BCLM is constructing 22 historic buildings and structures on the museum’s site in the first phase of Forging Ahead. It is the attraction’s largest development project since 1978.
“Forging Ahead provides a stage on which we can share new stories and celebrate the contribution of everyone who came to call the Black Country home during this remarkable period of our region’s history,” said Andrew Lovett, chief executive of BCLM.
Forging Ahead includes a new visitor centre and learning spaces, as well as an industrial quarter. The centrepiece of the project is a 1940s to 1960s town.
The 1940s to 1960s town will include an NHS clinic, record shop, barber’s and co-operative supermarket, offering an immersive experience.
The town will also feature the relocated Woodside Library from Dudley and the recreated Elephant & Castle pub from Wolverhampton.
Forging Ahead’s first phase opening 2022
The project was due to start in early 2020 but it was delayed by COVID-19. Investment is in place from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership.
BCLM has also received a Capital Kickstart Fund award from the £1.57bn Culture Recovery Fund, given by the National Lottery Heritage Fund on behalf of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
Balfour Beatty has been appointed as the project’s contractor and will begin major works in February 2021. Glancy Nicholls Architects is working on the development, and the visitor centre was designed by Napier Clarke.
The Black Country Living Museum’s visitor centre is scheduled to open from early 2022, and the town will welcome guests in 2023.
The expansion will increase the museum’s footprint by one-third and increase its capacity to approximately 500,000 visitors annually by 2026.
BCLM’s biggest development project since 1978
“As the biggest single development in our 43-year history, Forging Ahead gives us the momentum to thrive once again for our community following the unprecedented difficulties presented by the pandemic,” added Lovett.
“Forging Ahead is not just about exploring the past, it’s also about making a positive difference to the future of this community too.
“The project will help to create more than 140 new jobs in the local area and, by 2032, contribute an extra £102.5m of economic benefit.”
Meanwhile, BCLM has become one of the top 100 TikTok UK accounts in 2020, and is the most popular museum in the world on TikTok.