PREVIEW: The Magic of Middle-earth at Experience Barnsley Museum - one free exhibition to rule them all
There’s one free museum exhibition to rule them all and it’s putting the Shire into Yorkshire.
The Magic of Middle-earth, a touring celebration of the incredible work of J.R.R Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings fantasy series, makes its first appearance in the north of England when it opens at the weekend at Experience Barnsley Museum, inside Barnsley Town Hall.
It is a free entry exhibition – with donations welcomed – which runs Saturday, September 30, 2023 to April 6, 2024.
Hobbits, Elves and wizards will be present, along with special guest appearances from Gandalf and Frodo, when the exhibition kicks off with a jam-packed family-fun launch party on Saturday, September 30, 10am to 1pm.
Visitors are also invited to turn up in costumes, dressed as their favourite characters from the fantasy series.
They will be invited to play board games and PlayStation games – or participate in crafts – as both hardcore fans and novices alike come together to learn more about the activities and Tolkien’s incredible world.
A magical treasure trove, the exhibition itself features more than 200 rare objects and artworks, from books to film posters and toys, including a very rare first edition copy of The Hobbit, from 1937.
Dramatic models and dioramas on show include The Battle of Helms Deep, concept artwork, as well as theatre, music and movie-inspired memorabilia and prop replicas.
Visitors will be transported to a magical world full of dragons, elves, and haunting soundscapes
The Magic of Middle-earth exhibition also pays tribute to generations of writers, artists, musicians, filmmakers, environmentalists, creators, and game designers the author influenced.
It not only looks at the epic fantasy novels, but the artistic legacy of Tolkien’s incredible fantasy world.
There are stunning paintings, illustrating Tolkien’s deep passion for the natural world, but also Middle-earth inspired video games and LEGO sets.
A soundscape includes music by Howard Shore, who composed, orchestrated, conducted, and produced the music of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films.
The Barnsley visit also highlights local links.
Tolkien was an English writer and a professional colleague and friend of Barnsley-born educationalist and Cooper Gallery benefactor Sir Michael Sadler in the 1920’s.
During that time, as Vice-Chancellor at The University of Leeds, Sadler created the position of Professor of English Language especially for Tolkien. They would work together in Oxford over the next two decades, during which period Tolkien would write his famed novels.
The Magic of Middle-earth will also involve hands-on activities including Dungeons and Dragons-esque gaming sessions, a clay-making Dragon Eyes session on November 3, activities during Barnsley’s Bright Night’s festivities, and much more.
Matt Fox, curator of The Magic of Middle-earth touring exhibition, previously brought the hugely popular temporary exhibitions I Grew Up In The 80s – take the virtual tour here – and Star Wars memorabilia display, May The Toys Be With You – watch live stream walkthrough here.
He said of of The Magic of Middle-earth: “As a collector of rare objects and curious finds, I often have quite a solitary role. While I love what I do, being able to share my collections with likeminded individuals makes it all worth it.
“Bringing these specific pieces to Experience Barnsley Museum, to share with fans of ‘The Lord of The Rings’ and ‘The Hobbit’ of all ages, is something that means a lot to me.
“Being able to see the exhibition brought together with a number of family-friendly, fun activities over the next few months is going to be incredible.”
Coun Robin Franklin, Cabinet Spokesperson for Regeneration and Culture, said: “At Experience Barnsley Museum, we are so excited to welcome Matt Fox’s incredible Middle-earth exhibition. As a museum made for the people by the people, it is exhibitions like this one that bring people together the most – ones in which they can reminisce, reconnect, and even learn or see something new around something they love.
“’The Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Hobbit’ stories are loved by so many different people, either through the books, the films, or the world in general, and we know that this exhibition is one that many people in Barnsley and further afield will truly uniquely relate to.”
Experience Barnsley Museum website www.experience-barnsley.com