Museum haunted by a scent of old times: Humberside is attracting tourists by letting them see other people working in the old-fashioned way. Martin Whitfield reports

THERE are 13 different smells, varying temperatures, the floor moves. Balloons can be filled with choice scents such as sentiment of seaweed, sea breeze and compressed cod.

Grimsby's National Fish Heritage Centre, winner of last year's Best Visitor Attraction in the UK, is a modern mixture of museum and garish fairground.

Richard Doughty, manager and curator, stresses the centre's academic research, the cataloguing of exhibits and the fact that all the props are the real thing. He aims to inform through entertainment. 'Museums have suffered from the image of officials in peaked caps. They were seen as tedious and boring. We are seeking to involve people, almost in role play,' he said.

A typical tour takes two-and-a-half hours and takes visitors through the experience of a typical trawler trip from Grimsby to the fishing grounds of Iceland and Greenland. Sensations of noise and smell are included and people are encouraged to twiddle knobs on radios and try their hands at making knots and mending nets.

The centre, its pounds 3m cost funded 50-50 by Grimsby Borough Council and the European Regional Development Fund, has attracted 250,000 visitors in its first two years and is a local success story, approved of even by the fishermen.

Muriel Barker, chair of the council's economic development committee, says it has been vital for Grimsby to be seen as a modern European food processing centre rather than a declining fishing port.

The port's fishing industry is still in turmoil over the Government's fish conservation measures but the fleet is stable at about 140 boats. Direct employment in fishing is about 700 compared with more than 10,000 at its peak in the 1950s.

Male unemployment is approaching 20 per cent.

(Photographs omitted)

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