Oxford Story Museum Review: Since going back to work from maternity leave I have tried to organise a weekend away for the four of us each month we’ve not been doing too badly and have managed it so far. For August we went to Oxford. Having friends that use to live near Oxford we know the surrounding area reasonably well but we don’t know the city very well at all. I was looking forward to exploring but the weather soon put pay to that. In fact we got completely drenched in less than five minutes of getting out the car. The heavens literally opened and we could not find any shelter. So when we turned up at the Story Museum we looked like drowned rats.
Thankfully they have a cafe attached so we managed to sit and have brunch and dry out. When we were invited to explore the Story Museum I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I knew that it was likely to be about childhood stories and books and that it was probably going to be interactive. But I couldn’t have imagined what greeted us.
The Story Museum celebrates story in all forms and explores their enduring power to teach and delight.
Founded in 2003, The Story Museum began by taking stories and storytellers into schools and communities.
Since 2009, we have gradually been transforming a large, dilapidated building in the centre of Oxford into an unusual museum, with the help of authors, artists, teachers and other cultural organisations and volunteers of all ages. In Spring 2014, we celebrated the first phase of our development with refurbished facilities, the opening of a shop and cafe, new events and a major exhibition: 26 Characters.
The Story Museum Website /About Us
After a brunch of tea, hard boiled eggs and soldiers plus a salmon and avocado bagel for me we were fully recharged and set to explore – albeit still a little damp! We parked the buggy in the buggy park as its not possible to take it in with us. Across the courtyard is a yellow door which leads into the museum. On opening it were were greeted with a huge picture of Alice which stretched up the staircase.
At the top we met one of the readers, who explained that there was someone who would read a story very hour apart from 1pm – which was typically the time we were there. On the chalkboard it tells you in which room the story is going to happen. From there you are free to explore the two floors. It does remind me a little of an old school in the way the rooms run on from each other. We decided to explore the downstairs first learning all about a spider who collected stories from the gods. Monkey enjoyed playing with the characters and the room is decorated in theme with the story. On the wall there was a tablet that told you all about the story and had a background soundtrack to set the mood. It was a good room to start in.
Also on the first floor was Mission Control, an interactive exhibit that Monkey moved round. Following simple instructions on the wall and via television screens. Mission control is all about collecting stories and you get the chance to make your own in way of a short film. Considering Monkey is a bloggers child and quite often on film. He became really shy when it came to designing his own. But he happily got involved in all the tasks around the room, voting and answering questions as well went.
From Mission control we decided to head up stairs to the second floor. Our first stop was Narnia. Walking through the wardrobe and the furs and seeing the white snow in front of you was magical. of course we couldn’t resist a picture opportunity in the witches sleigh. Monkey is a little too young for Narnia stories but I loved it.
You actually walk through the Mad Hatters Tea Party to get to Narnia. On the way back out we decided to stop and solve some riddles. I could imagine it would make a great venue for a Birthday celebration. Like all the other exhibits it relies on you as parents helping the children to live the story. There is a large mirror in the corner which makes you all desorted which Monkey thought was really funny.
We then found my favourite room next. Walking up to it there was a long wall of pegs with a dressing gown on each, all in different sizes and up to adult. At the end a sink with giant tooth brushes. There is a lot of attention to detail through out the museum. As you walked into the room you are greeted by the largest bed I have ever seen.
Off to one side there is a room which is full of little square cupboards. In each one is a book and a story prop relating to that book. Since Kipper is mad about opening cupboards he had great fun taking things out and putting them back in. The idea behind the room is to pick your dressing gown, your story and cuddly toy and then snuggle down on this huge bed, or one of the other rooms and read. Of course Kipper was more interested in crawling all over the bed!
There are a couple of other rooms off to the side. One which is a nursery and was playing nursery rhymes which transported me back to when Monkey was small. The other bedroom had a beautifully stunning mural painted on the walls. I could have stayed here for hours reading.
The next area we visited had lots of different exhibits relating to books well above Monkey’s age range such as those written by Tolken and Animal Farm. He still had fun playing a board game and finding out what his ‘rat’ name was – Fruity Dunker. By this time Kipper was starting to tire and needed to go back in the buggy so we decided to check out one last room before heading back down.
That room was on the first floor and called The Changing Room. So clever I would love to know hoe they do it. Theres the option to dress up or not. The you collect a picture frame and needed to choose an adjective, person and place which slot into the side of the frame.. Then you walk down the red carpet and the throne announces you. Monkey though this was simply amazing. To be honest so did I. Such a clever idea. It was great as it got him trying to read all the different words.
The Story Museum is brilliantly interactive, its the sort of space that is only as good as you make it. I love how it really encourages quality time between parents and children. We really enjoyed our time there and there was so much more for us to explore. I can see why it is so well regarded.Its great that it also suits all ages from Monkey’s up to Tweens quite easily. If you have any plans to visit Oxford then I would put this on your list of museums. I really wish there was one closer to us.
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