Taking Stock

Collection Review – Old Manchester

What is the Old Manchester Collection? 

It started with a 21st birthday. The Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society celebrated their coming of age with an exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery in 1904. It drew crowds. They knew it would, as their Relics of Olde Manchester and Salford had been a hit at the 1887 Manchester Royal Jubilee exhibition. Manchester had a proven appetite for its relics. Further exhibitions followed, in 1907 and 1909. The objects, whether print, photograph, medal or curio, represented an unspoilt, pre-industrial Manchester, or pride in the city’s growth and development. 

Queen’s Park Art Gallery, seen here in about 1890

The 1909 exhibition was held at Queen’s Park Art Gallery, in Harpurhey, and it was so popular that it remained in place until 1952. Manchester Art Gallery has always collected local history art, but the part of the collection called ‘Old Manchester’ is all about that first gift from the 1909 Antiquarian exhibition committee. 

How can these 1054 objects and images help us to understand the ever-changing city of Manchester? 

We will be working with Manchester-resident volunteers to consider this question. The volunteers will research the objects for one year, starting from May 2024.  Our goal is to document as much as we can, so that we can work out the best use for the collection. We will post updates here to let you know what we are finding out about Old Manchester – and maybe how it can help us to understand Manchester today.  

If you are interested in volunteering at Manchester Art Gallery, please register on the MCRVIP  website where we advertise all open opportunities. 

Thanks to National Lottery players for their support.