Today, 18th May, is recognised worldwide as Internation Museum Day which aims to promote museums and educate the public about the challenges museums face. But one of the questions I am most frequently asked is “Why isn’t there a museum to J.R.R. Tolkien?“
In the case of other notable authors (such as Roald Dahl) their former homes are turned into museums following their death with the assistance of their family. In the case of others (such as C.S. Lewis) a charitable organisation is able to purchase the house on the open market and restore it. In the case of Tolkien, he sold his properties and they have changed hands several times and interior of the buildings likely bears little resemblance to how they looked in Tolkien’s time. Notwithstanding that, the guide price for properties in Northmoor Road where Tolkien used to live are in excess of £1 million.
But what about starting from scratch? About ten years ago the Society worked with Birmingham City Council to investigate the possibility of securing Big Lottery funding to build from scratch a Tolkien Centre in Moseley Bog. The plans reached quite an advanced stage (including architectural drawings) but unfortunately it fell down due to the flooding possibilities on the site. Subsequently, the recession hit and money became a lot tighter.
The bad news is that there are no known plans right now for a Tolkien museum. The good news is that it is one of the Society’s aims and we have allocated a (very small) sum of money to realising this. Our legally-binding constitution says that one of our aims is:
to establish a memorial centre devoted to study, lectures and exhibitions relating to the life and works of Professor J.R.R. Tolkien, preferably in a location associated with him: such a centre may be either a new venture or an extension of existing facilities.
Tolkien, as one of the best-selling authors in all of history – with contributions to literature up there with Shakespeare and Dickens – certainly deserves to be immortalised in reality just as his works are fixed in our minds. To realise a museum would likely cost many hundreds of thousands of pounds, but let us not be put off by that! Would you like to see a museum to Tolkien? What would you like to see in it, or what activities would you like it to participate in? Do you have ideas about how we could raise the money? Failing that, you could always donate to the Society to help make it happen!
Shaun is the current Chair of The Tolkien Society. Elected in 2013, Shaun regularly speaks about adaptations of Tolkien’s works whilst passionately believing the Society needs to reach out to new audiences. In his spare time can be found in the cinema, playing video games and Lego, or on Twitter.