About as far removed from the story earlier this week about the four shortlisted museums who are vying for the £100,000 Art Fund prize comes to a lowlier idea for a museum.
In the Surrey village of Leigh, the parish council has paid £1 to buy the red, traditional telephone box that is on the green. According to the Leatherhead Advertiser, it appears the locals bought the kiosk and then decided what to do with it. The idea is now to turn it into a mini-museum. The Leigh History Group is considering what should go into their mini but shelving has already been agreed to better display the contents.
Is this anything more than a gimmick? Isn’t it really just the preservation of a telephone box?
Can you really create a museum in such a small place? Will people only come because this may be the smallest museum in the world? Does Leigh have so little heritage that it can fit into a telephone kiosk? Does it matter as long as it attracts visitors and puts money into the local community? Could the village claim this to be the world’s /UK’s/England’s/Surrey’s first mini museum?
One website, http://www.leigh-surrey.org.uk/frame.htm, says “The village is not recorded in the Domesday Book and little of historical importance seems to have happened in Leigh.” This doesn’t do a lot to promote itself as the next must-see tourist destination.
What Leigh may not have in history it makes up for in scenery. This little village of 800 or so has many walkers during the year and the two pubs act as convenient places to stop. A quick visit to the telephone box to see photographs of previous inhabitants of the village or relics from the days when iron seems to have been smelted around there might be on display. The early manor houses are long gone but perhaps Time Team can have a ferret around to find some archaeology to add. What Leigh will then have achieved is publicity to attract visitors. And isn’t that what tourism is?