A huge indoor play space, rabbit hole, story-telling bus, films and a huge bed on a carousel are just some of the exciting features you can enjoy when The Story Museum reopens on August 6.
Oxford’s newest museum had barely opened its doors in April, after a £6 million transformation and two years of major capital redevelopment, when the pandemic struck.
CEO Caroline Jones says it was “absolutely crushing’ to shelve all their hard work and plans, but thankfully The Story Museum will now reopen after all in August, albeit in a phased manner three days a week, and we can’t wait to get down there.
So what can we expect? From August 6, visitors will be welcomed into the ground floor galleries, shop and café. This includes Small Worlds, a story-themed play space specially designed for families and children aged 0-5, as well as ’City of Stories’, a short film exploring Oxford’s thousand-year literary history.
These spaces, alongside live storytelling performances in the external courtyard of the museum and guided story walks around the city centre, will provide families with safe and enjoyable encounters with stories.
So, following Government guidance and an injection of emergency funding from the National Lottery and Arts Council England, The Story Museum will open this summer just in time for the school holidays.
And yes, socially distancing measures will mean a smaller number of visitors with certain areas in the museum remaining closed, such as the new 100-seater theatre, but Caroline is confident The Story Museum will still provide a sense of wonder.
“My job is to make sure the staff are safe, and to secure the organisation for the future. But now we need to start generating an income and inviting people to come and enjoy the space we have,” Caroline adds.
“There are still so many unknowns, but we decided we just needed to get on with it. No, it’s not the grand opening we imagined but we are confident that people will want to come anyway.”
The Story Museum has been designed as a very sensory, interactive place so unfortunately some of the new facilities are unavailable, such as the gingerbread-making station, but as a brand new story-telling mecca it is a massively exciting addition for Oxford and the country as a whole.
Tickets are already selling fast for the reopening, and with a Phase Two opening planned for later in the year (hopefully October half term) when two further floors will be revealed, including The Whispering Wood, a mysterious indoor forest tracing the history of oral storytelling, and The Enchanted Library where visitors can step inside iconic scenes inspired by much-loved children’s stories, from emerging through a wardrobe into The Chronicles of Narnia to cutting through into the parallel realms of His Dark Materials.
The Woodshed theatre is likely to be the last space to re-open for live storytelling and other performances.
To coincide with the partial reopening, the museum is also launching a new digital resource, a growing collection of over 1000 of the world’s great stories accessible at www.storymuseum.org.uk/1001
So how is Caroline feeling about the reopening? “We are so excited. It’s not the opening we expected but we are relieved and energised to have found a way through.
“It’s been an enormously challenging time but I do feel that families are now ready to venture out and will have something to look forward to. We can’t wait.”
The Story Museum will be open on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from August 6. For tickets and more details go to www.storymuseum.org.uk