Motoring heritage21 December, 2007
Coventry was once the centre of the British motor industry, and hosts the Coventry Transport Museum, which, in spite of its all-embracing name, holds an extensive collection of motor vehicles built in Coventry.
Nearby are the collections of the National Motorcycle Museum near Birmingham Airport, and the Heritage Motor Museum at Gaydon.
I recently gave a paper called Motor heritage vs. Motoring heritage – the case for a rethink at a conference in Riga, and am continuing my research in this vein. The thrust of my argument is that these three heritage centres, and indeed all similar centres, are far too preoccupied with presenting motor heritage, as evidenced by an obsession with the vehicles themselves. They focus on the fast and the unusual. They offer little interpretation of the vehicles as part of a broader social heritage. I find this odd on two grounds:
- It ignores the very significant role that motor vehicles in the shaping of the twentieth century.
- It results in sterile displays that appeal mainly to middle-aged petrolheads. The centres offer little to make themselves attractive to a family group of visitors.
Sadly, this results in a lose-lose scenario.