhibit you see at the museum today.
Our 4th team member was Archie, recruited as our Engagement Officer, she came with an education background and heaps of enthusiasm for the museum – just the person we needed to develop educational materials and spread the word with local schools.
The 5th person we recruited, as our second heritage officer, was Jon. Previously a manager at the National Trust’s Back-to-Backs, Jon had lots of front of house experience in a heritage setting that could be applied to our museum, to help us professionalise.
The final team member and third heritage officer was Steve (because you can never have too many Steves!). Steve is an active Special Sergeant with Warwickshire Police and also ran his own re-enactment and replica uniform business. Steve has a huge following on his TikTok account (Living History UK), making him the perfect person to revive our social media offering.
Then all of a sudden, we were a mere few weeks away from re-opening! The last couple of months have been a blur and a huge amount of effort has gone into making today a reality. Massive thanks are due to Trios for pulling out all the stops to complete works in time, to Creative Core for being so incredibly proactive, problem solving and supportive I’m developing everything and installing it on site, to Restore Harrow Green who moved us from Sparkhill and sponsored our uniform, and to Concept Elevators who provided our lanyards and guest wheelchair.
I need to thank lottery players and the Heritage Lottery Fund, without which this whole venture would not have been possible and our huge team of fantastic volunteers, whose energy and enthusiasm for police history and sharing it with the public allows us to function. More on this cracking bunch of people in a future blog I reckon.
Now I can sit back and put my feet up, safe in the knowledge that seven years after it was announced Sparkhill was due to be sold, five years after we started running events at the Lock-up and two years after we secured the funding, we have now relocated the West Midlands Police Museum and I have the best job in the world running it, with an amazing group of people around me. Thanks guys.
If you made it this far, thank you very much and if you comment to let me know if you enjoyed it, that will spur me on to write more!