From the Shire to Yorkshire…

This autumn, grab your cloak and your sword and set off on a quest to Barnsley for the one exhibition to rule them all.

Bringing the Shire to Yorkshire, Experience Barnsley Museum will be turned into J.R.R Tolkien’s legendarium as it hosts the Magic of Middle-earth exhibition.

From Saturday 30th September until 6th April next year, you shall pass into this free exhibition showcasing 200 rare and unique objects relating to the epic Lord of the Rings franchise.

These precious items are part of a private collection owned by Matt Fox who has been collecting Middle-earth memorabilia for over 40 years. Matt says he first became smitten with the fantasy realm of Middle-earth as a pre-school child, spending long car journeys to visit his grandparents listening to a cassette tape of The Hobbit audio book. Then came the cartoon version when he was six, followed by the Lord of the Rings books once he was old enough to read the saga.

The first piece in his collection was The Hobbit video game on ZX Spectrum from 1982, and he’s slowly built it up since then. When the Peter Jackson’s film series came out in the early ‘00s, this sparked a global resurgence of a dedicated Tolkien fandom and so there has been a steady stream of new items since.

“I’ve always loved orcs, castles, swords and wizards. I remember Sunday afternoons as a kid in the 1980s we had a Dungeons and Dragons club at home with my brother and our friends – that was built on the foundations of Tolkien,” Matt says.

The Magic of Middle-earth exhibition goes beyond the books and looks at how Tolkien’s endless adventures, whimsical creatures and made-up languages were a creative spark for other areas from environmentalism to art and musicians like Led Zepplin and The Beatles.

It also celebrates the unique aspects of the otherworldliness he created, from the Misty Mountains to the Undying Lands, pooling together the many spin offs and adaptations.

Whether you’re a little halfling or a wizened wizard, you won’t want to miss this one. The family-friendly exhibition will see first edition books, dioramas and miniature figures of movie scenes, and paintings of Middle-earth.

There will also be a Hobbiton family area where kids can pretend to be Frodo and the Fellowship for the day, with fancy dress, an oversized stool for photos, elven runes, and Middle-earth LEGO sets and art activities. Take part in a treasure trail around the museum to find the ring – but don’t destroy it! And watch out for the animatronic version of Smaug the terrible. But remember, Bilbo said never laugh at live dragons…

Experience Barnsley is delighted to be hosting this popular exhibition created by Matt Fox

“Some people say that collecting is a sickness and sharing is the only cure. There’s no point having everything boxed away at home. It’s always really satisfying to me when I see my collections on display being enjoyed by others. But Experience Barnsley really is a beautiful environment that shows the items in their best light,” Matt says.

To launch the exhibition, on Saturday 30th September there will be a family fun day with gaming, crafts and characters dressed up.

Then throughout the exhibition runtime, there will be special events taking place, such as the chance to make a clay dragon eye on Friday 3rd November. As part of Barnsley Bright Nights on Friday 24th and Saturday 25th November, the museum will be open during the evening for fantastical crafts where you can create a dragon egg or wizard’s wand inspired by Lord of the Rings.

For the full list of family friendly activities, check out the website