Museums Work

Museums Work Blog

Carey’s ‘House of Memories’…

Time for another little bit of museum history, and one of many examples of a museum owing its existence to a wish to preserve a particular building… 

I was recently reading a newspaper account of the opening of William Carey House, Leicester as a museum in September 1915. This was the cottage in Harvey Lane in which the shoemaker William Carey lived from 1789, when he accepted the invitation to become minister of Harvey Lane Baptist Chapel, until 1793 when he left to become a misionary in India, having been instrumental in founding the Baptist Missionary Society (BMS) in the previous year. 

In 1915 the cottage was purchased for the BMS by a group of businessmen to become a ‘House of Memories’, having recently been condemned by the local council and threatened with demolition. The total cost of purchase and renovation was around £1,300, of which £736 had been subscribed or promised at the time of its opening. The opening ceremony was conducted by the Mayor of Leicester, Alderman Jonathan North, and attended by a large number of delegates to a BMS meeting in the town at the time, including Rev S. P. Carey, William Carey’s grandson, who ‘spoke of his early struggles in Leicester’. 

As Rev W. E. Hurst said at the ceremony: ’there were probably some who thought that an undertaking involving expense should have been postponed until clearer days when the war was over. But this was a matter which had to be tackled at once… if they had allowed the immediate time to go by the house would have passed out of their hands and reach for ever’. Ald. North, who was presented with a gold key to the house as a memento, said that:

‘It gave him great pleasure to be present on such an auspicious occasion. They did well to preserve the sacred links of the past age. The pressure of life at the present time was very great and there was a distinct danger of becoming sordid and materialistic. They were all so liable to be obsessed with the transitory things of life, which, after all, mattered very little… Those who from time to time were privileged to visit this cottage would be reminded of William Carey’s noble life and of the heroic sacrifice he rendered. It was a great pleasure to him to take part in these proceedings, which would be counted among the happiest of his mayoralty (Applause)’.

As well as William Carey’s bible and a facsimile of the minutes of the first meeting of the BMS, the ‘House of Memories’ included six Tableaux telling the story of his life from his apprenticeship as a shoemaker in Piddington, Northamptonshire to his work in India, which included translating the bible into six languages – and the New Testament into thirty three.   

Carey’s cottage survived as a museum until it was demolished in 1968 to make way for the central ring road. The Holiday Inn stands on the spot, but the plaque above its door was relocated to the garden of Wygston’s House nearby, and the exhibits were moved to a new Carey Room at the Baptist Church – now the Central Baptist Church – in Charles Street, Leicester. The William Carey Museum is still open to view there every Sunday or at other times by prior arrangement – and you can view the Tableaux and the memorial tablet to Carey from Harvey Lane Chapel online at


The transformative museum…

A call for papers for the DREAM (Danish Research Centre on Education and Advanced Media Materials) 2012 international conference:

DREAM is very pleased to release the Call for Papers for its international conference The transformative museum: participation between place and space, to be held 23-25 May 2012 in Roskilde, Denmark. Keynote speakers will include Kevin Crowley (director of the Center for Learning in Out-of-School Environments and an associate professor of education and psychology, University of Pittsburgh, US), James E. Katz (director of Center for Mobile Communication Studies,Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, USA), dr. Lynda Kelly (head of Web and Audience Research at the Australian Museum, Sydney, Australia), professor Gunnar Liestøl (Dept. of Media & Communication, University of Oslo), professor Angela McFarlane (director of Public Engagement and Learning, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, UK), and associate professor Ross Parry (Programme Director, School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester).

Globalising trends in knowledge economies, digital participation and changing community needs catalyse transformations of museums, galleries and science centres. The conference will present a rich set of analyses of the current situation and raise important questions about the future for material and immaterial cultural and natural heritage. We invite research papers on the following topics:
* transforming modes of communication
* transforming visitor participation and learning
* transforming institutional organization
* transforming research methodologies

Submit your proposal now! The call for abstracts for research papers is now open. Check the submission guidelines on the conference website and submit before 6 January 2012.

Students and young scholars are invited to a one-day ph.d. course 22 May 2012. Here, you get a venue to meet with some of the main conference speakers, make a project presentation and participate in discussions on the conference topics. Check the submission guidelines on the conference website and submit before 6 January 2012.

Register soon and get attractive early-bird rates. Reduced fees apply for students. Online registration on the conference website