As part of my feature ‘Summer Holidays on a Budget’ this post recounts our visit today to the Manchester Museum.
The Manchester Museum
At least three times a year, during the school holidays, I take my children here. Having daughter aged 15 and 3, it is often difficult to find an activity they can both enjoy. A trip to the museum certainly caters for them both (and me) and is a perfect day out on a rainy day such as today. Most museums have no entry fee and, if you take your own lunch and refreshments, they’re also a free day out. One factor that may eat into your budget is parking. Parking in Manchester City Centre comes at a premium, but if you can find a cheap car park and are willing to walk you can save yourself a small fortune.
Manchester Museum’s temporary exhibitions are housed close to the entrance. Today we explored ‘Object Lessons’. This collection featured objects which were used as science teaching tools in the 19th century.
There are always activities for the children in the Discovery Centre and this summer the theme of these activities in entitled ‘Story Explorers’. My children were encouraged to create a junk model and were given plentiful supplies – tissue paper, cardboard boxes, plastic cups, and then asked to write a story about their creation. My girls worked together to create a parrot. Although they disagreed as to which part was the head, the beak and the eyes!
There are a multitude of wonderful exhibits within the museum. The ground floor is home to the Rocks and Minerals as well as the Fossil exhibitions. A firm family favourite of ours is Stan the T-Rex.
The interactive displays and the ‘Please touch me’ signs are a great addition to the Rocks and Minerals displays.
The first floor is my favourite floor – it is full of varied and interesting displays. Firstly, I grew up with tales about the famous ‘Belle Vue’ zoo (opened in Manchester in 1836 and closed in 1977). To this day my grandad still talks about the animals he saw there as a child with great enthusiasm. The ‘Manchester Gallery’ contains a number of bones or stuffed animals from this zoo. The main feature of this exhibition is the skeletal remains of Maharaja – an elephant whose keeper walked him from Edinburgh zoo to Belle Vue in 1872 because the train journey would have been uncomfortable for the elephant as well as a public hazard.
As a medieval historian, I always make a bee-line for the ‘Living Cultures and Archery’ exhibit – I love the collection of bows they have.
My children’s favourite without doubt is the ‘Ancient World’s’ section. This houses mummies and certainly captured my imagination as a child too. Alongside mummies, the museum displays some excellent artefacts. When my daughter Kerri was younger, we made this exhibition the topic of a summer project on the Egyptians.
The ‘Living Worlds’ collection raises some interesting questions about how we humans impact the environment. My favourite is undoubtedly the skull of Manchester’s own, Old Billy, reportedly the oldest horse in the world!
A wide range of stuffed animals are also displayed here.
‘The Vivarium’ houses some tiny colourful frogs.
‘The Ancient Worlds’ collection as well as the money exhibit are also on this floor.
The third floor contains few objects but gives children the opportunity to engage in some activities. When we have visited previously, staff have conducted craft activities, however today we must have been too late. The girls did enjoy playing with a microscope.
The gift shop sells some surprisingly reasonably priced toys and books, what I would call ‘pocket money toys’. There is a café with a large seating area for those wishing to purchase food and drinks. We ate our lunch in the picnic area located in the basement. It is a pleasant space with ample seating. Generally, throughout the building there are plenty of seats and also toilets located throughout. The staff are friendly, helpful and knowledgeable about all the objects. They are always on hand to answer any questions you may have.
I would highly recommend a visit to the Manchester Museum – it’s a family friendly environment and a great way to spend a rainy day.2