This is going to be a really short blog post on the Museum of Bath at Work!
The Museum of Bath at Work is a cross between a museum and a recreated factory. It reminded me a lot of living history houses which make you feel as though you are walking through a still inhabitable space. The museum tells the story of the Bowler family who operated a thriving engineering and mineral water business. When the business, originally on Corn Street, was closed down, its contents were rescued. Utilizing photographs, parts of the factory and offices were recreated in a new location and became a museum. It is divided into 13 sections each with its own focus. The first 6 stops were dedicated to engineering feats with, for example, a metals workshop and pattern making room.
Whilst I can appreciate the wonders of engineering, I pretty much strolled through the rooms to get to the factory. It was so cool inside! Mineral water bottles and boxes were stacked everywhere. Machines that were used to fill and cap the bottles were also just laying around. The audio guide was quite essential in explaining what was in the space and the stories behind the objects. Otherwise, you are looking at a room of objects with only a couple of panels.
I love the aesthetics of old factories and this one definitely topped my list. The bottles were so beautiful and the machines were all so fascinating. My favourite room was called “essence”. It displayed a whole range of bottles that each held a different flavour to add to the mineral water. The different shapes and colours all looked so beautiful together. It reminded me a lot of old medical bottles that individually are pretty amazing, but, when displayed together are a work of art.
It was also interesting to learn about the process of how softdrinks were originally made and what challenges faced manufacturers. These included things as simple as as how to seal a bottle to prevent the gas escaping. One of my favourite stories from the audio guide was about one of Bowler’s daughters. Some softdrink bottles were designed so that they had a marble stopper inside. When the bottle was filled, the pressure from the liquid would keep the marble in place acting as a seal. This, however, did lead to bottles exploding if filled too much. Unfortunately for the daughter, a bottle exploded and left her blind in one eye. A reminder of how Workplace Health and Safety is painstakingly bureaucratic, but, incredibly important.
I felt as though I had traveled back in time to the 1800s and had stumbled into a factory. Although segments were roped off, it was still quite open. Interesting way to spend an afternoon in Bath if you want to see some business, manufacturing, or working life history!