2023 is set to be a highly-anticipated year for Manchester, with the likes of the Co-op Live arena and Factory International opening, now adding to the excitement Manchester Museum has announced that it will be reopening next year too. After undergoing a £15 million transformation, the museum plans to reopen its doors on February 18, 2023 featuring the Museum’s historic collections as well as new displays.
The public will be invited to new galleries including the South Asia Gallery, a British Museum partnership and the UK’s first permanent space to explore the lived experience of South Asian diaspora communities. Plus, there will also be a new Lee Kai Hung Chinese Culture Gallery, the Belonging Gallery, a brand new Dinosaur display and Golden Mummies of Egypt, its first blockbuster exhibition opening in the new Exhibition Hall as part of the reopening of Manchester Museum.
Esme Ward, Museum Director of Manchester Museum, said: “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.”
Manchester Museum, part of The University of Manchester, first opened in 1890 and is recognised as one of the largest university museums in the UK. The original neo-Gothic building, designed by renowned architect Alfred Waterhouse, is home to around 4.5 million objects from natural sciences and human cultures. Proud to be the world’s first Carbon Literate Museum, the museum has recycled and reused as much material within the museum during renovation works.
Architectural company Purcell has designed a modern two-storey extension housing 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.
Here’s what to expect at the newly-reopened Manchester Museum
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’.
South Asia Gallery, a British Museum partnership
The South Asia 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 six 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 new 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.
Lee Kai Hung Chinese Culture Gallery
The Lee Kai Hung Chinese Culture Gallery, developed in partnership with the University’s Manchester China Institute, highlights personal stories of migration, friendships and collaboration to inspire empathy and build understanding. 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 ‘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. A night sky constellation – our shared sky – also encourages people to gather and connect through cultural exchange and performances.
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.
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 Alexandra P. Alberda, the first ever Curator of Indigenous Perspectives at Manchester Museum. 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.
To find out more about the project and upcoming exhibitions before the reopening, visit the Manchester Museum website here.