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Museum of Lincolnshire Life

Richard Cavendish explores a quantity of bygones in the museum of social history.

Such a quantity of bygones is assembled here that you begin to wonder whether the people of Lincolnshire have anything much over twenty years left in their houses at all. Their former possessions are guarded in a red-brick fort of 1857, originally a barracks for the Royal North Lincoln Militia, whose badge is above the gate. In the 1960s a local arts organization moved in and the Lincolnshire Local History Society, which had meanwhile been gathering material for a folk museum, saw an opportunity. By 1969 the local historians had successfully infiltrated the building and in 1974 the county council took the whole thing over as a museum of social history for Lincolnshire. The collection, which is almost entirely from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, comes from the local history society plus numerous items donated since.

The museum costs the county council about £170,000 a year to run, partly offset by admission fees and sales. Seldom buying anything, and spending its money on conservation and storage, it is offered far more than it can accept. It is now filling gaps and collecting things from the 1950s onwards. Its 1985 tractor was one of the last made by a Lincoln firm in business here for 120 years, and it has its first computer and first microwave oven, gathered in before they become expensive collector's items. The museum draws about 45,000 visitors a year, of whom roughly one-third are locals, one-third are school groups and one-third are tourists from outside the county. Of those from abroad, Australians are the most numerous - Australia has strong Lincolnshire links - and the United States, Canada, Germany and Holland are well represented.

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