Culture Makes a Difference – +Culture Shots 14-18 July 2014

15 07 2014


While building continues both at the back of the Whitworth Art Gallery, and now too at the front facing Oxford Road. Opposite us at the hospital and at other NHS sites nearby, +Culture Shots is in full swing.

+CultureShots is a week-long series of free events, planned to fit around a busy working day, offering a chance for you to become enthused by culture. Our ambition is to encourage individuals to find out why culture works, by discovering how the expertise within Manchester museums and galleries can be used to improve professional practice as well as patient’s health and wellbeing. For the full programme, a comprehensive guide to what’s on, where to find us and how you can get the most out of your +Culture Shots 2014 experience! See: for more information.

Last year +CultureShots hosted Trees for Me, a photography competition, which was a great success! Congratulations to our 2013 competition winners: Steven Roper (see his wonderful image of decorated trees from the Whitworth’s South Gallery windows, above) Sally Thelwell and Nicola Walker, and a big thank you to all 37 who entered. The eight most striking photographs were carefully selected to sit centre stage in the exhibition beautifully framed in the nuclear medicine corridor, situated just off the link corridor, adjoining to St Marys (see images below). The theme of the competition tied in exceptionally well with the Manchester Museum’s vast collections relating to trees and the uses of wood.

Tree and rooftops by Sally Thelwell

Tree and rooftops by Sally Thelwell

Silver Birch at Dunham Massey by Nicola Walker

Silver Birch at Dunham Massey by Nicola Walker

Winning entries displayed  in St Mary's Hospital Manchester

Winning entries displayed in St Mary’s Hospital Manchester

This year, +CultureShots will be hosting Changes, a creative writing competition. We are calling on aspiring writers to pen a poem, a short story or even write a song. The modern world never stays still for very long and it is this dynamism of change, renewal and rebirth that we would like staff to harness in their writing. What does change feel like? Does it inspire and energise everything around it? Or does it create nostalgia for the past and what once was?
For a more detailed outline of events go to:


Whitworth Park: Pleasure, Play & Politics

22 05 2014

Whitworth Park: Pleasure, Play & Politics

A new exhibition opened to the public today at the Manchester Museum charting the history of Whitworth Park, and based on work carried out over the last couple of years through the Whitworth Park Community Archaeology and History Project, funded in part by a Heritage Lottery Fund Your Heritage grant. A huge number of people have been involved with the project, including staff and students of the University of Manchester, led by the Department of Archaeology, as well as the Friends of Whitworth Park, staff from the Museum, as well as the Whitworth Art Gallery and the Ahmed Iqbal Race Relations Resource Centre.


Lots of local school students joined in the archaeological dig that uncovered a whole host of finds – sadly lost toys, including a lead soldier, and marbles, fragments of pottery and numerous glass ‘pop’ bottles, all of which bring together a picture of how the park was used over the decades.


The exhibition runs until 5 October, and the Museum is running a series of events over the summer, including ‘Conservation on Show’ (23 July 12-2pm) – which I’m plugging here, as its my fabulous team at the Museum who assisted the archaeologists and students with the conservation of artefacts, and our technicians who, as ever, have built a great exhibition set!

A bit of Manchester history unearthed

24 03 2014

A bit of Manchester history unearthed

Our contractors have now started the process of digging out a lift shaft at the southern end of our existing building which will, for the first time, provide lift access to the first floor level and to our new Grand Hall. During the work, they unearthed this old (but complete) glass bottle, no doubt thrown aside by a thirsty Edwardian workman into the building foundations when this section of the Whitworth was completed in 1908.

Jewsbury & Brown sparkling water

Jewsbury & Brown sparkling water

The bottle hailed from the local Manchester company, Jewsbury & Brown, of 113 Market Street, Manchester. The company sold drinks in Lancashire and beyond from 1826 until it was merged with Schweppes in 1964. They were a listed exhibitor at the Board of Trade 1922 British Industries Fair, held in London between Feb 27th and March 10th, as manufacturers of Mineral Waters of all kinds, Non-Alcoholic Cordials, J. and B. Health Salts, and Oriental Dental Preparations.

Oriental Toothpaste for cleansing, beautifying and preserving the teeth and gums!

Oriental Toothpaste for cleansing, beautifying and preserving the teeth and gums!

This latest find, will join other archaeological discoveries made during the recent digs in Whitworth Park (see previous blog posts: and, and form part of the exhibition planned at Manchester Museum from May to October 2014.

If you are interested in local history, then Manchester Histories Festival is currently on (21-30 March 2014) – go to:

A satisfying bit of recycling

8 02 2014


Soon after the Whitworth’s collections were designated as having national significance in the 1990s, the Gallery secured two tranches of funding from the Designation Challenge Fund to rehouse large parts of the collections across the three disciplines of fine art, textiles and wallpapers, in new, specially designed mobile storage units.  

Each of the separate units were designed to meet the needs of the collections housed within them, whether they were boxed watercolours, hanging textiles, or wallpaper rolls; they were a combination of shelving units, drawers, and suspension rods, and at the time the result of new thinking around the dual needs of collection care and accessibility.  The mobiles were located on the first floor of the Gallery within the study rooms and until recently served us well.


During our discussions with storage companies last year, it became clear that in terms of both cost and efficiency of design, it would not make sense to try and incorporate the existing units into our new storage zone, and so with heavy hearts we set about dismantling and storing them (see first photo) with the hope that new homes could be found for the units, all of which remained in excellent condition.

With uncanny timing, conversations were underway just down the road at the Manchester Museum as to what improvements could be made to existing storage with just a very small amount of money.  With some staff working across both institutions it didn’t take much to add two and two together, and happily a large percentage of the mobile units are currently being installed at the Museum – this includes library shelving in a small archive room, mobiles in a transit room used primarily for exhibition preparation and in the Herbarium, and plans for static units in other collection stores – the Museum has only had to foot the installation costs, while the Gallery is delighted to see this satisfying bit of recycling.


There are still some more sections of the mobile units in need of a good home – we would like these to go to a museum, gallery or archive, so if you are interested please contact me and we could look at what is achievable (