We’re in the final phase of our extraordinary transformation project, called hello future, and we have announced today that we will open our doors to the public in February 2023.
We had hoped to open at the end of 2022, however the pandemic has led to a short delay.
The making of a new museum
Transforming a museum in a historic building is a complicated business. There has been a two-storey extension, extending our footprint by 25%, and extensive reconfiguration of existing spaces. Over 18,000 museum objects have had to be moved or protected from building work and as much material as possible is being reused or recycled throughout construction (you can read more about our commitment to recycling here). We’re also working exclusively with suppliers whose values align with ours.
We’re extremely proud of all our people and partners who are part of this project and we were delighted to win Project of the Year at the 2021 North-West Construction Awards, with the judges commenting that collaboration is at the heart of its success.
What to expect when we reopen
You will arrive at the museum via a ramped entrance from Oxford Road, coming into a Welcome Area featuring extraordinary objects that inspire awe and wonder. One of the first objects you will encounter is the skeleton of Maharajah, an infamous elephant who was brought from Edinburgh to Belle Vue Zoological Gardens in Gorton in 1872. Incredibly, after refusing to board a train, Maharajah walked to Manchester alongside his keeper Lorenzo Lawrence over 10 days. A Japanese Incense Burner decorated with intricate features will also sit in the Welcome Area and a number of volunteers are critical in preparing it for display. Months have already been spent cleaning and polishing every inch this vast object, which is painstaking work and represents the spirit the spirit of collective endeavour that is at the heart of the museum. And a large sculpture by our Artist in Residence Lucy Burscough and her collaborators will greet you on arrival. This sculpture is part of a project called Dab Hands, exploring hands, art practice and dexterity.
From the Welcome Area, you will enter the new Museum Shop that will be home to a range of stylish and unique products, inspired by our collections and created by sustainable and diverse local makers. Next, the Main Hall will be anything you need it to be. It is a huge, light space with scope for big ideas and designs to come to life and striking architectural details will make it the perfect backdrop for a private event.
New galleries will include a stunning Exhibition Hall, which will host the internationally successful ‘Golden Mummies of Egypt’. There will also be a new Belonging Gallery, the Lee Kai Hung Chinese Culture Gallery, and a South Asia Gallery in partnership with the British Museum. The South Asia Gallery will be the first ever permanent exhibition space in the UK dedicated to exploring the stories, experiences, and contributions of South Asian diaspora communities.
Inclusive facilities throughout the building will include Changing Places toilets, a picnic area, a therapy room, a prayer space, and a quiet room. The picnic area, open to everyone, will be decorated to complement the Museum Café and includes microwaves for preparing food. The prayer room will be available to use for prayer or meditation. And the quiet room will allow for peaceful contemplation and rest. Our hope is that by reimagining the building itself we will create a place where everyone belongs.
We’re also developing sustainable new infrastructure, including a roof-based air quality research station, in collaboration with Manchester Urban Observatory, which reports on air quality monitoring. And we’re working on new research, projects and exhibitions to support climate action.
Despite the challenges we have faced during construction and pandemic, our team has never lost faith in our vision for a reimagined Manchester Museum that is more caring, inclusive, and imaginative. We look forward to opening our doors in one year’s time.
Thank you for your support and patience.