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Open-air museum of rebuilt historic buildings in UK becomes TikTok hit during lockdown

The Black Country Living Museum, an open-air exhibition hall of rebuilt historic building, in the United Kingdom, got hit hard by the pandemic.

“We usually have 250,000 visitors a year,” Carol King, the museum’s director of programs, told The Guardian. “Last year it was 90,000 – and there was definitely a danger we could have closed for good.”

The staff of the English landmark play canal painters, horse wranglers and fireside sages, among other characters that help teach children about history and tradition.

To stay relevant, they got very creative.

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John Homer, as his character of a flat-capped 1920s grandfather giving fireside chats, became a TikTok star garnering more than 22 million global views.

“Warro! Wait a minute. Doe scroll down!” Homer said in one clip on TikTok. “I’ve got summat important to tell yow. Now I know some days are ’ard and I know it doe always go your road, believe yow me. But it’s OK to be sad and it’s OK to cry. That’s what makes us all ’uman. Breathe, relax and tek it one day at a time. It’ll be OK in the end. And if it ay well it ay the end is it?” And with that he swiveled back to warm his hands at the parlor fire.

Although the museum stayed closed in reality, in cyberspace it was the place to be: the arts center became the most followed museum in the world on TikTok.

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“I’d never heard of TikTok, so the whole thing has been incredible,” he told The Guardian. “But it’s been a great way of connecting with kids who might never have heard of the Black Country and the Industrial Revolution.”

Ninder Johal, a second-generation British Asian, said the museum connects his family, from their past to their present, The Guardian reported. 

His father’s saga is part of its story.

“He spent his working life in smoky and hot furnaces,” Johal told the newspaper. “For my children and grandchildren, visiting the BCLM and seeing such industries depicted will provide a legacy enabling them to understand who they are and the role their grandfather and great-grandfather played in the industrial landscape of the U.K.”

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The museum opened in 1978, and a future expansion is aimed at doubling visitor numbers to 500,000 a year, according to the report. 

“People are very proud to be from the Black Country,” King a local, told The Guardian. “They see this museum as part of the community. I’m not sure many national museums have that. Everything we’ve got is on display, most of it outdoors. Nothing is behind the scenes. We wear our hearts on our sleeves.”

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