Thursday, 13 January 2011

Church Farm Museum - more details on Barnet Councils act of vandalism

Harry Beck and the London Tube Map
an exhibition at Church Farmhouse Museum

The familiar London tube map, which is 80 years old this year, was the creation of Harry Beck (1902- 1974), who lived in Finchley, (there is a Blue Plaque in his memory at Finchley central station).

There were, of course, maps of the London underground system available before Beck’s, but these were geographical: in other words they attempted to reflect the actual distances between stations, so that the stations of central London were bunched up close together, and their names hard to decipher. As the tube system expanded these problems became more acute. Beck’s genius was in simplification: his design, reputedly based on an electrical wiring diagram, dispensed with realism in favour of readability.

Beck’s first 1931 map was not universally liked by his bosses at London Underground but in its trial run it proved an immediate success, and although Beck’s design has been emended and altered over the years- much to Beck’s displeasure- the fundamental concept remains. Moreover, Beck’s creation has influenced the maps of underground railways in cities across the world.

In 2006, visitors to the Design Museum chose Beck’s map as their second favourite British design of the 20th century (first was Concorde). The word ‘iconic’ is much overused, but Beck’s map is just that, ‘iconic’: recognized and revered by all.

The exhibition is based on a local, private collection and traces the development of the London Underground map from the early 20th Century to the present day.

Since 1955 Church Farm has striven to present exhibitions which are ‘local, but not parochial’. Harry Beck and the London Tube Map is a good example: it uses a local collection to tell the story of someone who had local connexions, but one who also had national- even international- significance and influence.

The exhibition, which begins on 29 January 2011, was intended to run until early May. However, as Barnet Council proposes to withdraw funding from Church Farm from the beginning of next financial year, Harry Beck and the London Tube Map will now close on 31 March 2011. Other exhibitions planned for later in 2011 were:

Word Made Beautiful: Calligraphy with the North London Lettering Association

50 Years of Hendon & District Archaeological Society (with an accompanying dig in the Museum garden and access to the WWII air-raid shelters in Sunny Hill Park)

Paper Gadgets of the Past (from the collection of Morris Collins, local author of  two best-selling books on extraordinary inventions and who recently appeared on TV in The Edwardian Farm)

Puffin Picture Books 1939- 1965 (from an important local, private collection)
Please sign the petition in the sidebar if you want to retain this fantastic museum for future generations. Museums are marked for sell off. It would be criminal for this museum to become a block of flats


Mrs Angry said...

The Church Farm House Museum is effectively the only venue in the entire borough which presents any exhibitions whatsoever: this is an extraordinary indictment of the lack of support given by this authority to the arts and to the heritage of our area. We live in a borough which is hugely rich in history and has so many important artistic and literary associations, yet you would barely know it. The Church Farmhouse Museum is the sole focus of any exploration we make of our heritage, and has had many years of brilliant exhibitions curated by Gerrard Roots, whose breadth of knowledge and experience would be unreplaceable. To think that we could have such a position filled by volunteers is simply ludicrous. Instead of destroying the only exhibiting body that this authority has, we should be thinking of ways to create a better appreciation of our heritage, with perhaps a permanent exhibition of some of the material we have in the borough archives and Barnet Museum,in association with material held by the Barnet Mueum, HADAS etc. This sort of activity would benefit the borough in many ways, commercially and in terms of education. Tragically, it seems this Tory administration values nothing it cannot put up for sale and flog to the highest bidder.

LBB said...

As usual, Barnet Councillors know the price of everything and the value of nothing.
Soulless Philistines every one, with no thought for any heritage but their own...

hirundine said...

I'm sure there are more deserving causes than the the Church Farm House Museum? Probably new cars for council staff? New blackberries maybe? You can be sure it will not go toward arts or similar programmes. I lived in Hendon from the forties through to seventies and have used that museum several times since. On my last visit, in 2001. I noticed how much it was being used, comparatively to fifties and early sixties. So it leaves a person scratching their head about this decision.

Bewildered in Nelson, British Columbia, Canada

Broadway Blogger said...

As with libraries this is one of the most important local resources for people.
Without a sense of our local history we are doomed in our area.
Church Farm House Museum is truly amazing and one of the best things in the Borough.
I agree that this is an "Act of Vandlism" and should be seen as such. A very true description.
It must be saved.

Lindsay said...

There was an article about Harry Beck and the map in the Winter 2010edition of The Greenacre Times.