Yesterday saw the first meeting of the Museum Book Club. This is something I have set up through my job and that I hope will be a good way of getting community members together in their local museum to do something a little different. The idea is that we will read books linked to an aspect of the museum collection, and the discussion will be accompanied by a tour of one of the galleries or perhaps a chance to have a look at some of the objects from the collection that relate to the topic or the time period of the book.
The first book chosen was The Road Home by Rose Tremain. This is a story about modern day immigration, with the main character, Lev, coming to the UK from Eastern Europe in search of work. I did enjoy the book, but because I was thinking about it in the context of the real stories that are told in the immigration gallery in the museum, I probably enjoyed it more. It made me think more about the character of Lev and how difficult life was for him at first – leaving his family for a strange country, not speaking the language, having nowhere to live, feeling lonely. Small details – like arriving in London and thinking that £20 could pay for a week’s lodgings, or the fact that no one took the time to make sure he could understand what they were saying when he only spoke a few words of English – were made more prominent by the fact that I could see those things reflected in the real stories told in the gallery.
The possibility for future titles for the Museum Book Club is vast, as there are so many books out there that link in with the themes of the collection. Historical novels are an obvious choice, with options for novels set in Tudor, WWII, Ancient Egyptian, and Victorian time periods to name but a few. We could read a novel about artists, contemporary or Renaissance, or perhaps something about an archaeological dig or even a knitting club. And what about novels that take place in museums? There are so many options its difficult to know what to pick next