British Sign Museum & Archive to launch in Birmingham

Author: Stacey BarnfieldPublished:

Plans for a Birmingham-based sign museum and archive have been revealed.

Called the British Sign Museum & Archive, the community interest company is believed to be the first sign salvage and typography project of its kind in the UK.

The sign museum aims to safeguard and display public signs and research the art of commercial advertising and communication through signage.

A permanent home for the museum and digital image library with information such as the style, age and placement of signs, are key priorities for the scheme.

Archivists will raise awareness of the museum’s aims with developers and city planners to guarantee original signage is protected or carefully removed during building works.

The scheme is a joint project between Stacey Barnfield, director, Edwin Ellis Creative Media, Chris Marshall, senior designer, The Agency, Tracey Thorne, sign writing PhD researcher, and Geraldine Marshall, visiting teacher, Birmingham City University.

Typography, Birmingham, architecture, sign museum and archive

The 1920s signage on the Kingsway Cinema in Kings Heath, Birmingham

Geraldine Marshall, a member of the Birmingham School of Art and Design-based Typographic Hub, explained in a recent Type Spotting blog how signage reflects the style and key industries of an era.

“We need to salvage these signs before they are condemned to a skip as every letter design, in its craft and application, tells a story of a time of the city transformation and development,” she said.

“We should treasure what these signs represented during a time of rapid building and prosperity of the city and what they can tell us about the development of Birmingham, as well as the style and trend of lettering design and the disappearing craft of lettering.”

The museum and archive will be officially launched in May 2016, during the unveiling of a new Queensway tunnel sign, which will be on permanent display at Birmingham City University.

The original Queensway tunnel sign, a recognisable feature of the inner-ring road, was destroyed during last year’s tunnel maintenance works. City road repairs contractor Amey commissioned and paid for a new version of the sign for public display.