This is my life’s work. I’m building a permanent museum of science-fiction: of dreams and the imagination.
Situated in the marketplace of a beautiful, historic village and nestled within the stunning scenery of The North Pennines; the museum will tell the chronological story of the science-fiction genre, beginning in the late 1800’s with H.G.Wells. The journey will be told using original, production-made movie and television props, costumes and published artwork.
Broadly, the museum will consist of two sections. The first will be a detailed and personal overview of science-fiction in its entirety; the second an illustrated ‘episode guide’ of the classic series of ‘Doctor Who’. The sci-fi history section will tell the story of the genre with an eclectic array of original, screen-used and production made items that includes titles such as ‘Dune’, ‘Star Wars’, ‘2010’, ‘Planet of the Apes’ and ‘The Outer Limits’…to name a but few.
Also incorporated is an exciting collection featuring production pieces from the ‘Marvel’ cinematic universe, to highlight the impact of comics on the genre. In a special display, you will find original items dating back to the early days of the 'X-Men' franchise and more recently, from the new wave of Marvel movies such as 'The Avengers'. Also to be included is a fascinating selection of original animation cels featuring a 'rogues-gallery' of well known (and more obscure!) Marvel heroes and villains!
The second section, dedicated to the history of the classic ‘Doctor Who’ television series, will be illustrated with one of the largest collections of surviving, original, screen-used items currently in the UK. The story of the original series will be told as an ‘Episode Guide’, with as many of the original stories illustrated with a prop, costume, production made item or published artwork.
Included will be a substantial collection of published work by prominent ‘Who’ artist Andrew Skilleter (who has supported the project since its inception). The intention is to give the visitor a comprehensive overview and authentic experience of the seminal, original series.
The museum won’t be ‘just’ a collection on display. I have been carefully selecting each addition to construct a ‘visual narrative’ of the genre. The focus is upon the ideas and writers who have crafted the story of science-fiction alongside the artists and makers who have skilfully realised these concepts in a broad variety of media. This flight of the imagination is to be chronological: an exciting and nostalgic one for the hardened fan and hopefully educational and inspiring for those either new to the genre, or just passing through. In time, I hope to invite guests to the museum to give special talks and signings, providing a friendly and intimate sci-fi hub for the enthusiast.
Why I need your support
Making a permanent museum to open to the public is quite an undertaking for an individual. More than just a visitor attraction, at its heart, the project is preserving popular, cultural heritage for future generations. Beyond the artefacts, the building of the museum itself is a Georgian townhouse (Grade 2 listed) and has required considerable repair in readiness for opening as a museum (and safely housing fragile artefacts). I have accomplished (and self funded) a great deal myself over nearly a three year period, but to get the museum open this August (Gulp!), some financial assistance would advance the time-frame massively (to get help to tackle some of the more specialist work and purchase expensive materials like safety glass).
Your money will pay for the following:
- A bespoke wooden floor (the stone floor is centuries old and an original, listed feature of the building. It is also an uneven and potentially unsafe surface to walk on. Creating a level and safe wooden floor on top of this is essential). I have built two thirds of the wooden floor already- on a concrete surface...this final section on the listed slabs is a little more tricky...and I need more timber!!!
- A professional electrician to install a heating system to ensure a consistent temperature is maintained for both visitors and long-term preservation of the collection.
- Safety glass to complete the 'display bays' that the props will be standing in- essential to maintain the collection.
- Help with constructing the pathway leading to the museum door! Remember- this is a Georgian house, so the front of the building has been relatively unchanged for centuries! To ensure visitor safety, I want to construct an even walkway up to the museum, complete with a banister suitable for anyone a little unstable on their legs.
- Signage! The museum needs signs! These will be outside the museum so that everyone can clearly see we're here!
What I’ve achieved so far…
1: Preservation - The Collection
To prepare and make the museum a reality has required a substantial work load and personal commitment. As a lifelong science-fiction enthusiast and artist, I have collected original props and costumes for over two decades. This was never ‘for fiscal value’ but because these items had a profound personal significance; resonating with childhood memories (and not just mine, but those of many others who had also shared in their stories). In many cases, the props had not been cared for and (especially in the case of BBC sourced material) required immediate attention to ensure their survival. As a result, I have spent literally years repairing and restoring items: moisturising and sealing old, fragile rubber pieces and in some extreme cases, sculpting missing replacement sections a-fresh.
