Manchester Museum

Manchester Museum
Manchester Museum

The Manchester Museum
Established 1867
Location Oxford Road, Manchester, England
Type University museum of archaeology, natural history and anthropology
Director Nick Merriman
Website [4]

The Manchester Museum is owned by the University of Manchester. Sited on Oxford Road (A34) at the heart of the university's group of neo-Gothic buildings, it provides access to about six million items from every continent and serves both as a resource for academic research and teaching and as a regional public museum.


Outline of collections

"Stan" the T. rex at Manchester Museum on 4 November 2004 when he was first exhibited

Some of the main collections include[1]:

  • Archery - The Simon Archery Collection, ca. 2000 items, collected by Ingo Simon
  • Armour
  • Beetles (Coleoptera), ca. 900,000 specimens, collected by Hincks and others
New World
Eurasia and Africa


Early history

The first collections were assembled by the Manchester Society of Natural History, formed in 1821, and in 1850 the collections of the Manchester Geological Society were added.

Unfortunately by the 1860s both societies encountered financial difficulties and, on the advice of the great evolutionary biologist Thomas Huxley, Owens College (now the University of Manchester) accepted responsibility for the collections in 1867. The college was then in Quay Street and the museum in Peter Street. The old museum was sold in 1875 after the college had moved to its new buildings in Oxford Street.[2]

Former main entrance of Manchester Museum.

The college commissioned Alfred Waterhouse, the architect of London's Natural History Museum, to design a museum to house these collections for the benefit of students and the public on a new site in Oxford Road (then Oxford Street). The Manchester Museum was opened to the public in 1888. At the time all the scientific departments of the college were immediately adjacent.[3][4]

Two subsequent extensions mirror the development of the collections. The 1912 'pavilion' was largely funded by Jesse Haworth, a local textile merchant, to house the archaeological and Egyptological collections acquired through excavations he had supported. The 1927 extension was built to house the ethnographic collections. The Gothic Revival street frontage which continues to the Whitworth Hall has been ingeniously integrated by three generations of the Waterhouse family.

Later twentieth century

The University Dental Hospital of Manchester once stood next to the Museum: when it moved to the present hospital building the earlier one was used for scientific teaching and later still by the Manchester Museum which still occupies it.[5]

Recent history

In 1997 the Museum was awarded a £12.5 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and this, together with monies from the European Regional Development Fund, the University of Manchester, the Wellcome Trust, the Wolfson Foundation and other sponsors has enabled the Museum to undertake the refurbishment and building which opened in 2003.


In 2004 the museum acquired a reproduction cast of a fossil Tyrannosaurus rex which is mounted in a running posture.[6] "Stan" as he is called is based on the second most complete T. rex ever found and was excavated in 1992 in South Dakota, USA by Stan Sacrison.[citation needed]

Recent projects

These include Alchemy (2003 to current), a project initiating and facilitating artists' access to the Manchester Museum and the University of Manchester. Funded by Arts Council England it offers four Alchemy Artist Fellowships, curates artist interventions in the permanent galleries and facilitate artists research and the loan of The Manchester Museum's collections for contemporary art projects. Alchemy is the Museum's first sustained research programme for artists. Through supporting artists research and the creation of new work, Alchemy aims to reinvigorate Museum displays, encourage diverse approaches and present alternative voices.

In August 2007, a new temporary exhibition Myths About Race was opened.[7] Many Victorian institutions, including the Manchester Museum, are now viewed as having contributed to the same racist thinking that had justified slavery. As part of the Revealing Histories: Remembering Slavery project, it begins to explore the difficult and sensitive issues. Visitors are asked to question the displays in the rest of the Museum, and to help the Museum shape its future. Revealing Histories is part of a larger Greater Manchester initiative looking at the legacy and impacts of the slave trade.

In April 2008 a new exhibition opened at the museum lasting until April 2009, which had the Lindow Man on display. This exhibit has already been seen at the British Museum in London.[8]

Archaeological collections

The major collecting areas in archaeology have been Western Europe (including the British Isles), the Mediterranean, Egypt and Western Asia. Large accessions of material from Egypt and Western Asia came from the excavations of Sir Flinders Petrie and subsequently archaeologists from the University have been involved in several expeditions to Western Asia and brought more finds into the Museum. The Egyptological collections begin with finds from Kahun and Gurob, presented in 1890 by Jesse Haworth and Martyn Kennard. By 1912 the growth of this area had been so great that a whole new wing was added to allow proper accommodation for the Egyptian material and Jesse Haworth made a major donation of funds for this purpose. In more recent times the Egyptian Mummy Research Project, begun in 1973, has yielded much information on health and social conditions in ancient Egypt and radiology and endoscopy have been used extensively. A redesign of the galleries in 1984/85 resulted in much improved displays.[9]

