Do It Yourself? at the Museum of Making

DIY website

New exhibition showcasing DIY through the decades reflects changing attitudes to our homes, and encourages a new generation of DIY-ers

This April, a brand-new interactive exhibition celebrating the highs and lows of the nation’s DIY efforts and showcasing how DIY has changed over the last 100 years, is being launched by Derby Museums at the Museum of Making in Derby. The exhibition, Do It Yourself? is in partnership with the BBC as part of its centenary celebrations and opens on Friday 8th April until September 2022.

This quirky, hands-on exhibition, held at the Museum of Making, perfectly encapsulates the spirit of the museum which celebrates making and encourages creativity. Building on this ethos, Do It Yourself? showcases the intriguing history of the UK’s DIY movement using archive footage from some of our best loved TV programmes, as well as calling on visitors to celebrate their DIY heroes, share their top tips and their (often amusing) DIY pitfalls. It also aims to inspire visitors to get creative in their own homes with demonstration and have-a-go areas, and advice on finding the right tool for the job.

The museums’ partnership with the BBC will bring to life the history of DIY through archive television footage shown at the exhibition. Such TV programmes often reflected how society was changing, and visitors will be able to see how each era had its own look, feel and approach to DIY, from the ripping out and covering up of original features seen in Bucknell’s House in the 1960s, to the flamboyant, over-the top creations of the original Changing Rooms in the 1990s right up to the modern-day DIY SOS.

But this isn’t an exhibition designed for visitors just to ‘look’; over the course of the exhibition there will be several opportunities to get involved from wiring a plug to rag rugging. Visitors will also be able to rate their DIY skills on the specially made ‘Bodge-ometer’, make a medal for their DIY hero (or most improved!), share their top tips and help other DIY-ers by advising which tools everyone should have in their toolbox. There’s also a plumbing marble run, where visitors can learn how gravity impacts plumbing and a section of unknown tools that the Museum of Making team are hoping visitors can identify.

Whilst acknowledging DIY’s ‘make do and mend’ origins, Do It Yourself? will also look to the future of DIY, not only exploring how current trends are now seen on social media platforms like Tik Tok, but crucially how improving our homes, workplaces and gardens can be as sustainable as possible.

Eilish Clohessy-Dennis, Curator of Making at Derby Museums who curated this exhibition, says:

“Our exhibition explores so many different elements of DIY, from the stone tools our ancestors used for the earliest form of DIY, to the make do and mend movement, to practical magazines that taught 1950s homeowners how to build their own fridge!

“We are also really excited that visitors will have the chance to get involved and have a go at some DIY tasks as part of the exhibition. Throughout the national lockdowns many people looked at how they could improve their homes, and we want to encourage the next generation of DIY-ers to have fun exploring what they can do for themselves, and also help them to feel more confident that they can get creative in their own homes.

“Importantly, this exhibition also recognises the need for the future of DIY to be a sustainable one. Whether that’s upcycling items you already have, swapping items with others rather than buying new, or using biodegradable products and eco-friendly materials, there are many ways we can make DIY sustainable.”

Robert Seatter, Head of BBC History, says:

“DIY programmes have been a staple of the BBC’s content for decades, capturing listeners and viewers in their millions. In our centenary year, we are delighted to share some of this much-loved archive content with visitors to the Museum of Making’s exhibition, helping them relive some of the BBC’s memorable DIY highlights and looking forward to many to come in the future!”

The exhibition will be held in the Museum of Making’s new top floor gallery space The Warehouse, which has been specially designed to host high-quality temporary exhibitions. Entry is £4.50 for adults and free for children. To book your tickets, visit derbymuseums.org/event/do-it-yourself.

The Museum of Making opened in May 2021 following a multimillion-pound transformation. Standing on what is widely regarded as the site of the world’s first modern factory at Derby Silk Mill, this pioneering museum celebrates Derbyshire’s 300-year history of making, innovation, and technology. It also looks to the future of making, as at the heart of the museum is the state-of-the-art workshop – a dedicated space packed full of specialist equipment and skilled staff who are on hand to help visitors get creative.

To find out more about the Museum of Making, click here and to learn more about the BBC’s 100 year broadcasting history, click here.