The Whitaker (once known as Rossendale Museum and Art Gallery) is based in Rawtenstall, Lancashire, set in beautiful parkland. It combines beautiful art, local discoveries and some of the quirkiest Victorian natural history. Behind the bold Georgian façade, you can not only feast your eyes on a whole collection of preserved wildlife and antiquities, but enjoy restaurant-quality food and artistically engaged surroundings. It is an inspiring approach to modern museum management you need to check out - engaging people’s appetites and emotions.
|There are a number of natural history features|
I have been a visitor to the museum since being a child – and the dedication so many people have for this place highlights how relevant the Whitaker still is. It is a museum which crucially makes and sustains relationships with people – a powerful quality. From penny-farthings to preserved animals, archaeological discoveries and art through the ages; it uses artefacts to change the way we look at the Lancashire locality (as well as further afield). Especially striking is its archaeology collection, with specimens steeped in stories – there are flints and tools telling of much earlier ancestors, and even a shrunken head (!); within centimetres of your ownhands!
Active and changing displays mean that there is something for everyone including a contemporary art gallery, changing exhibitions and main galleries recently refurbished by The Whitaker Group.
|'Landskipping' is an exhibition running until 24th April|
Old-fashioned charm meets a contemporary twist: A real night at the museum?
And if that’s not enough to intrigue you… what it helps to remember, is that this is a place where old-fashioned charm meets a contemporary twist! It’s hosted a Bowie tribute event, acoustic evenings and is certainly is providing a bold presence for 2016; with a luxurious bar on-site, dining specials and the chance to really engage with local talent – in the form of open mic nights and talks. Too often ‘local museums’ are stereotyped as stuffy and ‘shutting out’ many people, but here people are welcomed to contribute, not just consume. This is crucial.
Preserving the past, whilst providing a platform for the present; The Whitaker highlights what a modern museum should be all about.
The Open Mic Nights are especially exciting, taking place on Wednesday evenings until 11pm; with a number of musicians and poets already getting involved.
|The bar, complete with fresh bakes!|
History, food and unfolding the arts – all possible in one place
The Whitaker provides a charming place where you can uncover the past just as easily as you can engage with the present. Treat your tastebuds to their eatery selection, which features a modern menu – and Lancashire favourites served with modern flair. Taking local history and tradition into account, the Whitaker even makes their food an educated and immersive experience like no other. Even just a ‘ham, cheese and pickle’ sandwich is transformed here; instead a tartine featuring warm ham hock, pickled vegetables, Branston puree, apple, crumbly Lancashire cheese and black pudding! All food isprepared with dedication and care – including their children’s menu.
This is far beyond the bland ‘refectories’ common to most contemporary museums; as well as being open 10am-4pm Wednesday-Sunday, ‘Foody Friday’ evenings, Sunday Breakfast and Sunday Lunch opportunities are also available. Seasonal evening options incorporate careful preparation and stunning presentation; ideal as a special treat. Plus their breakfast should not be missed; a full English complete with local Riley’s bacon and award winning sausage, grilled tomatoes, mushrooms, black pudding and choice of poached or fried eggs with toast.
|Can you believe that this is Museum food?|
Covering the senses
In this light, the Whitaker seems to cover the senses; a modern and innovative approach to operating a museum which engages with people directly. This can be recreational – including the bar which is open until 11pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings – as well as educational; not only in the form of the fascinating local history collection but a refurbished conference suite, complete with multi-functional IT facilities.
It’s not too far from the M66 and therefore is a straightforward journey, even from Manchester. For more information about The Whitaker you can visit the website. http://www.thewhitaker.org/