The hello future project will be completed next year

There was a bit of a stir when we reported back in 2021 that Manchester Museum would be closed for up to a year. The UK's largest university museum is a staple of school-trip memories and its temporary loss was keenly felt.

Stans of Stan (the dinosaur) and aficionados of curios will be relieved to hear the museum has announced its reopening date - but unfortunately, it is closed for longer than the year originally planned. Instead, the museum will now be open to the public again in February 2023.

The South Asia Gallery At Manchester Museum
The South Asia Gallery Image: University of Manchester

A museum on a mission 

The museum’s mission statement is to "build understanding between cultures and a more sustainable world". To this end, its owner University of Manchester has commissioned a £15 million revamp, called hello future. With a classic Victorian building to contend with and stacks of intricate and precious objects in the collections to preserve, it's a massive undertaking. So for those who can't wait until  February, we have some details of how the museum will look.

The new look will begin at the beginning, of course, with an entrance on Oxford Road leading to a Welcome Area that will feature "extraordinary objects". A ramp will improve accessibility while signage and wayfinding throughout the museum will also be more inclusive. The main hall will be large enough for events and feature a pop-up coffee shop.

Next on our imaginary tour is the Belonging Gallery, which will be the first gallery visitors see as they make their way from the entrance hall to the first floor. The aim of the gallery will be to draw on the museum’s diverse collections to explore how humans, plants and animals can create a sense of belonging in a place, community or environment.

The headliner is the new South Asia Gallery - the first-ever permanent exhibition space in the UK dedicated to exploring the stories, experiences, and contributions of South Asian communities. The space is has been created in partnership with the British Museum, but, rather than being a traditionally curated gallery, is co-curated with 31 people who are not museum or gallery professionals. Instead, they are of predominantly South Asian heritage and use their lived experiences to inform the direction of the gallery.

Belonging Gallery At Manchester Museum Comic Credit To Zorika Gaeta
A new Belonging Gallery will include objects and comic art Image: Zorika Gaeta

A space for the community

Another must-see will be the Lee Kai Hung Chinese Culture Gallery. It will explore the rich cultural heritage, historic and contemporary links between Manchester and China through rarely seen collections, personal stories and international research.

At the heart of the gallery, there will be a "community hub", which will be a welcoming space for gathering and activities. The museum will also gain inclusive facilities including Changing Places accessible toilets, a multi-faith prayer space, a quiet room, a therapy space, and a picnic area. 

The top floor of the museum is now a co-working hub for environmental and inclusive educational organisations to hold regular sessions or one-off events. A new Education Suite will include a teaching studio, learning space and a stunning greenhouse with a dedicated space for discussions, debate and action.

And of course, we had to ask about what's happening to the all-important cafe? Cafe Muse will be getting a full refurbishment and we will be investigating the new menu as soon as it reopens.

The museum also plans to contribute to the conversation on climate change and embrace sustainable practice. Air quality monitors will be installed on the roof and will feed directly down onto a display on air quality and collections in the gallery as well as working with schools on recording the air quality levels in the roads around them.

Manchester Museum’s Director Esme Ward said: "Despite the challenges we have faced during the pandemic, our team and partners have never lost faith in our vision for a reimagined Manchester Museum that is more caring, inclusive and imaginative. 

“We’re incredibly grateful to our visitors and communities for their patience while we undergo this huge transformation, and we can’t wait to reopen our doors in 2023."

Throughout the closure, the museum is holding online and pop-up events, and the collections are available to explore online.

The first planned exhibition for the 2023 reopening is Golden Mummies. Glittering gold and mysterious mummies are among Ancient Egypt’s most iconic relics. The Golden Mummies of Egypt exhibition presents eight extraordinary mummies and also explores beliefs about the afterlife when Egypt was part of the Greek and Roman worlds.

Manchester Museum, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, M13 9PL will reopen February 2023

Read now: Things to do with kids in Manchester February half term 2022

Read again: Affleck’s celebrates 40 years with open portrait exhibition

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