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Leicester Special Collections

The National Motor Museum, Beaulieu

Beyond Our First Decade, 1982

On page 3, Beaulieu states that its core aims are to construct a library for rare books and archives, exhibit to the public, acquire new materials and objects, conserve and restore collections and to make the collections open and available to visitors. The whole booklet goes through how they are refining their collection, how they build their exhibitions around the different types of visitors and how they want to ‘give visitors a much more varied museum experience, encouraging participation and activity’. Visitors are at the core of how they exhibit their collection in order to not only better educate the public, but also so that they can enjoy the collection more.

Beaulieu’s values of putting visitors at its core in 1982 is surprising. Modern academics give the impression that this visitor-focused institution is a very modern value for museums to hold and that nothing was really being done about this until the mid-1990s. [1] But is this strictly true? Is the idea of museums being so visitor focused something new or something that has always been there, perhaps less scrutinized than now?

[1] David Fleming, ‘The Essence of the Museum: Mission, Values and Vision’, Conal McCarthy, The International Handbooks of Museum Studies: Museum Practice (1st ed), (John Wiley &Sons, Ltd., 2015), p. 11.