Manchester Museum set to re-open after £15million transformation

February 2023 marks the reopening of Manchester Museum, following its ambitious £15 million transformation
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The museum reopens its doors with the aim to build greater understanding between cultures, a more sustainable world and to bring to life the lived experience of diverse communities through the Museum’s historic collections and new displays.

The Manchester Museum was cited as one of the main reasons to visit the city by National Geographic.

Esme Ward, Museum Director of Manchester Museum, says: “February 2023 will mark a huge moment in Manchester Museum’s rich history as we open our doors following a major transformation.

“We have extended the building, making room for more joy and learning and evolving into the museum Manchester needs.

“Beautiful new galleries and exhibitions will showcase the best of the museum’s historic collections, as well as addressing the urgencies of the present day and highlighting the complexities of our world.

“We have also listened to advocates with lived experience, and inclusive new spaces and features are incorporated throughout. We can’t wait to
welcome our visitors back.”

The public will be invited to new galleries including the South Asia Gallery.

The New South Asia Gallery is the first permanent gallery in the UK to celebrate the lived experiences and contributions of the South Asian diaspora.

Co-curated with the South Asia Gallery Collective, a group that includes community leaders, educators and artists, the gallery will explore the connection between South Asia and Britain and the legacy of Empire alongside contemporary South Asian culture and creativity, perspectives that have not been presented before.

Divided into 6 anthologies, the Collective has grappled with a range of subjects through 140 artefacts, including one of the collective’s great-grandfather’s World War I uniform, a rickshaw imported from Bangladesh and decorated by communities in Manchester, a newly commissioned mural from British artists, The Singh Twins – an emotional map of South Asian diaspora experience – and a Cartier brooch containing a repurposed carved emerald from the Mughal Empire.

At the heart of the gallery is also a dedicated space for performance, film and participatory activities.

There have been changes to the Exhibition Hall. 

The Exhibition Hall is home to ambitious shows that explore past, present and future and engage with global and local narratives.

The opening exhibition, Golden Mummies of Egypt, will offer visitors unparalleled access to the Museum’s world-class Egypt and Sudan collection and aims to challenge Victorian narratives of ‘ancient Egypt’ through new research from the University of Manchester.

Featuring more than 100 objects and 8 mummies, the UK debut follows a hugely popular tour across USA and China and will present a rich perspective on beliefs about the afterlife during Egypt’s Graeco-Roman Period (332 BC -395 AD), with highlights including elaborately decorated mummies known as ‘Fayum Portraits’.

The Lee Kai Hung Chinese Culture Gallery highlights personal stories of migration, friendships and collaboration to inspire empathy and build understanding.

Developed in partnership with the University’s Manchester China Institute, it draws on historical and contemporary links between Manchester and China. Showcasing rarely and never-displayed collections from cultural partners across the city, visitors will delve through personal stories and objects such as a late Qing dynasty (1636–1912) ‘Manchu’ headdress decorated with blue kingfisher feathers, a 20-metre scroll showing Emperor Kangxi’s birthday procession through the streets of Beijing in the 18th century and a taxidermy milu deer, once on the brink of extinction but now thriving in China after decades of transnational conservation efforts.

A night sky constellation – our shared sky – also encourages people to gather and connect through cultural exchange and performances.

One of the other new exhibitions will be the Dinosaur Display.

Palaeontology enthusiasts will learn what it means to think like a palaeontologist at the brand-new Dinosaur display next to the historic Fossils Gallery. Visitors can meet with prehistoric giants Stan the Tyrannosaurus rex, one of the museum’s most visited exhibits, and its new addition, April the Tenontosaurus.

The museum worked with a team of Earth Science students from the University of Manchester, who’s new research and several years of cataloguing have allowed April’s skeleton, dating back to the Cretaceous period and found in Montana, USA, to stand on all fours again. Our changing world is a focal point throughout, with featured objects such as fragmented rock showing the moment the asteroid hit Earth, relating to our understanding of evolution, climate change and outer space.

The final addition to the re-development is the Belonging Gallery. 

Alexandra P. Alberda is the first ever Curator of Indigenous Perspectives at Manchester Museum. She was appointed to take forward the innovative ‘Indigenising Manchester Museum’ programme, funded by the John Ellerman Foundation, which sets Indigenous perspectives at the heart of the museum.

The new Belonging Gallery – the first of the permanent galleries visitors will see – captures the welcoming spirit of the museum and has been led by Alberda.

It draws upon the museum’s collections and diverse cultural perspectives to reflect on what it means to belong.

Following an open call, the exhibition presents the work of multiple visual storytellers, who bring their own life experience to comic art to rewrite the past and inspire new futures, including Indigenous Futurism and African Futurism, which is explored alongside artefacts and natural history specimens.

The works tell stories including the climate migration of the first people to Britain during the last Ice Age, and the poignant story of a Syrian refugee’s life jacket, collected in 2017.

 

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