What do the Manchester Museum, Whitworth Art Gallery, Contact Theatre, Martin Harris Centre for Music & Drama, John Rylands Library, Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre, Tabley House and Jodrell Bank Observatory have in common?
Many people aren’t aware that together they make up the ‘cultural assets’ of the University of Manchester. Teachers are often surprised when we tell them that the Museum belongs to the University – many people assume that the City Council runs it. The same applies to the Whitworth, but being part of the University does make a difference. One key advantage is that University status gives us the freedom to be bold and innovative, to challenge orthodoxies and experiment with new practice through research and development.
In recent weeks learning staff at the Museum and the Whitworth have been meeting to talk about ways of working more collaboratively. Like cheese and pickle, the two venues each have their own distinctive ‘flavour’ but also go really well together. The Whitworth tends to have a quieter, more reflective atmosphere, while Museum exploration is livelier and louder, which means a taste of each can provide a rich and rounded experience. The two venues have a very similar philosophical and practical approach to learning, which makes coordination smooth and stress-free. A joint visit on a single day is certainly feasible – the venues are only a 15 minute walk away from each other on the same side of Oxford Road – or two separate trips can form part of a longer scheme of work or project.
It’s an exciting time for both venues: the Whitworth is planning a major extension and redevelopment of the building and the Museum is working on a multi-million pound update of two of its most popular displays – Animal Life and Archaeology & ancient Egypt. With new facilities, more collections on display and fresh approaches to interpretation, together the University’s museum and art gallery are much greater than the sum of their parts. That’s why we’re going to be linking up online and creating a joint learning blog. You’ll be able to keep up to date with what’s happening at both venues and contribute your own ideas. Do you like cheese, pickle or both?