Thursday, July 5, 2012
Caister Castle Motor Museum no go for photographers is a poor show
So why couldn't I recommend the Caister Castle Motor Museum?
It is, after all, a car museum in a beautiful corner of the English countryside, with the boats and the Broads on one side and the calm beaches of the North Sea coast on the other. The £10 admission price, while significantly more than you'd pay to get into, say, the Lakeland Motor Museum at Holker Hall, also gives you access to Britain's oldest brick-built castle, and a tranquil woodland trail.
That's before you get to the 170-strong collection of classic cars, which aside from being worth in excess of many millions of pounds features some of the fastest, rarest and agonisingly beautiful machines ever made. I would love to be able to give you a taster, for instance, of the museum's Mercedes 300SL Gullwing. Or let you weigh up whether you'd save up for the lovingly-preserved 1959 Mini or the Cooper S rally competitor parked next to it. Or consider which of the Rolls Royces and Bentleys you'd like parked outside your imaginary mansion, but I can't.
Unlike just about every classic car museum, show, parade and club gathering I've ever been to, Caister Castle is absolutely insistent that there is no photography of the collection.
This single shot of a Lotus 33 F1 car is all I've got to show you, because as soon as my smartphone had taken the first shot I was asked in rather stern terms to stop. To be fair to the museum staff, there was a sign at the entrance advising of the photography ban, but it was a blink-and-you'll-miss-it job and I know I wasn't the only petrolhead there frustrated by it.
"Put yourself in the perspective of some of the cars' owners", a restaurateur I got talking to long after I'd left the museum, suggested. "If you'd put your pride and joy in there and left it with somebody else to look after, would you want people taking pictures of it?"
My answer, as someone who not only likes to look at classic cars, but actually owns one too? Yes, I would, and if I didn't the last place I'd stash my automotive antique away is in a museum, right in the public eye. I can understand restrictions on flash photography in art museums, because of the damage done to the paintings. I'd even understand, from a media man's point of view, if Caister weren't too keen on commercial photography, but a total ban on all photography defeats the point of it being a museum (and one of the more expensive ones at that).
Part of the pride of owning a classic is knowing that it keeps a bit of the world's cultural and industrial heritage alive, and the least I can do in return for all the tax and insurance breaks I get is to let enthusiasts take a picture of it. To ban them is to alienate an audience interested in keeping these beautiful old cars on the road, where they belong.
Caister, to be fair, is a very diverse collection of stunning cars, looked after by proper car enthusiasts who deserve a lot of credit. Until the ban on photography - something which goes against the principle of showing off classic cars - is lifted, however, I really couldn't recommend it.