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National Museum of Photography, Film & Television (Bradford)
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National Museum of Photography, Film & Television (Bradford)
Date: 01/05/02, updated on 15/03/05 (179 review reads)
Advantages: interesting, free, centrally located
Disadvantages: broken exhibits and noisy kids
The minimalist chrome interior was a stark contrast to the run down and decaying suburban exterior. A weekend trip to Leeds had led to a day trip to Bradford, which had in turn led to a good few hours being spent here, at the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television.
Since it’s founding in 1983, the museum has been the most visited national museum outside London, attracting approximately 750,000 visitors each year. It’s part of the National Museum of Science and Industry, and was set up in Bradford because of the city's contribution to the development of cinema and film-making in the UK over the years. The museum boasts more than three million items of historical, social and cultural value, including the world's first negative, the world’s earliest television footage and what is regarded as the world's first example of moving pictures – Louis Le Prince's 1888 film of Leeds Bridge.
The Museum Itself
The museum is a popular one due to a mixture of the fascinating exhibits and it’s entry fee – nothing. Although you are asked to give £2 to museum funds if you can, this is not enforced. Plus, this is per party rather than per guest, and no one can argue that 2 quid is a lot for a family day out.
Set out over 4 floors, the museum includes exhibition galleries, cinemas, hands-on a la Launchpad exhibits and of course, a café or two and a shop. Starting at the top, since that’s where we started, there’s a room or two devoted to the history of advertising, with some newspaper adverts displayed on the walls, and some television ones showing on small screens. One area takes you on a behind the scenes trip to an ad agency, letting the public have a glimpse at what goes on in this fascinating world. There is also a “traditional” museum area with old gadgets from bygone times, and scenes showing families watching the box way b
ack when, complete with authentic props. They even have the original Playschool toys – this place is a worthy visit to see these alone. Finally on this floor is a TV Heaven area – there are 3 or 4 large books listing page after page of shows they have recorded – from Classic Corrie to, erm, Blind Date, and you can chose a couple of these to watch in the special viewing rooms, in a set up very similar to that at the New York museum of Film and Television.
Dropping down a level we have the special exhibitions gallery. This has an entrance fee (and quite a steep one at that – about £5.60 for adults, and only slightly less for children) and we didn’t venture in, not being that hooked on James Bond, to whom the current exhibition is dedicated. There’s also a (free) Magic Factory which is great for kids, with lots of optical illusions and intriguing exhibits. Our only complaint was that quite a few of these had been removed and replaced with “Sorry, due to damage this exhibit has been removed to be repaired” signs. Our near-native hosts told us that this is nothing compared to what you get in September when school kids finally leave after 6 weeks of reeking havoc.
Continuing downward you end up on level 2 which has displays to do with animation through the years (and a big awww, bless for the early days) and a few more “press a semi-broken button and see if something in front of you starts to move” games. This is also the floor the IMAX exit (see below) leads to.
On the ground floor there’s the box office where you can buy cinema tickets, the café, the shop and the research centre. In what I would call the basement, but they class as ground floor level on their map, there’s a Kodak Gallery, with displays showing cameras and photos throughout the years, plus some gorgeous landscape shots. There are two cinemas – Imax and normal – and what’s on guides are
available when you go in. Their showings are quite a varied mix, with everything from The Lady and The Tramp to In The Bedroom having been put on this month. Prices range from £2.40 (children, off peak) to £5.00 (adult, prime time) and Imax seats clock in at a ridiculous £4.00 (kids / OAPS / Students) to £5.80 (adults). We saw “Cyberworld 3D” in the Imax, and my only advice from that is to sit as far back as possible – the layout’s not that wonderful, and front row seats can give you a sore neck for days afterwards.
The Good Points
The museum is very aesthetically pleasing if you’re into pristine modern rather than
dusty traditional decay. From the top 2 floors there are some amazing views over the city, and it’s surreal how you can stand in such a nice modern set up looking out at such an industrialized, dismal place. The front is nothing but panes of clear glass, although none of these windows are shaped a la Jemima, Big Ted and co’s. They have some really interesting displays, and, I have to confess, some fun buttons to press. The pick and mix sweets selection on the ground floor is huge and unusually varied too. There are toilets on every floor and a handful of lifts, although these are marked as to be used by disabled visitors / those with prams/pushcahirs only. For parents they have special guides so you can help your kids get the most out of the place, and in the Magic Factory and so on, all the games are marked with the key stage level for which they are most relevant in terms of matching up with syllabi.
The Bad Points
Naturally, the broken / missing displays became annoying. Although each floor was served by the lifts, there were numerous mezzanine style levels dotted here and there, which were only accessible by steps. The café had a very limited selection, and was quite expensive, although I suppose they have to make money somewhere. The shop, although nice and
large, wasn’t all that good (says she who is a veteran of museum shops). They seemed to have a lot of James Bond memorabilia, and not much else. Plus for a museum dedicated to films, among other things, they appeared to be reluctant to embrace the world of DVDs. For once I bought nothing here, and if you know me, you'll also know that this is indeed a travesty.
The museum, shop and main cafe is open 10:00am - 6:00pm Tuesday to Sunday and Bank Holidays. The Cinemas are open until late in the evening, and the accompanying Pictureville café-bar from 5:00pm to 9:00pm
The museum is two miles from the M606. Follow signs to the city centre, and then to the museum itself. The official car park is as NCP one up the road, and there is also some off street parking at weekends. From Bradford Interchange station the museum is only a five minute, and if you’re coming by bus, we spotted a stop directly outside in the forecourt area.
Since it’s free, it’s the type of place you could go again and again if you live locally, taking in a floor or two each time. I enjoyed our trip, and it was a refreshing change from the dusty old museums I’ve been frequenting of late. It was nice and informative without being dull, and nothing beats interactive set ups. Definitely a recommended visit by me.
Official Website : www.nmpft.org.uk
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