Forge Needle Museum

Many of the collection holders that the UOSH Midlands team worked with were county or city archives, such as the Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service , which we examined in a previous post. Today’s collection holder is slightly different, highlighting another institution where sound collections can be found to exist – the museum. 

A photo of the exterior of Forge Needle Museum.
Forge Needle Museum

Forge Mill Needle Museum explores the heritage of Redditch’s needle and fishing tackle industry, detailing its operation during the Victorian era. The museum, opened in 1983, is housed in an authentic scouring mill which retains much of the machinery that was used during the manufacturing process in the 19th century. Along with displays focusing on the needle making industry, the museum also hosts temporary exhibitions covering a diverse range of subjects. For example, at the time of writing, the current exhibition showcases the work of the comic book artist Lee Bradley.  

The sound collections held by the museum cover the 20th century history of Redditch, and have, in part, been used to mount exhibitions on local history. The collections consist of oral history interviews that were conducted for various projects and together they provide a comprehensive view of how life has changed in Redditch over the years. 

The ‘Childhood in Redditch’ collection, as can be expected given the title, explores childhood experiences in Redditch. The interviews were recorded by the Forge Needle Museum in 1998 for a specific exhibition and cover the period from the 1910s to the late 1990s. The interviews were conducted with local people aged from 12 to 87, offering an interesting historic comparison. 

The ‘New Town, New Start’ collection, recorded in 1997, also formed the basis of an exhibition at the museum, focusing on Redditch New Town. In April 1946 Redditch was designated a New Town under the New Towns Act 1946 which sought to tackle housing issues following WWII. This collection consists of group discussions and interviews which explores topics including: the town’s development, changes to the area, and the experience of moving to the New Town. 

The ‘Redditch Business Oral History Project’ takes a look of the wider spectrum of manufacturing that occurred in the town, building on the industrial history presented in the Forge Mill Needle Museum. The project was a collaboration between the Museum and the Redditch and Bromsgrove Manufacturers’ Association between 2002 and 2003. 

Lastly, the Mike Johnson collection comprises a series of oral history interviews conducted by the historian Mike Johnson. These interviews were undertaken with notable elderly residents of Redditch between 2000 and 2010. As these interviews covering all aspects of life in Redditch- including recollections of childhood, war, and industry- they complement the other collections which have more specific focuses. 

A photo of someone examining the collections at Forge Needle Museum
Examining the collections at Forge Needle Museum

Together the Forge Mill Needle Museum’s collections provide a fascinating insight into the 20th century history of Redditch. The UOSH project has enabled them to be made more accessible, ensuring they can be better utilised by the museum. If you are interested in finding out more about the Museum visit their website . You can also use the British Library SAMI catalogue to explore the sound collections further. 

Post by Elizabeth Gray.

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Colin Hyde

About Colin Hyde

Colin Hyde is the manager of the Midlands hub for the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project, based in Special Collections at the University of Leicester.

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