Celebrating 25 years in the modern John Bunyan Museum and Library!
This September marks the 25th anniversary since we opened doors of the current John Bunyan Museum!
The collections of John Bunyan Museum and Library were displayed in a traditional, ‘cabinet of curiosities’, style after the Second World War. But by the late 1980’s, a desire had grown to reinvigorate the displays in a new space with more interactive elements and more detailed interpretation.
In 1990, a dedicated team of volunteers began fundraising for an extension to Bunyan Meeting which would include a purpose-built museum. The new build would provide a new home for the Bunyan Collection, but it would also create new offices, meeting rooms and additional facilities for staff, volunteers, and visitors alike. The Bunyan Meeting congregation enthusiastically supported and raised money for the project. Large sums were also given by local organisations such as Bedford Borough Council and the Harpur Trust.
Volunteers have been integral to the museum from the beginning. We couldn’t do the work that we do, indeed we wouldn’t have the museum that we do today, without our magnificent team of volunteers! From fundraising to customer service, volunteer work has touched every aspect of the creating and running of the current museum and we’d like to thank everyone who has helped us reach this terrific milestone in our work to share John Bunyan’s story.
‘The concept of the museum is to provide an accessible and dynamic presentation based around the life, times and works of John Bunyan, which meets the needs of formal and informal educational uses, whilst maintaining the integrity and depth of presentation required by Bunyan pilgrims.’ - An outline of the Museum’s purpose, from the Trustees’ −Proposal to the Harpur Trust for a new education programme
The Friends of John Bunyan Museum & Library was set up by the late Lady Margaret Glasse, who recruited a great many Members and special Patrons. They were instrumental in raising funds and support for the opening and continued running of the new Museum. The Friends continue to be an essential part of the Museum’s continued growth and development, helping to fund essential equipment, conservation of key artefacts, and expansion of collections.
Building work began in 1997.
“There is now a big hole in the ground where once stood the creche, bicycle shed and the lower end of Howard House garden! It will be some time before the new building rises phoenix-like out of the rubble.” −Bunyan News November 1997
One end of the Church was also out of use until the much anticipated build was completed in 1998, at which point the interior work could begin. The modern museum design provided context for the objects associated with Bunyan’s story. Four key stages of his life are represented by mannequins of Bunyan in each of his occupations—tinker, soldier, prisoner, and preacher− and staged in scenery suiting Bunyan’s day, inspired by stories he told in his autobiography, Grace Abounding. Featured objects include the collection known as the ‘Bunyan Relics’, The Zoar Street Pulpit from which Bunyan preached, and a library display showcasing early and translated editions of Bunyan's writing.
John Bunyan Museum & Library opened its doors on 1st September 1998, attracting over 3000 visitors in its first three months. Since opening, the number of visitors has reached over 115,000 from six of the seven continents! Just as we could not open without our volunteers, we would not have a reason to do so without the support of everyone who visits the museum and make use of our resources, onsite and online!
Cheers to you from Soldier John Bunyan and all of the John Bunyan Museum and Library Team!
Thank You, and here’s to the next 25 years!