Work on a new South Asian gallery and touring exhibitions space will begin this August

It was December 2015 when George Osbourne announced £5 million towards a new South Asian gallery at Manchester Museum. Now the project will finally be realised, with confirmation of £4,215,800 from Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

Revealed last week, the HLF grant - together with Osbourne’s initial pledge - will help fund the museum’s ambitious £12.7m ‘Courtyard Project’ transformation, designed by architect Purcell and named for its location in the existing courtyard. 

As well as the South Asian Gallery, the scheme includes a new space for temporary exhibitions and enhanced accessibility, including an entrance on Oxford Road.

Following a successful planning application in January, work is due to begin this August, and the finished building will reopen in late 2020.

2018 05 08 Manchester Museum Purcell
The proposed Oxford Road entrance Purcell

The Courtyard Project transformation

  • A new South Asian gallery, in partnership with The British Museum

The North of England’s first large-scale gallery of South Asian history and culture, this will showcase the best of Manchester Museum’s own South Asian collections; as well as sculpture, textiles and artefacts from the British Museum.

It will be the UK’s first permanent gallery to explore the stories, experiences and contributions of diaspora communities. At the heart of the 3000 sq ft gallery will be a performance space, showing live music, dance and performance from and inspired by South Asia. 

  • A major new Temporary Exhibitions Gallery

Enabling the museum to become northern England’s leading venue for exhibitions on human cultures and the natural world, this 421m2 space will host ‘world-class’ touring exhibitions.

  • Enhanced accessibility

Including a new Oxford Road-facing entrance, welcome area and shop to create a more visible and welcoming first impression. Particular emphasis will be placed on accessible design for older visitors and people with a disability.

2018 05 08 Manchester Museum University Of Manchester
The new galleries will be located in the museum courtyard (facing Coupland Street) Manchester University

Underpinning the transformation will be a co-created participatory programme which addresses some of the key issues of our time - including climate change, ageing, migration and belonging - this will extend the museum’s award-winning volunteering work, and help reach new audiences.

Already the UK’s largest university museum, Manchester Museum attracts around 430,000 visitors annually with its collection of archaeology, anthropology and natural history. After the transformation, staff expect to receive ‘hundreds of thousands’ more visitors, including an additional 11,000 school children each year

2018 05 08 Manchester Museum
Inside the new South Asian Gallery Manchester Museum

Esme Ward, who recently became the museum’s first female director, said: “With new world-class spaces for extraordinary objects and stories, more volunteering opportunities and imaginative partnerships, Manchester Museum will reflect and explore the needs, interests and opportunities of the diverse communities we serve. 

"The project will develop and transform the museum to bring more wonder and inspiration from around the world to the people of Greater Manchester and beyond."

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said: “As Mayor I’ve pledged to support our thriving cultural institutions across Greater Manchester. We must continue to invest in our cultural facilities, not only to attract new visitors from the UK and beyond, but for the benefit of people across our city-region. 

"Manchester Museum acts as a community hub and through this Heritage Lottery funding this inclusive museum is able to expand and continue to provide opportunities for all communities across Greater Manchester.”