Once a prop is stable, it next needs a bespoke stand for support, enabling it to be displayed effectively. I have been steadily making these by hand to save on costs (as each is completely different as no two props are the same). The final step in readying a prop for museum display involves thorough research to create again, a bespoke information plaque to accompany it.
2: The Building - Planning, Restoration & Construction
Nearly three years ago (and with luck firmly on my side), my partner and I were able to purchase the museum premises. The catch was that they needed a lot of work. In addition, the building is a Grade 2 listed Georgian townhouse and it came with strict planning restrictions. My initial task was to ensure that I could secure all the necessary planning permissions (enabling minimal alterations) and for the building to be able to open as a museum. A year later and all the relevant planning was secured with the blessing of historical building officers!
Despite no significant structural change, the ground-floor cellar (that will house the collection and ‘become’ the museum) has still required extensive work that I have carried out mostly myself. Two jobs have been particularly time intensive: restoring the 300-year old stonework (including a vaulted room) and preventing water ingress. When we first moved into the property there was basically a pond where the museum collection is going(!) and the centuries old lyme mortar was crumbling and damp. In the two years since the project began, I have pulled down the original ceiling, nearly completed re-pointing the stonework in both rooms and solved several of the water problems involved in the build. It felt essential to ‘strip back’ the two rooms to achieve a ‘blank slate’ from which to develop the new museum.
The work outlined above has taken a lot of personal dedication and time. Ultimately, it has had to be done around my teaching (I still have to eat and keep the roof over our heads!) and family commitments. Owing to a shortage of time, I soon realised that I needed to devote more to the project and hence took action last summer going part-time (after twenty years full-time teaching). Whilst this necessitated losing some income, the time to devote to the various tasks involved in making the museum a reality was essential. Ultimately- help with completing the cellar is where your money will be spent.
So in summary- I'm asking you to become part of and for help to, construct what will become the North of England's only permanent museum dedicated to the history of science-fiction. At a local level, the museum will help our village and it's surrounding area, boosting visitor numbers and showing them what a stunning part of the world the Allen Valley truly is. For genre enthusiasts, it will hopefully become a destination, a meeting place and an opportunity to see artefacts from our shared history of Sci-Fi first hand. For children; they will be able to meet creatures of the imagination and learn of the story of this most wonderful genre.
Risks and challenges
Thankfully, I have worked very hard to ensure the risks associated with this project are negligible. The major problem facing a small museum is, once open, ensuring it stays that way! This is something I have given much consideration. Here’s the plan….
1: The Museum Building - My family and I live in and own the museum premises. We have no mortgage. This is a major positive for the fledgling museum. Ultimately, this means that we don’t have to find a monthly rent, greatly reducing overheads. It also means that we can ‘weather’ quiet spells when visitor numbers are lower.
2: Staffing - I will be personally ‘manning’ the museum, so again overheads are negligible. I have other willing family members nearby to help should I ever need it, to ensure ‘the doors open’!
3: Hours of opening …and keeping it open! - For the first two years of the museum, I intend to continue to teach part-time. The museum will be open all year at weekends plus one weekday and seven days a week during all the school holidays. This will enable me to teach for three days per week- important, as this will cover my living overheads. This means that the museum will be able to sustain ‘quiet periods’ without affecting my ability to pay the bills and feed my family! My fiancée also works from the museum building as a private psychotherapist- again helping feed the family! As much as I would like to be able to open the museum seven days a week all year from the start, to give the project the best chance , having key living expenses in place and independent of it, will remove any risks involved in having to make ‘X amount’ each month. As time progresses, my long-term plan is to steadily increase opening times as word of the museum spreads (and indeed develop a programme of talks and school workshops utilising the collection to teach and inspire children).
4: Building work - Thankfully, I am a fairly handy person, so maintenance of the building, I can manage largely myself. The space itself is fairly straightforward and having carried out much of the museum restoration, I am well placed to maintain it. Your money will be going directly into the essential infrastructure that I need assistance with, but again, I will be working alongside electricians, etc. to complete my understanding of the museum building.
5: Curation - I am now an experienced artist who works in both 2-D and 3-D media. Always being open to developing new skills has enabled me to tackle the complex and varied work involved in repairing and preserving the museum collection. This has, once more, helped the museum become a reality as I haven’t needed to spend extra money on caring for and the restoration of, the prop collection itself. I also build all the museum stands- again a big money saver, keeping outgoings to a minimum. Finally, I have also taught creative ICT for some years and so am able to manage the Museum website, again reducing outgoings.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)