The National Media Museum was opened in Bradford in 1983 and spans over seven floors of galleries and interactive exhibitions. Claiming an important position in the history of media, the museum is home to what was originally Britain’s largest cinema screen and the first IMAX cinema in the UK.
The broad definition of “The Media” used by the museum can be seen through the fact it has so many sections and floors, each dedicated to different elements that can all in their own way contribute to what we define as the media. Featured floors include themes such as video games and the history of photography and television.
Located on the first floor is an exhibition entitled “In Your Face” which explores many elements of the media that capture our faces such as the “Selfie”. Here media is defined as capturing a picture of our self and sharing it with others. The exhibition also explores how we can share a message or emotion through a Selfie and how media can be defined as conveying a message or meaning through a particular medium. It delves deep into the science behind our emotions and how we show them to others by displaying a wide gallery of portraits. It even invites guests to take their own pictures throughout the exhibition and add them to a slideshow of those who have visited thereby showing their diversity in age, gender, emotion etc. Questions such as “How would you feel having a mask made for you?” and “Can a photograph capture the soul?” create debates within the definition of media. For example, can media be defined as reality and can it ever be an accurate representation of the real world or must we define it as fiction that has been manipulated by the creator?
The Experience TV gallery on the third floor of the museum features many puppets from early children’s programmes such as The Wombles and Thunderbirds. This gallery explores the physical and sculptural aspect of media. Although the final creation is a programme which is broadcast it asks whether the definition of media can also include the elements that help construct the piece such as animation puppets.
The museum also defines the media through its archives and special collections. A unique selection of items held by The National Media Museum are the Archives of The Daily Herald newspaper which contain 100,000 glass negatives of over 3.5 million images of photographs used by the paper. It was one of the first of the museum’s collections and can shape a clear historical narrative of developments such as the rise of rock and roll as it was progressing to become accepted into mainstream society. Media plays a key part in history and therefore can to an extent be partly defined as a record of how society has changed recorded through images and writings such as The Daily Herald. This shows major developments in itself as it was rebranded to become The Sun newspaper.