Buckinghamshire County Museum – A Peace of our Heritage by Zohar Marer

Zohar Marer: Aylesbury resident; working at Lindengate, a local mental health charity.
(All views are my own.)

Here, this paradise, reserved only for me. My own sanctuary. That is how it feels when I step into the quaint courtyard garden of the museum – as if this garden is mine. And to a certain extent it is that very same sense of ownership and belonging that visitors feel when stepping into the museum which illustrates its community spirit.

Soaking up the unusually warm sun on a late autumn afternoon, I’m reminded of the buzz that filled these courtyard walls in the summer, when families and office workers alike congregated at this hidden garden to enjoy a vestige of peace in the urbanscape of central Aylebsury. Back then the grass was parched, while now it is a verdant green. And in all weather people sit in the garden enjoying picnics, a relaxing cup of tea, or stealing a moment out of their daily tasks to quietly reflect.

What I find to be unique about our county museum, is that it is a multifaceted chameleon, serving many functions and displaying an eclectic variety of exhibits. All of which attest to its inclusivity and flexibility. There are no other buildings or facilities like the museum within Aylesbury; nor are there any green spaces within the town centre, placing the museum in a league of its own. And most importantly it offers that much-needed sanctuary for a distressed mind to find peace – a rare privilege considering that its located within the innards of Aylesbury town.

Family and Community

The museum is a hub for the community. It has achieved this not only by its central location, but by the many diverse events that it hosts, coupled with its welcoming atmosphere. Even on event days when the museum corridors and rooms resonate with the cacophony of children’s voices, the building still holds a reserved air of calmness.

The museum is many things to different people: on stormy winter days, it is a shelter from the rain for families seeking an educational outing (particularly when the local provision for affordable family entertainment is lacking). On hot summer days, it acts as a haven for children – the old building with air-conditioning maintains a cool climate that is perfect for browsing the exhibits. It is a destination location for weekend trips, when people trek across the county or from further afield, to enjoy the Roald Dahl Gallery. The gallery successfully attracts regular hords of enthused children (and adults alike), who venture into its multi-coloured world to experience walking into a giant peach, to use the voice changing machine or enjoy the other wonderous displays depicted within the author’s novels.
On weekdays, when most grown-ups are at work and children are at school, you’ll find the odd parent such as myself, taking their toddler for a wonder through the lofty rooms, where he loves to play with the interactive exhibits. My son learned how to walk here, having enjoyed crawling along the creaking wooden floors of the long corridors. It is during these quiet times that pensioners stroll through and stop for tea at the Garden Café.

History and Modern Culture

The museum is both a heritage building and a curator of our local history. While it educates us on Celts, Romans, Tudors, Victorians and more, it doesn’t neglect to expose its audience to modern art, modern crafts and progressive exhibitions. As an exhibitor, the museum embodies a balance, which most fail to achieve, whereby the polarities of past and present co-exist in perfect harmony.

For me, the museum is a place of solace. I find it to be thoroughly nurturing: the minute I step into its vicinity the stresses of daily life melt away and I’m brought back to a point of balance. This place, truly, is a piece of paradise. Sitting now within the garden, I can hear birdsong and rustling of leaves, with a backdrop of police sirens fading into the distance. The seconds of silence that follow are deep and resounding, broken by voices of passersby from Pebble Lane. And then the silence continues unabated. This is the only place in Aylesbury where I feel completely at peace.

As someone who works for a mental health charity, I am acutely aware of the negative impacts that stress, anxiety and disconnection from nature can have on us. It is for this reason that I have chosen to highlight the museum and particularly, its garden. It offers me such tranquillity, benefitting my own mental wellbeing to such an extent that I wish to share it with others.

Many residents have yet to uncover the secret that is our county museum and its magical courtyard garden, so I invite you to discover it for yourself.