Sold-out opening weekend for Manchester Jewish Museum - Museums Association

Sold-out opening weekend for Manchester Jewish Museum

Venue welcomes the public back after £6m redevelopment
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Geraldine Kendall Adams
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The £6m redevelopment includes a new extension and the restoration of the museum's former synagogue
The £6m redevelopment includes a new extension and the restoration of the museum's former synagogue Joel Chester Fildes

Visitors got their first glimpse of the redeveloped Manchester Jewish Museum over the weekend after a two-year closure.

The venue welcomed the public back on 2 July following a £6m redevelopment. Reduced numbers under Covid restrictions meant tickets were in high demand, with the museum celebrating a sold-out opening weekend.

The institution tells the stories of the Jewish people and communities of Manchester. The lottery-funded redevelopment includes an extension designed by Citizens Design Bureau that has doubled the museum in size, with a new gallery, shop, cafe, learning studio and kitchen.

The former Spanish and Portuguese synagogue has been fully restored Joel Chester Fildes

The capital project also saw the renovation and restoration of the museum's 1874 Grade II* Listed former synagogue, which will serve as a “living artefact” and a cultural space for live events.

The redevelopment took food as a starting point and a “unifying force between cultures”. Visitors to the vegetarian kosher-style café will be able to discover more about the history and traditions of Jewish food while they eat. There is also an adjacent learning kitchen where schools and community groups can cook, bake and explore Jewish food culture together as part of the museum’s food programme.

Visitors can discover the history and traditions of Jewish food in a new learning kitchen (left) and cafeJoel Chester Fildes

A new Journeys, Communities and Identities gallery, designed by All Things Studio, has enabled much more of the museum's 31,000-strong collection to be displayed. Features in the gallery include a floor map of Cheetham Hill - the culturally diverse district where the museum is located - as well as moveable digital labels and a collection of oral histories telling the stories of Jewish Mancunians.

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Also on display is Turner Prize-winning artist Laure Prouvost’s new installation, The Long Waited, Weighted, Gathering, which was co-commissioned by Manchester Jewish Museum and Manchester International Festival and will remain in place until October.

The Journeys, Communities and Identities gallery Joel Chester Fildes

The redevelopment has integrated a number of sustainable features into the new and the original museum buildings, reducing its energy use and carbon intensity by around 20%.

Museum CEO Max Dunbar said: “Whilst just two years in the making in terms of construction and design, this redevelopment has been a long labour of love spanning almost a decade. Integral to this rebuild and renovation has been a desire for the new museum to fit into its cultural landscape architecturally and to be a place to explore what connects us all.

“This was about creating a space for dialogue across difference, using the museum’s collection to spark debate and explore both shared and unique stories from diverse communities. Creating a new and accessible entrance and launching a brand new vegetarian cafe were both key to making sure that everyone regardless of faith, background or culture would feel genuinely welcome to experience the museum in its entirety. We are so proud of our results.”

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