Making the new, £17m Museum of Making

Derby’s past, present and future will be celebrated this year on the site of the world’s first factory, when the city opens a new and innovative £17m museum in September.


Developed by Derby Museums, the Museum of Making – in the Derwent Valley Mills UNESCO World Heritage Site – will be a contemporary space telling Derby’s 300-year history of innovation and “making” within the former Silk Mill.


Set to be an inspirational new gateway to the ‘city of making’, as well as to the World Heritage Site, the historic Mill is being ‘reimagined’ as a museum designed from the floor up as a place to not only celebrate past and present, but encourage the makers of tomorrow through ‘hands-on’ experiences and immersive displays.


Revealing the whole building to the public for the very first time, the new Museum will display over 50,000 objects, including the Rolls-Royce Eagle Engine which helped power the first transatlantic flight 100 years ago in June 1919. A focal point for inventions of the past, and technology of the present, it will also be aimed at inspiring new creativity to continue the city’s rich history and heritage of “making”.


The Museum of Making’s collections of artefacts will help to highlight the science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) that have been such a vital role in Derby’s development as a city of making. This museum, however, is including the arts – vital to creativity and innovation – to really make it STEAM.


Designed and made by the people and industries of Derby, it is set to become a focal point for a dynamic calendar of exhibitions, workshops, activities and events.


The Silk Mill itself – believed to be the world’s first factory, and with a great story of its own – was mothballed in 2011, prior to work starting in 2018 to turn it into the Museum of Making. Up until 2011, Derby Silk Mill housed Derby Industrial Museum. Its redevelopment, however, will result in one of the most significant heritage development in the UK, and should also prove to be one of the most eagerly awaited unveilings of 2020.


Continuing a proud theme of industrial innovation, the renovation scheme is only the second public sector project in the UK to be delivered using the Integrated Project Insurance (IPI) model, promoted by the Government and aimed at using a team approach to deliver major developments to high quality standards, on time and on budget.


An Alliance team is overseeing the reconfiguration of the mill, which is split into three areas: the original Italian works and tower; the adjacent Sowter Mill; and the new-build ‘Civic Hall’ section, which will make the facility accessible for all. There will be three lifts including a heavy goods lift.


Original features, such as the Mill’s arched foundations that enables water from a flooding River Derwent to safely pass beneath the building, and the façade, are being left in place wherever possible – with bricks from the demolition reclaimed for use elsewhere on the project. New elements are also being created, to provide exhibition and co-working spaces, including the roof space of the Italian mill which is reconfigured to include a glazed viewpoint area.


Living-up to its name as the Museum of Making, fully equipped workshops have been created as part of the renovation where volunteers, stakeholders and the wider Derby community are currently working in partnership with Derby Museums to help make display cabinets and other materials for the new museum.


Once it opens, all of that creative engineering and manufacturing innovation will become an integral part of the museum’s new ‘offer’, with visitors able to join-in workshops to learn a new skill or try their hand at a spot of making in all types of materials and techniques.


Work to strip-out and transform the building is well underway, with one of the new-look elements now beginning to take shape. The Civic Hall – a triple height glass atrium filling the space between the Italian and Sowter mill buildings – will become the main entrance, allowing access to all floors, as well as a flexible performance and exhibition space, and home to the museum’s new café.


It is also where visitors will find one of the new Museum’s most striking permanent exhibits – a seven-tonne jet engine, which will hang from the ceiling high above visitors’ heads. Because of its size and weight, the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engine – manufactured by the Derby-based world class engineering giant – has already been installed, and the steel framed entrance is being completed around it.


The completed museum is now set to open to the public on Saturday 19 September, with its official opening taking place the following Friday (the 25th) to tie-in with the city’s long running and hugely popular annual street-festival, Derby Festé. As well as being perhaps the only museum in the UK with all of its artefacts accessible to audiences, it will also reflect Derby’s position as a centre for engineering and creativity.


Better still, 300 years of innovation will be celebrated in special style on the site when the city marks the tercentenary of the opening of Derby Silk Mill, in 2021.


The £17m redevelopment programme is financially supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, Arts Council England and from the Local Growth Fund by D2N2, the Local Enterprise Partnership. Significant support has also been received from Derby City Council, Rolls-Royce and a range of charitable trusts and foundations.


The Museum of Making at Derby Silk Mill is a key part of the UNESCO inscribed Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site


For further updates, follow @MuseumofMaking and #MakingTheMuseumofMaking, or visit


And for all tourist information about the City of Derby, visit; and on social media @visitderby.