I took a short walk along the Oxford canal from Banbury train station, and just as I was starting to mentally grumble at the modern shopping centre unceremoniously dumped beside the canal, I found the museum café entrance. At this point I gave my grumble a quick realign, as there seems to have been a lot of thought put into making the museum an easily reached and enticing prospect for passers by, including the museum gift shop actually being inside the shopping centre. The building being packed with excited families, ambling couples, brunch munching OAPs and tea sipping dog walkers, the intentions seem to work.
Steered off to the left after an introduction, the displays are built around a timeline (a genuine line you follow around the room’s wall) There's plenty of debate about the use of timelines in museums, but here it forms a simple and accessible way to understand the ups and downs of Banbury. To help define these different ups and downs of local history, the timeline is divided with evocative headers, and the items displayed are carefully related to that theme, such as Plush and Prosperity (a loom, cloth samples) moving to Poverty and Protest, (truncheons and man traps). The hierarchy of information is well delivered, with clear colours and different sizes of text allowing you to either skim read, delve a bit deeper, or read each individual label.
Throughout Banbury museum the interpretation is short enough to inform, without being cursory, and it's a modern and bright building which feels welcoming and without being stark. Absolutely worth an hour or more of your time. Perhaps a few hours, given that the café unexpectedly does a great range of Greek food, and you an bask in the canal-side sun with a glass of wine.