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Director’s Blog – May 2021

It seems appropriate that we reopened the museum is English Tourism week 2021. Like so many sectors, tourism has had an impossible year, with venues closed to the public and teams behind the scenes working around the clock to try and find ways to keep making memories while their visitors are not able to visit. There is a lot of entirely justified talk about the contribution of tourism to the economy, but like the Thames Tunnel, it does deeper than that. Tourism goes to our fundamental need not just to be entertained, but to connect with something bigger than ourselves, to create shared experiences.


The Thames Tunnel was always something to see, even during construction when people would pay a penny to see it being built. Later, once the sheer spectacle of the worlds first underwater tunnel began to wane, the Thames Tunnel Fancy Fairs kept people visiting. We are so excited to be able to welcome people back to the Brunel Museum to share these stories with you and hope you will visit us when you feel comfortable to do so. If you have already visited, thank you so much. If you enjoyed your visit, we’d really appreciate it if you could post a review on TripAdvisor or Google Reviews to tell others what you thought!


To continue the spectacle theme, this weekend (Saturday 29 and Sunday 30 May) the Museum terrace will place host to a giant Peep Show, inspired by the ones in the collection. Book your ticket in advance or turn up on the day. Peep shows like these were created and sold to generate money for the Thames Tunnel (much like our fantastic shop does today!). This weekend, visitors will have the unique opportunity to step inside a giant version of the peep show, and families will be able to take away their own version to make at home.


Seeing visitors in the museum also got me thinking about the reasons I wanted to join the Museum in the first place. One was the opportunity to tell the story of the men who built the tunnel and the conditions they lived in. Our Navvies Tale story which launched in March was a step towards this, and I’m delighted that Seamus Fitzpatrick is now one of the characters schools can encounter if they book a session with us. We have availability for the rest of summer term and autumn term.


And finally, while we said hello to visitors for the first time, we said goodbye to two of our longest standing trustees, Andrew and Jane. We will be hoping to replace them soon so check back for further updates.




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