Bridgeman Images is proud to represent the University of Manchester collections, including the Manchester Museum, the John Rylands Library and the Whitworth. Discover more about them in this article.
The Manchester Museum, part of the University of Manchester, is one of the largest university museums in the UK. The museum is over 130 years old and is now undergoing an exciting £15 million extension called ‘hello future’ which will create new spaces and bring more people together. The galleries and facilities will be creatively co-curated to include new and diverse perspectives. They are anticipating their reopening on the 18th of February 2023.
A modern two-storey extension comprises a large Exhibition Hall and South Asia Gallery at the Manchester Museum, a British Museum partnership. The extension is clad in stunning, green-glazed terracotta tiles supplied by Darwen Terracotta and Faience, made by talented craftspeople who believe in keeping heritage skills alive. Golden Mummies of Egypt will open in the Exhibition Hall on the 18th of February 2023 following a successful tour across USA and China. This will be a unique cultural experience featuring eight mummies and over 100 objects from the museum’s world-class Egyptology collection. There has additionally been an extensive reconfiguration of the existing spaces, including a Belonging Gallery and Lee Kai Hung Chinese Culture Gallery. A new ramped entrance from Oxford Road will lead visitors to a beautiful welcome area that features breathtaking objects to inspire awe and wonder. New facilities will include a café, picnic area, shop, prayer room, quiet room, and therapy room.
The history of the Manchester Museum is rooted in the work of John Leigh Philips (1761 - 1814), a Manchester-based manufacturer and collector. Philips collected a range of entomological and ornithological objects, including natural history illustrations by John Abbot and a cabinet of insects. In 1821, this collection was purchased by a group of men who set up the Manchester Natural History Society. By the 1860s, the society asked the architect Alfred Waterhouse to design a museum building. The original neo-Gothic building, now known as the Manchester Museum, was opened to the public in 1890. Throughout the First World War, the Manchester Museum held classes to support displaced children, continuing this for eighty years. During that time, the museum’s collection expanded to six million items.
Volunteers are welcome at the Manchester Museum, who provide invaluable support to the institution and its visitors. They have recently developed Volunteering Culture MCR, an online hub for cultural volunteer opportunities across Greater Manchester which is supported by the Heritage Fund. Alongside this, the Manchester Museum is particularly involved in supporting several causes. This includes ‘Culture Declares Emergency’, ‘Black History Month & Beyond’, ‘Queering Manchester Museum’, ‘Ecological Thinking and Action’ and ‘Age Friendly’.
The selection at the museum now includes a variety of fascinating historical and scientific objects, including terracotta sculptures and ceramics. They also house a wonderful selection of terracotta sculptures of Philip II of Macedon and their Collections Studio includes a space to study, draw and research.
John Rylands Library
Connected to the Manchester Museum is the John Rylands Library at the University of Manchester. They promote world-leading research through the display of their unique collection of historical art and photography. An interesting aspect of this collection are the gouache paintings of Burmese court life. These works capture a fascinating history of soldiers, music and dancing. The John Rylands Library has also recently launched a new exhibition, the British Pop Archive. This special exhibition encapsulates the records and artefacts of UK popular culture, it will be open until January 2023.
The Whitworth operates as a convening space between the University and the people of the city. It was originally founded in 1889 as the Whitworth Institute and Park, the first English gallery in a park. The gallery initially opened in memory of Sir Joseph Whitworth for ‘the perpetual gratification of the people of Manchester'. The gallery continues to hold this sentiment at the core of its contemporary mission. The organisation is driven by a commitment to encourage positive social change and a desire to work with the community. The central concepts which underpin its work are: learning together through making and doing; creating a place of care, consideration and community; taking action. Alongside this, it also values retaining a sense of the personal, the intimate and the playful.
The Whitworth carried out a £17 million redevelopment in 2015 by the architecture firm MUMA, which doubled the public space and increased the facilities to house the collection of 55,000 works. Rowan Moore, writing for The Guardian in 2015, noted that this redesign was ‘a breath of fresh air’.
The collection includes Historic Fine Art, Modern and Contemporary Art, Textiles, Prints, Wallpaper, Sculpture, and a unique collection of Outsider Art. It also houses a broad selection of art, including sculpture, screen printing, linocuts, woodcuts, etchings, illustrations, clothing and fine art. The collection ranges from more classical pieces, such as ‘The Visionary’ (c.1826-32) by Henry Liverseege, to more abstract art, including ‘Landmarks’ (1996-99) by Anne Desmet.
The history of wallpaper is a passion of the Whitworth. They have curated more than 10,000 wallpapers. Wallpapers began arriving at the gallery in 1967; some are beautiful and luxurious, others are old and hand printed. The ongoing Open House project is connecting the public to this unique collection. The gallery is currently welcoming photographs of ‘life lived in front of wallpaper’. From this, they will record the stories provoked by these patterns. There will be several events and celebrations running until February 2023. Other upcoming exhibitions at the Whitworth include Althea McNish: Colour is Mine, a retrospective of the first Caribbean designer to achieve international recognition, and Albrecht Dürer’s Material World, a major exhibition of the exceptional Dürer collection.
The recycling and reusing of materials is integral to these cultural institutions, whether through the wallpaper project or the ‘hello future’ extension. The Manchester Museum is reusing as much material as possible during the complex transformation project. These achievements have been rooted in the spirit of collective endeavour, the heart of the Manchester Museum and the Whitworth.
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