A point in your life comes that you come to terms that not everyone is keen on museums. My mother once said that she didn’t like them much, and not many of my friends imagine looking at old stuff as a particularly enticing way of spending their free time either.
I do, goddamn it. I love a great exhibition or seeing artefacts. Keeping the past in check allows you to appreciate the present and form educated decisions about the future.
I will give you an example of an educated decision: I simply NEED one of those gold bamboo bangles after visiting the Jewellery Quarter Museum in Birmingham. Let me elaborate.
The weird and the wonderful in the pictures above may not look particularly glamorous or fashionable. But the items produced in this creative chaos is what led Birmingham to become the jewellery capital of Europe. And it still is until this day – if you ever decide to pay B’rum a visit, you will find that the Jewellery Quarter is just like Oxford Circus, only instead of every Zara or H&M, you will see fine jewellery shop upon fine jewellery shop.
Going back to the museum, you will be surprised to find that when this was an open workshop, it was kept elaborately clean, and mysophobia had nothing to do with it. In fact, the owners obsessively cleaned the floors as well as each of employee’s shoes and hands for them not to accidentally walk out covered in gold, quite literally. Similarly, pulled up trousers were not allowed nor was touching your hair excessively, in case you were trying to get away with gold dust in your hair. Talk about making most of the situation.
The company whose ghost we were exploring was originally named Smith and Pepper and they were the ones who pioneered the bamboo bangle – a bracelet that looks like a bamboo – you can see it in one of the images. After Smith and Pepper closed its doors, it was transformed into a museum with every book, every tool, every stamp placed where it was originally left one Friday at 5pm in 1981. The next Monday morning no one came back to continue producing gold jewellery and the doors stayed shut ever since. It was an end of an era.
If you are ever in Birmingham, this is a great place to visit. The museum guide will allow you to envision how it all worked and even show you a few jeweller’s secret tricks of the trade – I caught a picture of him doing so, so no, he is not smoking anything dodgy. It’s actually a sophisticated technique that you will want to see for yourself.
75-79 Vyse Street, Birmingham, West Midlands B18 6HA