The countdown is on to the launch of a major exhibition about James Watt.

“Watt in the World – The Life and Legacy of James Watt 1736-1819” is due to launch at the Library of Birmingham on Friday, July 12. The free display will run until Saturday, November 2, 2019.

The exhibition is the centrepiece of the James Watt 2019 celebrations in the city, co-ordinated by The Lunar Society, with funding from the National Lottery and other supporters, including History West Midlands.

Other highlights include a new Watt-themed Heritage Trail (PDF) around Birmingham, walks, community events and schools activities.

The full programme is available on this site.

Chris Rice, who has led on the Birmingham project, recently told us more about the year of celebrations – including the new Library of Birmingham display.

Chris said: “My main role has been to curate the Watt In The World exhibition, which is the bicentennial exhibition at the Library of Birmingham between 12th of July and the second of November.

“It features around 100 objects relating to the life and times of James Watt – archives, furniture, silver, instruments – and all sorts of quirky and interesting stuff about Watt (and his family and his circle). And it explores his life – but also his achievements and, and the Watt myth, which was kind-of created by his son, James Watt Jr.

“Alongside the exhibition, we’ve also done a Heritage Trail which will guide people around Birmingham and visiting Watt-related sites – and all of this has been funded by a whole host of funders. It’s overseen by The Lunar Society and main funders, the Heritage Fund. We’ve also had support from lots of other organisations including History West Midlands, the WA Cadbury Trust and the Edward Cadbury Trust … and quite a few others. So thanks to them.”

You can read more about the library exhibition on the Watt 2019 website.

We also caught up with Irene de Boo, the project co-ordinator for the Watt celebrations in Birmingham.

Listen to the audio here.

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is one of the venues in the new Heritage Trail, developed as part of the Watt 2019 celebrations. The Museum features displays on Watt and 18th century Birmingham.
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is one of the stopping-off points highlighted by the new Heritage Trail, developed for the Watt 2019 celebrations. The Museum features its own displays on Watt and 18th century Birmingham. Download the Trail here (PDF)

Irene said: “We started back in January, and we’ll go on until December. Among the things we do are talks … about James Watt – all the things that he was involved in. We also do walks, which might be a bit more unexpected. We do tours of places and also more arty and unexpected things.

“There are also, of course, family activities – because we want everybody to be involved in James Watt and his legacy. Many of the events are free, and those that are paid-for are at low cost. You can find out more about all our events on the James Watt website, which is

“There is a full list, month by month, of all the events happening in Birmingham.”

Top image: The Library of Birmingham. Edited version of an original image by Birmingham City Council. Some rights reserved. Creative Commons – attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)