I spent the first half of my day in Birmingham on optimum tourist mode. That is to say that I hit the touristy parts of town, namely the Library of Birmingham and Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.
The library was just as impressive as I had expected, and I would recommend any fellow bibliophile visit when they get a chance. I seemed to lose count of the number of floors that I climbed as I walked through row after row of books. Downstairs is the children’s library and they even have a stage area where events can take place. It impressed me mostly because it seemed to be the type of place that children would choose to visit, and I’m sure that we can all agree that children requesting to go to the library is always a good thing! Downstairs is also where the music library is housed around a circular courtyard that you can look down on from outside the library.
As you move to the upper floors, this is where it gets impressive. The circular, traditional reference library was decked with strings of fairy lights making it feel enchanting. This view is exactly what I came for, and this is the part of the library that makes it such an international attraction.
Unfortunately, on the day I visited the Shakespeare Memorial Room was closed due to an event, so even though this was a great pull for me, I can’t really comment on that. What I can offer comment on is the beautiful garden terrace that I could have stood for hours on looking out over the city. A welcome break I am sure for those who are hard at work inside.
I left the library to move over to Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. The first thing I noticed was: wow that’s a lot of stairs on the way in. Then I remembered my Fitbit and the lifetime floors badge that I am currently working towards and I just went for it.
The museum was crowded, which can be expected on a cold wet day in half term, yet that didn’t detract from the ability to enjoy the history on offer. Taking Birmingham from the 1700s through to present day was really fascinating, and I would recommend anyone who wants to learn more about British social history to go. Key features that are looked at here are the water industry, slavery and immigration. The exhibition is really hands on, and children have clearly been at the forefront of the curators’ minds as they put it all together.
There are also collections from various ancient civilisations on offer, and I think these are likely to be great for those who don’t have access to bigger, more detailed curations but as someone who has grown up visiting museums and exhibitions on Egypt in particular, I didn’t feel these had much to offer. But I did wish I could have brought a certain Year 5 student of mine to bring her topic project to life a bit more.
The art gallery was far quieter, and I guess this can be expected too as art has a reputation for being somewhat exclusive, especially older art. The gallery do seem it be combatting this and were actively interesting children in the art work through organised events. The art gallery boasts a good selection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings (some of which, my uni lecturers would be proud to know, I actually recognised!). With it being a quieter part of the building, I was able to walk around at my own leisure and that made it a far more enjoyable pursuit.
After browsing the gift shop my time as a tourist was just about up, and I switched into ‘do it like a local’ mode.