Anyone who went to school in these parts had a school trip to the Black Country Living Museum. And you know you’re getting older when you say things like, ‘Ee, it’s changed since I was a kid.’ Still, these were pretty much our words on visiting the museum with friends on Sunday: it’s expanded, for sure (there is now a gentelemen’s tailors for one, where Dan could not resist a purchase), but the landscaping is much better, too. We really enjoyed the green spaces – and the horses that lived in them! – and the whole place felt more ‘together’ than we remember. The path to the fairground is no longer a discouraging dirt track, and the recreated village feels like exactly that, rather than some random buildings built in the vague vicinity of each other.
The museum’s exhibits are pieces of real history – Victorian buildings have been taken down, brick by brick, and moved here. This saves them from extinction, of course, but also lends the museum a little reality: the bricks actually are dirty from the foundries; the chapel actually smells as these places do. Yes, everything’s a bit cleaner and a lot less fragrant than it would have been, and the museum’s obvious love for its subject can descend into a sort of nostalgia for when everyone in Dudley was dirt poor … but the conservational aspect of the museum is beyond reproach.