This is a blog about the redevelopment of the Manchester Museum’s current Mammal Gallery. The current gallery is one of the most popular in the museum and is unique in Manchester. It was designed by the same architect as the Natural History Museum in London. We have a really exciting new project to bring out the best of the gallery- the beautiful architecture, fantastic collections and exciting stories; the gallery is expected to open in mid 2011. Contributors to the blog are members of the team that are working on the development of the gallery’s content.
On this blog, we will be keeping people up to date with what we are doing, asking questions about this and answering questions that bloggers have about the project. The content development team consists of me, Henry McGhie- Head of Natural Environments team and Curator of Zoology (a mouthful, I know), Jeff Horsley- Head of Exhibitions and Presentation, Pete Brown- Head of Learning and Interpretation, Leander Wolestenholme- Curator of Botany, David Gelsthorpe- Curator of Palaeontology, Dmitri Logunov- Curator of Entomology and David Green- Curator of Mineralogy and Petrology. I’m leading on the development of content.
So why are we doing a new gallery if the current one is so popular? The answer is that the current gallery needs updating- the labels and style of interpretation are out of date (it was last redisplayed in the 1980s- the Polar Bear is from the USSR for example). Also, the gallery presents a very traditional view of natural history that doesn’t reflect current interests and the interpretation doesn’t engage well with visitors. The current gallery is based almost solely on facts and many of these have become out of date. What we- and certainly I- want us to do is to engage with visitors emotions as well.
There are some serious things we know are happening in the world- climate change, habitat loss, species extinction that we want to tell people a bit about. These can be extremely depressing and disempowering. If visitors don’t feel that their choices make a difference, then they are not inclined to do anything. So, what can each of us do (if we want to)? The answer is quite a lot- and a lot of people are doing things already. We want to work with our visitors to encourage them to reflect on their own attitudes to nature and the choices that they make, and to sign post them to activities that they might want to take part in.
Our new gallery is focused on a few basic points- that the natural world is full of incredible and fascinating things; that we are part of this world- we are part of nature, and that the choices we make matter.
We will be posting to this blog regularly.
I hope you find the blog interesting- and take part in its development.