During its 250-year lifespan Platt Hall has been a domestic house, an art school, a police headquarters, a tea room, accommodation for European refugees, a labour camp for WW1 conscientious objectors and, from 1947, the Gallery of Costume, the world’s first dedicated museum of dress.
While it’s closed for redevelopment visit @mag_platthall for an enchanting peep behind the scenes, project updates and collection stories.
Why are we closed?
Platt Hall is currently closed for an essential programme of building preservation, structural improvement and collection care. To safeguard the building, and protect the extensive costume collection, Manchester City Council are funding much needed replacement and repair of the hall roof, and improved security. Gallery staff are continuing to work on the collection, and hope to open up access to it on an appointment basis once these building works are complete. In the meantime, work progresses on the development of a dedicated Fashion Gallery at Manchester Art Gallery, which will launch in February 2021 with a major exhibition on the male image and ‘dandy’ style.
Our longer term vision for Platt Hall is now underway thanks to research and development funding from the Esmee Fairbairn Collections Fund and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation. Platt Hall is a key historic landmark within the richly diverse neighbourhoods of Rusholme, Fallowfield and Moss Side. It has been many things in its 250-year lifespan: a domestic house, an art school, a police headquarters, a tea room, accommodation for European refugees, a labour camp for WW1 conscientious objectors. During the 1920s and 30s, it was one of Manchester’s six ‘branch galleries’, part of the city’s innovative strategy for taking art into domestic neighbourhoods. And, from 1947, it was the Gallery of Costume, the world’s first dedicated museum of dress. Today, Platt Hall embodies the material legacies of Manchester’s complex history of both radical innovation and social challenge. It has the potential to become a unique cultural space in the city.
We are putting communities and collections at the heart of Platt Hall’s redevelopment. Working with local residents, we aim to develop a unique museum with a social agenda – a place where the city’s diverse art collections come together with local talent, skill and knowledge to promote creativity, curiosity, well-being and community.
Part of that transformation includes essential support from volunteers, one of whom reflects on her experience here:
Becoming a volunteer at Platt Hall has proved to be a most rewarding and enriching experience. Not only has it re kindled my life long passion for textiles, cloth, historic costume and accessories, it has enabled me to practice and enhance my own existing, but dormant, practical skills. It is truly rewarding, in one’s retirement, to be granted a focus and a routine, but more importantly, to have an opportunity to interact with a younger generation of like-minded textile/ fashion enthusiasts.
I am amazed at the complexity of the museum staffs’ various roles and responsibilities as well as the fact that their jobs are not confined to Platt Hall alone! Being in contact with the Staff Team I am, myself, continuing to learn. Inspecting Platt Hall’s vast range of garments for pests and damage; moving them out from over crowded and unsuitable storage conditions; preparing special hangers and Tyvec covers for each piece has in itself been an education and a joy!
As the building and roof-works continue, so our work spaces move and change. Sometimes certain garments present particular problems, and the work can be quite physical at times…but always rewarding!
To witness the transformation within the building, as the armies of white Tyvek -covered garments increase, room by room is, in itself, immensely satisfying! It is testimony to our small, collective efforts.
In my working life, I used ,and encouraged my students to use, the Platt Hall collection, yet I had no idea of its immensity, or of the wealth of detail within it. It is truly an amazing and unique resource. I feel honoured to be allowed to volunteer and contribute to its care and preservation for future generations.