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The Story Behind Our Cars: Re-interpreting our Vehicle Collection

Re-interpreting our Vehicle Collection

03 June 2016

Our Bradburn & Wedge Motor Company Garage highlights and displays our automotive collection. We had previously used interpretation panels displayed next to each car to tell visitors about the standard facts and figures about the car, but we have found that it is the story behind the car that visitors are most interested in, such as Where was it made? Where has it travelled? Who used to drive it? So, our Assistant Curator, has undertaken the huge project to re-write all of the panels.

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Did you know? Our Museum is home to the largest collection of Black Country made vehicles anywhere in the world. Many of our vehicles are on display in Bradburn and Wedge where visitors can explore the collection and learn more about the individual vehicles; either through speaking with our on-site mechanic, Jim Pease, or by reading the accompanying panels. However, as our Museum is open everyday, Jim isn’t always available to talk to visitors as he is usually busy repairing one of our many operational vehicles or taking a well earned break. Therefore, we wanted to ensure that our interpretation panels were as interesting and rewarding to visitors as possible.

/media/news/library/sundwoner_1-resized.jpgThe aim of the Assistant Curator's project, was to focus on the individual vehicles broader history, not just on the vehicle facts itself, but also their manufacturers, the people who once owned them and on some occasions their feats.  A great example of what we have found is the interesting story of our Bean 14 Tourer. We discovered that an Australian adventurer, Francis Birtles, who once owned the Tourer, had completed a 3,380 mile journey, from Darwin to Melbourne in 8 days and 13 hours (a new record at the time). He achieved this driving the modified Bean 14 Tourer, made in Tipton in 1923. Birtles affectionately nicknamed his Bean ‘Sundowner’, due to his habit of turning up at rural homesteads just before suppertime!     

/media/news/library/wolverhampton_to_paris_resized.jpgThe whole project involved a lengthy process of consulting with local historians and motor enthusiasts, as well as researching through our own resources and those at local archives. Once we had gathered the necessary information and 

/media/news/library/sunbeam_employees_1-resized.jpgphotographs, we had the difficult task of piecing together the stories. With so many interesting facts choosing which to include and exclude was challenging (as well as keeping within a word-limit!). After several drafts and the input from all of the Collections Team, we began to work with graphic designers on the layout and design of the panels. Finally, last week the new story panels were installed in Bradburn and Wedge for visitors to discover the story behind the cars, just in time for our upcoming Festival of Black Country Vehicles on Sun 24 Jul where you will be able to see our new display and over 100 visiting Black Country made vehicles, which will cavalcade around our Museum.

Please do come and visit us to discover the stories for yourself. 

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