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The Food Museum

In exploration of my exhibition theme ‘Food’ I visited Stowmarket’s Food Museum.

The museum explores food production and its impact on our past, present, and future. Formally known as the Museum of East Anglian Life, the museum was rebranded in 2020 in order to keep pace with a contemporary audience.

Just a short distance from the town centre, I walked through the museum’s impressive glass entrance into a tranquil countryside setting. Spread across a 75-acre estate it boasts 17 historic buildings including an 18th century mill house and watermill, 19th century chapel and medieval barn.

I met with Collections and Interpretations Manager, Lisa Harris, this proved a valuable opportunity to discover more about the museum and seek advice for my own exhibit.

I was interested in the museum’s move to re-name, speaking to Lisa she explained how food has always been an integral aspect of the museum, so the change is a natural transition providing more scope for future exhibits, topics and conversations.

‘Hedgerows’ is the first annual exhibition in the recently refurbished Bone building, in collaboration with the young curator-artist collective ‘Our Isles’. It features artists, chefs, farmers, historians and specialists. The exhibition celebrates the natural beauty of hedgerows and their importance in our food system. Serving to protect crops and segregate livestock, hedgerows also provide a unique habitat for a variety of wildlife.

The building also has a tasting kitchen which encourages visitors to try some foraged spoils from the farms hedgerows as they view the exhibition. I sampled nettle tea, cake and honey, all were delicious! Exploring the interaction of sight, taste and smell I considered how I might use this sensory experience in my own exhibition. It was fascinating to view a diverse range of mediums as well learn about hedgerows throughout history.

‘In Your Words’ builds a picture of past and present English dialect, featuring audio recordings of people reminiscing about food and farming. Have you ever had bevers, docky or fourses? Is it bun, bap, cob or roll? Regional phrases have the power to unite and divide, I was interested in how food can be used as a direct representation of self and identity. I was struck by the personal aspect of ‘Food Stories’ which held a collection of handwritten local recipes and photographs of food that ignite memories, sparking conversations surrounding home and family.

Enjoying an ice cream from the ‘Feast’ Café I walked along the River Rattlesden which meanders along a sculpture trail. Fascinating for all ages the museum has a heritage farm with rare breeds, vintage steam engine displays, demonstrations and a full calendar of events and workshops planned throughout the year.

The Food Museum gave me plenty to think about and several ideas for new topics to explore.



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