Situated in the heart of Birmingham’s City Center, in the Jewelry Quarter district, the Pen Room is a museum and activity centre for pen enthusiasts of all ages.
Seeped in history and artifacts from the 19th and 20th century, The Pen Room celebrates the importance of Birmingham as the one-time center of the world when it came to the pen trade. Ink wells, nibs, pens, and tools of the trade, all manufactured in the region, take you by surprise as soon as you enter the premises. There is so much to show and appreciate that the room has hardly any space left for display.
The staff of the Pen Room is the friendliest bunch of enthusiasts I have come across in a museum setting ever (well, okay the Ikon (an art museum) staff are equally brilliant). Helpful, informative, and eager to showcase the different aspects of the trade, everyone is on hand to guide and answer all your questions. The slightly informal setting and staff does make the visit all the more special.
The Pen Room takes pride in the fact that it has something for everyone. Visiting with my four-year-old daughter, I found there were enough activities for all ages. From learning how to make a nib (and actually making one) to a small area in the adjoining room with stationary to colour and draw, the kids are kept occupied while the adults can view antique typewriters or learn about the history of the region.
Using a Braille machine to write her name, quills and ink from an inkwell to write/draw on old-style desks, or using a typewriter, my daughter was truly fascinated by all the “equipment” used at the time when her grandfather would attend school. Add a lollipop at the end and the deal was officially sealed making this one of her favorite attractions.
The best part about The Pen Room is that admission is free, although donations are encouraged, or you can always buy some wonderful nibs, and other articles, from the gift shop. For someone like me, who adores everything antique and stationery, the museum is like a small toy shop as I found it hard to stop taking photographs walking around admiring an industry that has changed dramatically over the years.
Informative and fun, The Pen Room is an excellent way to spend a few hours for everyone. It holds calligraphy classes once a week for adults and can prove to be an educational field trip for school children.
The Pen Room not only glorifies the local region’s contribution to the pen trade, but also manages to showcase how industrialization might have made our lives easier now, but some of the best pleasures of life can still be found in using antique objects.
The Pen Museum (at the time of the visit, it was called The Pen Room)
60 Fredrick Street
Birmingham B1 3HS
Tel: 0121 236 9834