Liverpool university to get new museum and gallery

Deborah Mulhearn, Issue 105/11, p6, November 2005
The University of Liverpool has announced plans to create a new museum and art gallery at its city centre campus.
The museum will bring the university's art and other collections under one roof for the first time and will be accessible to the public.

The landmark Victoria Building, designed in the early 1890s by the architect Alfred Waterhouse, will be adapted to house the collections.

It was originally the university's teaching and administrative centre and is credited with inspiring the term 'redbrick university'. The existing university art gallery will relocate from its nearby Georgian terraced house.

'We will have much more space in a fine building that lends itself well to public circulation and display and provides immediate access,' said Matthew Clough, the curator at the university.

'The plan is to pull together our mainly object-based collections from the various departments and to provide curatorial care.' There are plans to increase the number of curatorial and support staff.

The collections include a broad range of objects, mostly related to research and development at the university over the years, as well as quirky collections such as early calculating machines and mathematical typewriters, engineering equipment and instruments and material relating to work done at Liverpool on atomic fission.

On the arts side, there are rare paintings by John James Audubon, the author of Birds of America, which will be displayed in a permanent gallery. There will also be a new gallery for works on paper.

The building has a large, double height entrance foyer and a high-ceilinged lecture hall upstairs that will house the objects; artworks will be displayed in smaller rooms. 'It's an imposing building from the outside and appears to be of huge internal dimension,' said Clough.

'But it is surprisingly domestic in scale, and this suits the mainly small-scale nature of the art collections, which include watercolours and fine furniture.'

Clough said National Museums Liverpool had provided support on areas such as advice on moving diverse collections. 'There are many thousands of items and part of the process has been seeing exactly what we have and getting the collections into shape,' he added.

The first phase will be launched to coincide with Liverpool's 2008 Capital of Culture celebrations. 'The driver for the project is 2008, but the university also recognises the importance of preserving its heritage in the widest sense and of making it publicly accessible,' said Clough.

Deborah Mulhearn