Permanent galleries within the museum will be devoted to such themes as exploration and discovery; slavery and working conditions; immigration and emigration; and the development of the Commonwealth. Outside organisations and Commonwealth countries will also be invited to stage individual exhibitions.
The station buildings in Bristol were chosen for the purpose because of their significance in the development of the empire. Brunel saw the railway line from London to Bristol as the first step on the route across the Atlantic. His Passenger Shed was the largest single-span wooden building of the age when the station was opened in 1840 by the Great Western Railway. The second half of the 19th century saw 8.5 million people leave Britain for North America, a large proportion of them via Bristol.
Repairs to the building are expected to be complete by the end of this year, and the first phase of the museum is scheduled to open in winter 1995. For further information, contact: The Empire and Commonwealth Museum Trust, Clock Tower Yard, Temple Meads, Bristol BS1 6QH, telephone 0272 254980.