2022 – ‘It’s About Love for Our Country’: Suffolk Museum name change spurs series | Museums

Activists fear the loss of “local identity” after the Museum of Oriental Angolan Life changed its name to “Museum of Food” in a bid to increase visitor numbers and make the museum more accessible.

The move has sparked excitement among some in the area who fear losing “the only museum that has such a clear focus on the history, life and people of East Anglia”.

“It’s very sad for those of us who have relatives who donated things, or who grew up knowing and loving the relationship with East Anglia,” said Matthew Atwood, a local collector and writer who led the campaign against the changes led by Matthew Atwood.

There is such a thing as a local identity. I don’t think you can really welcome people into the area if you don’t have a local identity. This is about love for our region. It’s not about negativity or resistance to change.”

The Food Museum in Stockmarket, Suffolk, said the move was just a name change and that East Anglia, known as the “British breadbasket” for its history of wheat production, “remains at the heart of everything we do”.

Museum director Jenny Cousins ​​said: “Our curators, staff, and many volunteers are excited about the museum’s potential to connect visitors to the cultivation and production of food – a major issue at a time when food security and environmental concerns are of paramount importance.”

More than 1,000 people signed a petition calling for the original name to be preserved, while a group of academics, including Oxford professor Diarmed McCulloch, signed an open letter published in The Times saying that the movement had “downplayed regional identity in favor of a general national theme.” .

“We are deeply concerned about the interest in existing artifacts and future acquisitions of value for East Anglian studies,” they wrote. “When you remove a person’s connection from their history, it is no longer their history. We ask the director and curators to stop their wrong strategy and to conduct thorough consultations with experts and the public about the direction of the museum.”

The Museum’s Board of Trustees responded that it had received positive feedback during its four-year consultation with local residents and that recent visitor numbers have outpaced pre-Covid numbers.

“We are still committed to 40,000 items in our collections,” they said.

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Cousins ​​said the renaming was to ensure “we remain sustainable, convenient and enjoyable to visit” and that the museum “will continue to represent the area’s social, cultural, industrial and technological heritage in our collections and exhibitions.”

Current exhibits include Food Stories, which visits nearby rural areas to collect local dialect words, memories, and recipes. The museum is also completing the restoration of a historic watermill this summer and the opening of Hedgerow, an exhibit that explores the important role of hedges and a celebration of rural crafts.

“We encourage people to visit the museum and judge for themselves and see how the museum’s collection and the rich heritage of food and agriculture are celebrated in this region,” Cousins ​​said.

Atwood said he supports many of the museum’s new initiatives but doesn’t want it to come at the expense of focusing on the local area.

“If you look at their website, the word ‘East Anglia’ doesn’t appear in the title or in their vision, mission and values,” Atwood said. They assure us that the connection will not go anywhere. But in reality, how do you present artifacts in a food museum that are not clearly related to food? “