Bosses at the National Railway Museum have revealed more information about their ambitious plans for the future.
Just over five weeks ago YorkMix broke the news that the NRM had drawn up a £50m masterplan to transform the attraction.
This includes a proposal to join the two halves of the museum together via a new Central Gallery building, if Leeman Road is diverted as part of the York Central development.
NRM bosses have now given more details, particularly about two aspects of the makeover – the redevelopement of the Great Hall, and the creation of a Wonderlab.
The Great Hall
The epic story of railways will be brought to life in the Great Hall through new multimedia displays featuring sound, audio and light.
More than 12,000 objects will be re-displayed and 1,000 brought into public display for the first time in a reimagined Open Store.
This would draw inspiration from the greatest open storage displays in the world “and capture the best aspects of the popular Warehouse but with better interpretation”.
Visitors will also enjoy improved access onto locomotives and will benefit from views over the Prep Bay where they will see visiting engines being maintained and fuelled.
Stories about how the railways brought us fish and chips and transported the wounded in wartime, will be told through railway vehicles and thousands of smaller objects from the museum’s unrivalled collection.
The Wonderlab is a £5 million purpose-built gallery designed to inspire young people to get hands-on and invent their own solutions to engineering challenges. The NRM said:
Wonderlab will create a wonder-filled environment where young minds can discover their own potential through building, testing and learning.
This could include the chance to have a go at pulling a locomotive as well as exploring how fast things travel and how they move.
A unique ‘tinkering’ workshop space, live demonstrations, live shows and experiments would also inspire the next generation of rail engineers.
Similar interactive galleries have been successful at the Science Museum Group’s Bradford and London museums. As well as appealing to family visitors, it is hoped that double the current number of school children – up to 80,000 – will get ‘hands-on’ in the new gallery during school visits to York.
Completed by 2025
The museum aspires to fully complete its transformation by 2025 – its 50th anniversary.
By then it could also be the cultural heart of York Central. As well as the new Central Gallery where Leeman Road is now – showcasing the latest innovations from the modern rail industry – a new Museum Square would be created.
Set against the stunning backdrop of the historic railway buildings, this would host city-wide events and providing new café facilities.
NRM director Judith McNicol said one aim of the transformation was to encourage more young people to go into science and engineering – it’s predicted that we’ll need 1.8 million new engineers and technicians by 2025.
“Our vision can help to plug this gap through inspiring and challenging young minds.
“Wonderlab offers a unique experience where young people will design and create their own solutions – just like real engineers,” she said.
“It will also open up our fantastic collections to many thousands more people and enable them to discover the vital impact that railways have had upon all our lives.”
The museum’s future plans and timetable for the masterplan are all subject to funding and more details about the vision will be announced over coming months.