Visitors eager to get their first glimpse of The Story Museum’s £6 million transformation will be in for a treat this summer. The museum, situated in the heart of Oxford, was due to reopen its doors at the start of April after two years of major capital redevelopment. However, like many of the popular stories featured in the museum’s galleries, there was an unexpected plot twist in the final chapter…!
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the museum’s grand reopening was postponed until further notice, and the doors have remained closed to visitors since the lockdown began. However, following Government guidance and an injection of emergency funding from the National Lottery and Arts Council England, The Story Museum will begin a phased re-opening this Summer.
From 6 August 2020, visitors will be welcomed into the ground floor Galleries, shop and café. This includes Small Worlds, a story-themed play space specially designed for families and children aged 0-5, as well as ’City of Stories’, a short film exploring Oxford’s thousand-year literary history. These spaces, alongside live storytelling performances in the external courtyard of the museum and guided story walks around the city centre, will provide families with safe and enjoyable encounters with stories. Visitors will be able to pre-book tickets to access these spaces, which will be open in the first instance for three days a week on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
CEO Caroline Jones is looking forward to welcoming visitors to this first stage of the museum’s reopening:
‘Every great story has a twist and for the Story Museum that was being forced to close our doors before we’d even opened them. After many months of uncertainty about our future, it feels fantastic to be sharing our plans for a phased re-opening, starting with our ground floor spaces. We look forward to welcoming local families as well as nursery groups who we’re sure are ready to come out and play with some familiar story characters in Small Worlds. We’ve loved inviting our audiences to use their imaginations through various on-line activities over the past few months but there’s nothing like the real, sensory and immersive experience visitors will get inside our museum. Alongside our other family activities and learning projects for children – including some of those most affected by lockdown – we’re sharing a taste of things to come when The Story Museum can finally fully open later this year.’
To coincide with the partial reopening, the museum is also launching a new digital resource, a burgeoning collection of 1001 of the world’s great stories from different times and places and in multiple forms. This ever-expanding treasure-trove of tales includes those featured in the new Galleries, alongside downloadable resources and audio stories, and is accessible at www.storymuseum.org.uk/1001.
The first phase of the museum’s opening has been made possible thanks to National Lottery funding from the Arts Council’s Emergency Response Fund. The museum is very grateful to all its funders and in particular the Arts Council of England, The National Lottery Heritage Fund, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, Nesta and the Wolfson Foundation for their support at this difficult time.
The Story Museum plans to have reopened all its galleries by the Autumn of 2020, so long as government guidelines suggest it is safe to do so. This includes The Whispering Wood, a mysterious indoor forest tracing the history of oral storytelling, and The Enchanted Library where visitors can step inside iconic scenes inspired by much-loved children’s stories, from emerging through a wardrobe into The Chronicles of Narnia to cutting through into the parallel realms of His Dark Materials. The Woodshed theatre is likely to be the last space to re-open for live storytelling and other performances.
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