Image courtesy of the Museum of East Anglian Life
The Museum of East Anglian Life, based in Stowmarket, Suffolk, has announced it will become the National Food Museum as of March 2022.
The UK currently does not have any national museum space dedicated to the history of food, allowing the Museum of East Anglian Life to fill a much-needed gap.
The current collection in the museum is well-suited to fit in with the new name, with nutrition being the consistent theme running throughout the space.
The decision was made following a local and online consultation with food writers, chefs, farmers, and schools as well as community, environmental and religious groups.
Museum director, Jenny Cousins told the BBC: “The story of East Anglia is largely the story of food production and food-making and everything involved in that, because it’s the breadbasket of England and therefore a lot of the stories and objects we have in our collection relate to food.“
To transform the current museum into a national food museum, a ‘grow’ area has already been cultivated, with an orchard, small farm area and restored windmill already in place at the centre of the site.
A bread oven and a second windmill are also in the process of being restored to display the history of the bread-making process. Other topics that will be explored include brewing, seasonal eating and cheese-making.
Another focus of the new space will be on the history of the British diet and how that has changed with immigration and the mix of different cultures.
The museum also wants to get people talking about food’s connection with the environment. Cousins told Food Matters Live: “We’re interested in telling a joined up story about how food is grown, made and eaten – that includes the environmental impact of farming and of our diets.
“We’re keen to present multiple perspectives and help people make sense of some of the debates going on about food, from farm subsidies to the state of nature in the UK.”
An attempt to make sure the museum was still a stimulating but also relevant space for its present day audience was behind the decision to transform it into the National Food Museum.
A statement on the website said: “We want to explore themes connected by food and to use the opportunity that food provides to get people round the table sharing their heritage and culture and ideas.
“Everyone should be able to see themselves reflected somewhere in what we display, collect and programme and we want to help people to appreciate their own power to effect change.”
The museum has worked with more than 550 volunteers as well as 25 countries to help bring their collections online and evaluate what they should be collecting in the future.
First founded in 1967, the museum is built across 75 acres with 17 historical buildings.