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Manchester Museum Director Esme Ward sets out her plans for the Museum’s future after spectacular £15m refurbishment

Manchester Museum is set for a triumphant re-opening at the end of the week after a £15m transformation.

“We want it to be more inclusive, more imaginative, and a more caring space” says the Director of Manchester Museum, Esme Ward, standing amongst the stuffed animals and fairy lights on the Museum’s first floor.

It has been a busy few weeks for the team at the museum as they put the final touches to the last exhibitions and make sure the museum is looking great ahead of its opening on February 18.

Esme and the team’s stamp and ethos are clear from the first couple of exhibitions and changes to their Gallery spaces too, which have all been curated with inclusivity and the celebration of diversity in mind.

The world-renowned Golden Mummies of Egypt Exhibition is challenging Victorian interpretations of the period by providing multiple perspectives and interpretations, allowing the visitor to come away and from their own views based on the evidence available.

The Golden Mummies of Egypt

And on first look, it is set to shatter lots of negative stereotypes people may have about the Ancient Egyptians.

They have also opened the South Asia Gallery, which is dedicated to the experiences and histories of South Asian diaspora communities that form a large part of modern-day Manchester.

The South Asia Gallery joins a series of new galleries including the new Lee Kai Hung Chinese Culture Gallery and Belonging Gallery, heralding the museum’s commitment to building greater
understanding between cultures, a more sustainable world, and bringing to life the lived experience of diverse communities through the museum’s historic collections and new displays.

“This is the collective vision of all of us here,” said Esme.

“Our ultimate goal is to build understanding between cultures and to create a more sustainable world.

“We care for four and a half million different objects here, from all over the world. But what does it mean to care for people and their beliefs, and their relationships too?

“That’s our goal here. We want to open up this institution to new perspectives and explore the complexity of Manchester and our world.

“We want to build understanding between cultures.”

Last night the museum hosted its South Asia Gallery which was curated by over 30 people.

Esme said that after conversations, it was clear many of the curators felt detached from their heritage.

“Many people feel detached from their heritage, and we feel that it’s a huge part of British history that isn’t represented.

“We’ve created a space now where people can be represented and embrace their heritage. I think that’s something we can be really proud of.

“Manchester has such a large ESEA community, it’s time they were represented and had a platform to explore their past.

“This space will only grow and evolve over time, and we can give lots of people a voice which can only be a good thing.”

The £15 million transformation has been supported by public funding from Arts Council England, The National Lottery Heritage Fund, The University of Manchester, and numerous philanthropic supporters.

Architects Purcell have been involved too, designing the modern two-story extension that houses a major new Exhibition Hall and South Asia Gallery, alongside a new accessible entrance from Oxford Road and a new cafe and shop.

The extension is clad in green-glazed terracotta tiles and pays homage to craftsmanship as well as Victorian and Edwardian period buildings in Manchester.

Other new features include a Changing Places toilet, prayer room, quiet room, picnic area and therapy room.

There is also a remodeled entrance on Oxford Road bringing the Museum firmly into the 21st century.

But not to worry, Stan the Tyrannosaurus rex still watches on as he has done for decades, and he is joined by a new addition, April the Tenontosaurus.

The museum is also planning to host film evenings as part of its new roster, and will also be hosting a thought-provoking lecture by Professor of Public History, David Olusoga OBE, addressing the dilemmas facing museums in the 21st century.

You can get tickets for that by clicking here

Esme continued: “We’ve got a really exciting set of events coming up, called New Beginnings.

“We’ll be hosting Museum Lates letting people experience the museum after hours, highlighting the work of artists, writers, activists, performers, and others too.

“The museum is full of incredible stories and free activities made for families, young people, students, and adults will help you make the most out of the museum and take a deep dive into some of the most fascinating objects on display.

“2023 is set to be the most exciting year in the museum’s long history and we hope as many people as possible will join the celebrations – there is something for everyone.”

On Wednesday 8 March, the museum will stay open to 9 pm and roll out the red carpet to host a Film Night with several screenings in different galleries.

“I mean who doesn’t want to watch ammonite in a fossil gallery?

“We’ve got a lot of exciting things coming up and we want you to get involved.

“When the door opens this Friday, that’s when the fun begins.

“This museum is a place of wonder, and it’s for you. There are very few spaces in the UK that have natural sciences and man-made science all under one roof. We’ve got archeology, zoology, and live animals.

“Also, we’re the only place in the world outside of Panama where you can see the endangered harlequin frog.

“And who doesn’t need more frogs in their life?”

The new museum looks incredible, and with Esme and the team at the helm, it looks in safe hands too.

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