When I first moved to Plymouth over 5 years ago I spent some time in the old museum. It was ok, interesting to learn about the local history and it had some interesting artefacts. I absolutely love museums as a space to explore on my days off, and was a little disappointed when the museum closed and I had no where to peruse about on rainy days.
Soon after The Box was announced. I know many Plymothians, myself included, have been eagerly awaiting its opening. Delayed due to covid, The Box finally let members of the public cross the threshold, complete with face masks, hand sanitiser and one way systems, in the last weekend of September.
The weekend was a preview which I wasn’t lucky enough to win tickets for, but I was fortunate to get hold of a ticket for its first official day. Tickets currently have to be ordered online and be booked for a specific time so that social distancing guidelines can be maintained.
We arrived a few minutes early and waited to be let in. The building looks great from the outside and you are met with the old figureheads displayed above to welcome you as you arrive. A walk through the shop takes you into what was the old entrance hall of the original museum. So far things are looking good.
I went with my mother in law and our time was 3.30pm. We had decided in advance to head first for the Mayflower exhibition, Mayflower 400: Legend and Legacy. It was here that we first got a glimpse into what the new Plymouth museum was all about. What was once glass cases in a worn out building, was now a fancy, modern, interactive display of treasure and history.
From the fantastic story of the Mayflower and the first settlements of America, we followed the one way system through to the Media Lab. Another brilliant exhibit and part of the permanent galleries at the museum. It was fascinating to learn about media in the South West, including the opportunity to present the local news.
Some kids were taking part as we walked around and it was the most wonderful thing- to see children excited and having fun in a museum. As I watched the children laughing, it felt for me like whatever the museum was aiming for, they’d managed it. This was further demonstrated as we watched a small girl get frustrated at having to wait to view insects in the Mammoth room. She was so happy and eager to learn and take part, it seems The Box is a big hit with those of a school age.
It isn’t just a success for those in school uniform though, my mother in law and I are also very impressed. We sat and watched the short film in the Port of Plymouth room, (amazing use of the set its projected onto, well done to whoever designed that), and we spent our last 10 minutes rushing through the rest of the room and also the 100 Journeys exhibit vowing to return again soon for a full tour.
Our brief visit was rounded off with a wander through the shop, which was a delight in itself. Full of beautiful products, many of which also looked sustainable, I am sure I will be coming back just to go to the gift shop!
All in all, I give The Box 5 stars. Exciting and informative, interactive and interesting, historical and modern, the curators have managed to create something that appeals to everyone.
It’s focus on Plymouth and how the city fits into the global landscape through the millennia is very affective. I left wanting more and am already planning my next trip.
Well done to everyone involved, you should be very proud of yourselves.
You can buy your ticket here. Tickets to the Mayflower exhibition are free to Plymouth residents.