Monday, 2 December 2013

Building a Museum of Stories

Our guest blogger, Alex, helps decorate a story phonebox outside the Oxford Story Museum

Today's guest blogger is
Alex Coke from Oxford's new Story Museum. It's an exciting new project providing exhibitions and space for children to meet authors and illustrators. 
I've been working for The Story Museum for over a year now (best workplace ever, by the way) and it is as difficult to describe to my friends now as it ever has been. It's a pioneering education charity and museum-in-the-making, which aims to use story to help children fulfil their potential.

Stories lie at the heart of human culture and help people to develop the vital language, imaginative and emotive skills they need to understand the world and connect with each other. Sharing stories develops language and understanding, imagination and empathy. The stories of our childhood shape the people we become and the world we create.

There is mounting evidence that enjoying a rich variety of stories as they grow helps children to fulfil their potential. It can even break cycles of deprivation. That's why The Story Museum exists: we work in schools and communities, with authors and illustrators, with musicians and actors and storytellers to highlight the importance of story. We celebrate stories in all their forms, and demonstrate their power to teach and delight - as well as encouraging people young and old to create stories of their own.

Since 2005 we've been developing learning programmes and materials, directly reaching 10,000-15,000 people each year in Oxfordshire, London and across the UK. From the beginning we aimed to create a centre for children's literature and storytelling (a museum in the original sense of 'a home of the muses and place of inspiration'), and that dream is becoming more real with every day.

In 2009 we acquired our permanent home on Pembroke Street, in the heart of Oxford. We piloted events and exhibitions in the building during 2012, and in August 2013 we officially closed to the public to allow the first chapter of our renovation to take place.

The builders have been in since September, transforming our ground floor into a shop and café, our middle floor into a wonderful education space and our top floor into offices and writers' studios. Holes are appearing, walls are disappearing, electricity comes and goes. We're changing our pumpkin into a coach: Cinderella is one step closer to the ball.

In spring 2014 we'll open our shop and café, along with a brand new exhibition which will take over the rough spaces of our atmospheric, labyrinthine building. We'll have a programme of events, talks and workshops for schools, families and adults.

We're still raising £8m to renovate the rest of our building and create our 'cathedral of stories'. We hope you'll join us along the way, and come to visit us when our doors open.

Find out more at

For a taster of the Museum's work, hop to to YouTube to to see Michael Rosen leading the children of Oxford through the streets on the Museum's celebration of Maggie's Day:


Moira Butterfield said...

This sounds a great place! I'm really looking forward to visiting in 2014. Please do update us on your exciting exhibitions in 2014, Alex.

Juliet Clare Bell said...

I've done a few author events in Oxford (including at the Barefoot Studios, since I have a book out with them) and I've heard such great things about this project (including parents from a school which is very heavily influenced by your project). It sounds fantastic and I'd love to come and visit when you reopen.

Julie Fulton said...

This sounds brilliant - and not too far from me. I'd love to come and visit when you re-open, too. Perhaps our area's SCBWI members should descend en masse, Clare Bell!

Moira Butterfield said...

That's a good idea, Julie! Picture Book Denners could join you - for an author flash mob : )

Nick Cross said...

Thanks, Alex. I'm in Oxford and I've been waiting eagerly for the full opening of the museum. Roll on Spring 2014!

Anne Booth said...

I will definitely be visiting! It sounds wonderful!

Jane Clarke said...

Would be fab to meet up there, Moira

Abie Longstaff said...

Such a fantastic (and important) project! I can't wait to visit :)

Unknown said...

Thank you very much - we look forward to seeing you all in the New Year!