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[FROM GOOD TO GREAT] Derby Museums goes retro with a 1980s style arcade

Earlier this year we told you about a whole new audience that is being created in the heritage sector, through the invention of Museum Lates. In our own city, Derby, the local library is adopting this culture.

For one weekend only Derby Library became a 1980s style arcade. With thanks to Derby Museums the disused space was the host to some of the 1980s most popular arcade games – Pac-Man, Street Fighter and even an Atari.

In this blog we’ll find out what Derby Museums did good, and what they can do to make an even greater Guest Experience…

Mortal Combat II, Street Fighter II and Pac-Man – just some of the games on offer



Derby’s library was closed earlier this year after over 120 years in service. An amazing space was closed. So for this weekend only we got a chance to glimpse inside a piece of Derby’s history.

Derby Library is a vast space which is broken up by some original 1970s wood panelled shelves. Walking around you can feel how the library would’ve been used in the 1980s, which compliments the arcades nicely.


Derby Library is still a vast space, that unfortunately, the arcade machines themselves didn’t fill. The space could be enclosed, with the help of the original shelving. Or create corridors of intrigue (Marked 1 on the image) to other areas of the library (lining the corridors with posters and plaques can add to the theming, storyline, or promote other museum activity).

Map of Derby Library’s 1980s arcade – From good to great



The range of games on offer was top notch. Pac-Man from 1980, Space Invaders Part II, Frogger, an Atari, a NES, a Sega Genesis. And the wait times were minimal, thanks largely to the sheer amount of choice. There was none of the putting your 50p on the console top to reserve your space in the queue.


Due to the library being such a big space, even though there were lots to play with, it looked like there wasn’t. As you can see in the image below there was a big space in the middle of the floor, there were some arcades standing alone around a corner, they could’ve been brought into this space creating a cluster (2). Arcades in the 1980s were packed, so by bringing the games closer together would invoke that feeling of nostalgia even more.

Sunday Service resumes at the #80s Retro Arcade event @derbymuseums — Janine Derbyshire (@JaDerbyshire) November 18, 2018



It wouldn’t be a video game event in Derby if there wasn’t a nod to the city’s most famous fictional daughter, Lara Croft, would it? And this event was no different. A PlayStation playing Tomb Raider 1 was accompanied by some Tomb Raider paraphernalia.


Really go to town with the Tomb Raider story. Many people don’t even realise that Lara’s adventures started here in Derby (I didn’t know until I moved here that the game was created just a few doors down from Katapult HQ!). This was an opportunity to tell people this story. The paraphernalia on show was great – put it into a timeline, tell the tale of the adventurous archaeologist’s humble beginnings (3).

In the same space was the stand-alone arcades. If they were to move into the open space that would leave room to put some more Tomb Raider gameplay. A game on each of a PS1, PS2 and PS3? Create a Tomb Raider tomb for gamers to raid…

@JuicyGameReview fancy some arcade gaming in Derby this afternoon? We’re at @derbymuseums with a ton of them. Even got a tomb raider section — James Burchell (@JamesbGWG) November 17, 2018

Feel the 1980s world


Like I mentioned earlier, the Derby Library is a great space that was fully utilised in the 1980s. So almost by default the building is themed exactly how it should be.


Sometimes it can be hard to truly theme a space, if the exhibition is a one-off or touring it can be a lot of resource and expense. But when done right the results more than justify it.

“I don’t want the public to see the world they live in whilst in the park. I want them to feel they’re in another world.” – Walt Disney.  

All in all it was great to see the empty Library back in use again and I got to transport myself to a time I can only imagine.

If, like Derby Museums, you have a space or event coming up and you’d like our advice on how to give it the WOW factor, get in touch.

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