Coral brain. Credit: Manchester Museum

Manchester Museum to open space for "imagining, exploring and thinking"

Rebecca Atkinson, 12.08.2015
The Study aims to encourage enquiry-led learning
A new space combining collections research, art exhibitions and cutting-edge technology will open at Manchester Museum next month following a £700,000 redevelopment of the 18th-century building’s top floor.

The Study will incorporate a gallery, a study centre for in-depth research and an area for "imagining, exploring and thinking".

Menaka Munro, the museum’s learning manager and project lead for the Study, said the aim was to create a social learning space where people can use the tools and resources on offer to pursue their own research or learning.

“The challenge was whether the principles of enquiry-led learning, which the museum already uses across its programmes, could be translated into a physical space,” she said.

The Study is divided into five areas: Share, where uses can share physical objects such as books or access a digital wall of social media activity; Make, which will feature a craft table and a programme of courses run by not-for-profit organisation Manchester Craft Mafia; Sense, a contemplative space; Discover, where people can research objects by speaking to curators or consulting a reference collection; and Wonder, which will feature objects from the collection designed to inspire visitors.

Interior designers Ben Kelly Design (BKD) and architects Wilson Mason have opened up the space with new roof lights and windows, and restored some of the original features, such as ebony-black display cases that cluster around a central atrium.

The museum also commissioned BKD to create bespoke furniture. State-of-the-art equipment, such as a video microscope that is capable of sharing still images to Twitter, will be available for people to use.

“The Study is an extremely important project for Manchester Museum,” said Nick Merriman, the museum's director. “It will be a wonderful and inspiring new space, which combines cutting-edge research into contemporary science and human and natural history, with the widest possible access and opportunities for new thinking.”

The Study will open with The Phantoms of Congo River, an exhibition by the photographer Nyaba Ouedraogo, and a live research project into alternative food production featuring an aquaponics installation created by tech start-up Biospheric Studio. The fish tank filled with carp is capable of generating the nutrients needed to grow mint plants.

The Study has been funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport/ Wolfson Museums and Galleries Improvement Fund; Arts Council England’s Designation development fund; the Garfield Weston Foundation; the Mercer’s Charitable Foundation; and alumni and Friends of the University of Manchester.

It will be free for visitors to use and opens on 11 September.