Botanical collections

The Manchester Herbarium contains upwards of 950,000 specimens collected during the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries and most countries are represented by at least some specimens. Accessions are still made to the Herbarium and many specialist enquiries are received there. Only a small part of the collection is exhibited. Important contributions came from the work of Charles Bailey and James Cosmo Melvill and some of the specimens of Carolus Linnæus are included, as are some from the expeditions of Charles Darwin and Admiral Sir John Franklin. The small collection made by Leopold H. Grindon which includes many cultivated plants is also important.[10][11]

Ethnological collections

These are mainly from Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas: the total number of artefacts is about 16,000. In order of size the African comes first with nearly half the total, then the Oceanian which has about a quarter; after these the Asian collection and finally the American. The first large donation of material came from Richard Dukinfield Darbishire (1826–1908), beginning in 1904/05. During his remaining years Darbishire gave about 700 items, including ceramics from Peru and fine Eskimo carvings. In 1922 the large Oceanian and American collection of Charles Heape was donated by the collector: this amounted to about 1500 items. It included a comprehensive collection of weapons and paddles from the Pacific islands, mainly collected by missionaries and others, though some of the items from the Aborigines of Victoria were acquired while Heape was resident there. He probably did not collect items directly but acquired them later. More recently there is the Lloyd collection of Japanese metalwork, carvings and ceramics: these were the bequest of R. W. Lloyd who was also a benefactor of the entomological department. There are also two collections obtained in the field by professional anthropologists: Frank Willett collected pottery, masks and ritual regalia in Nigeria in 1956; Peter Worsley collected basketry and other items from the Wanindiljaugwa people of Groote Eylandt, Australia in 1952.[12]

Geological collections

The geological collections are of more than local importance and consist of more than 9,000 mineralogical specimens and several hundred thousand fossils. Approximately one twentieth of the collection is on exhibition and the remainder in storage but available for study by interested persons. Much of the collecting was done in the second half of the 19th century and notable among the collections are the David Homfray collection from the Cambrian and Ordovician strata of Wales; and the collections of George H. Hickling and D. M. S. Watson which are from the Silurian of the Dudley district, West Midlands and from the Old Red Sandstone. Many other specimens of great interest could be mentioned, such as the fossilised plants of the Coal Measures, the S. S. Buckman collection of ammonites, an ichthyosaur from Whitby and 40,000 mammalian bones from an excavation at Creswell Crags, Derbyshire. The David Forbes World Collection of minerals is in the Museum and since the 1920s there has been a policy of complementary collecting by the Museum and the University Department of Geology by which the Museum specialises in hard rock petrology.[13]

Other artefacts

Numismatic collection

The first coins came to the Museum in 1895 from the businessman Reuben Spencer (d. 1901) and the rest of his collection of European coins and commemorative medals in various metals was donated in instalments. Alfred Güterbock (d. 1916)first deposited and then bequeathed a small but very fine collection of Greek gold, silver and copper coins, 380 in all, together with some Roman coins. In the next forty years four important benefactions were made: first in 1912 from William Smith Churchill (European coins of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries); in 1925 William Smith Ogden's collection of antiquities, including large collections of Greek and Roman coins, was presented to the Museum; in 1939 Egbert Steinthal, honorary keeper of the coin room, presented his collection of English copper coins; and in 1958 came the bequest from Harold Raby of a magnificent collection of Greek and Roman coins. Harold Raby had succeeded Egbert Steinthal as honorary keeper and between them they were responsible for much work on the arrangement and identification of the coins.[14]

Simon Archery Collection

The nucleus of this collection of about 2,000 exhibits was formed by Ingo Simon and donated to the museum in 1946. Ingo Simon was an accomplished archer and spent many years researching the history of archery and the development of bows. From 1914 to 1933 he held the world record for a flight-shot at 462 yards; he died in 1964 and his widow Erna (lady world champion, 1937, d. 1973) endowed a trust to conserve and develop the collection. The collection includes artefacts from many countries including Great Britain, Brazil, Europe, India, Pakistan, Japan, Central Asia, Africa, and the Pacific islands.[15]

Zoological collections

Entomological collections

The Museum holds collections of specimens from many countries of the world amounting to nearly three million specimens. 10,500 type specimens (of 2,300 species) are held and additions are frequently made to the collection. The Coleoptera represent about half the total number of specimens in the collection. About 1,250,000 specimens constitute the British collections and only a small proportion of the known species are unrepresented. Harry Britten, assistant keeper 1918–1938, had a leading role in the development of this side of the collection. Coleoptera, Diptera and Hymenoptera specimens amount to some 1,100,000 in total. Of the Manchester Moth (Euclemensia woodiella) captured on Kersal Moor in 1829 one of only three specimens known to be in existence is here. The remainder of the collections is of foreign origin and the collections of W. D. Hincks and John R. Dibb contributed great quantities of specimens, particularly of Coleoptera. Coleoptera number some 900,000 out of an approximate total 1,750,000. The Chrysomedinae-Cassidinae collection of Franz Spaeth is the finest collection in the world of tortoise-beetles.[16]

