Happy International Museum Day!: Museums Change Lives (well, mine)

coldwar-modern-exhibit

As it’s International Museum Day, let me tell you a story about a museum and a younger me:

Cast yourself back to 2008. The Great Recession had hit and Lehman Brothers investment bank had just collapsed. I was occupied on some of the financial fall-out of this, working in my first job as a corporate financier in London Town. My presence in the office from 6am to 11pm during this time – and additional issues – had me thinking this might not be the career for me.

I’d been thinking about further study in history – the cold war was my thing – but I wasn’t quite sure if it would be the right move.

At the time a voice in the back of my head was telling me to shut up, work hard, and stay; all jobs are crap, so I should stick with the one I was lucky enough to have. (Remember, this was a time when the world seemed to be ending.)

 

downturn_logo

 

Along comes Cold War Modern at the Victoria and Albert Museum: I visit. I like.

Walking around the exhibits reminded me why I love history. The general theme was the cold war ‘competition to be modern’. Among other things, I remember reading about Mao’s suit, Soviet architecture, and the design of the set of Dr. Strangelove (see the video below). How cool is that?

Up to this point I’d been convincing myself that history would just be writing essays to deadlines and what would be the fun in that? But walking around Cold War Modern…. each room was spine-tinglingly good; fascinating from start to finish. I still remember leaving the museum buzzing, committed to applying for a master’s programme to focus on cold war history. Fast-forward to 2013 and I’m still going.

So, in conclusion, museums can change lives — Happy International Museum Day!

[Note: To students in St Andrews: I’m the one who has had the Cold War Modern book out of the library all year … sorry.]2013-05-18 12.34.04

Nick Blackbourn

Historian, blogger, traveller. I'm finishing a history PhD and working out what to do with it.