Collection of molluscs

The Manchester Museum has the fourth largest molluscs collection in Britain with 166,000 lots.[17] The collection grew around that of the Manchester Society for the Promotion of Natural History, which acquired one of William Swainson's shell collections in 1825 and which also included the collection of Captain Thomas Brown.[17] Catalogue of type specimens was published in 2008.[17]

Type material is mainly found in the collections of Alexander Abercrombie (India), Robert Dukinfield Darbishire, Prof. Alfred Cort Haddon (Torres Straits), Reverend James Hadfield (Lifu, Loyalty Islands), Lewis John Shackleford (especially Marginella), George Cooper Spence (especially African land snails and Urocoptis and many specimens from Matthew William Kemble Connolly and Hugh Berthon Preston), Frederick W. Townsend (Persian Gulf), syntype material from the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition (1902–1904) and that received from the Smithsonian Institution in 1973 in exchange.[17]

Material from the collections of Alexander Abercrombie, Prof. Alfred Cort Haddon, Rev. James Hadfield, Lewis John Shackleford, Frederick W. Townsend and the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition was described by James Cosmo Melvill II. who had close connections with The Manchester Museum; many species were described together with Robert Standen of the museum.[17]

The bulk of James Cosmo Melvill's collection is housed in the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff and there is also type material in the Natural History Museum, London. The main collections from the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition described by Melvill are in the National Museums of Scotland, Edinburgh. Types from Matthew William Kemble Connolly's collection are also to be found in the Natural History Museum, London and the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff. Types from Hugh Berthon Preston's collection are widespread as he dealt in specimens; many are found in other British, European and American museums. The Wollaston collection, described by Richard Thomas Lowe, is distributed between the Natural History Museum (London), National Museum of Wales (Cardiff), Oxford University Museum of Natural History and Cambridge University Museum of Zoology. Type material from American authors including William Healey Dall, Henry Augustus Pilsbry and Paul Bartsch, is mainly to be found in the Smithsonian Institution (Washington DC), American Museum of Natural History (New York) and the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences.[17]

Notable members of staff

  • Harry Britten, assistant keeper of Entomology, 1918–1938
  • Rosalie David, Egyptologist
  • William Boyd Dawkins, geologist and archaeologist.
  • Michael Eagar, geologist, deputy director 1977–87[18]
  • Walter Medley Tattersall, zoologist, director 1909–22


This article incorporates CC-BY-3.0 text from reference.[17]

  1. ^ An index to collections is available online [1] (accessed Nov 2007)
  2. ^ Thompson, Joseph (1886) The Owens College: its Foundation and Growth. Manchester: J. E. Cornish; pp. 282–86
  3. ^ Charlton, H. B. (1951) Portrait of a University. Manchester: U. P.; chap. V
  4. ^ The History of the Manchester Museum, University of Manchester [2], accessed 25/11/2007
  5. ^ Hartwell, Clare; Hyde, Matthew, Pevsner, Nikolaus (2004). The Buildings of England: Lancashire: Manchester and the South-East. New Haven: Yale University Press. pp. 428–429. ISBN 0-300-10583-5. 
  6. ^ Stan the T-Rex facts, BBC, 03/11/2004
  7. ^ Revealing Histories: Myths About Race press release Aug 7, 2007, University of Manchester, [3]
  8. ^ Manchester Prepares for the Appearance of Lindow Man Culture24, February 2007, accessed 24/11/2009
  9. ^ The Manchester Museum (1985)
  10. ^ Manchester Museum. "The Herbarium". Retrieved 2009-10-05. 
  11. ^ The Manchester Museum. Derby: English Life, 1985; pp. 6–8
  12. ^ The Manchester Museum. Derby: English Life, 1985; pp. 11–13
  13. ^ The Manchester Museum. Derby: English Life, 1985; pp. 14–15
  14. ^ The Manchester Museum. Derby: English Life, 1985; pp. 16–17
  15. ^ The Manchester Museum. Derby: English Life, 1985; pp. 18–19
  16. ^ The Manchester Museum. Derby: English Life, 1985; pp. 9–10
  17. ^ a b c d e f g McGhie, H. A. (17 December 2008). "Catalogue of Type Specimens of Molluscs in the Collection of he Manchester Museum, The University of Manchester, UK". ZooKeys 4 (0): 1–46. doi:10.3897/zookeys.4.32. 
  18. ^ Coprolite; No. 41 (2003); p. 2

Further reading

  • The Manchester Museum. Derby: English Life, 1985 (24 pp.; col. illustrations and plan) ISBN 0-85101-249-3
  • The Manchester Museum. Manchester: the Museum, 1998 (22 pp.; col. illustrations and plan)

External links

Coordinates: 53°27′59″N 2°14′04″W / 53.46639°N 2.23444°W / 53.46639; -2.23444

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