Every May 18, International Museum Day celebrates museums and aims to raise awareness of how important they are to society. Greater Manchester is home to a number of museums and heritage sites – many of which feature quirky, interesting and thought-provoking items that you may not have known about. Here’s a look at just ten of them.
A statue that ‘moved by itself’
In 2013, curators at Manchester Museum installed a camera to watch one of their exhibits after it was found to be moving in its glass display case. The 10inch ancient Egyptian figure, which was found in a mummy’s tomb, was discovered to be rotating – with some quick to describe it as a curse. However, a few months’ later, an engineer discovered the cause of its motions: buses driving down Oxford Road!
The world’s oldest passenger railway station
Manchester’s links with the Industrial Revolution are well-known so it’s no surprise that the city has an important role in the history of rail travel. The buildings that now house the Museum of Science and Industry are those of the world’s oldest passenger railway station and MOSI offers steam train rides across the site to showcase just how the Liverpool and Manchester Passenger Railway revolutionised transportation forever.
Maude the Tigon
A rare cross between a lion and a tiger, Maude once lived in Manchester’s Belle Vue Zoo where she attracted many visitors. After she died in 1949, her skin was preserved and presented to Manchester Museum with the intention of being put on display but for reasons unknown, the work was never completed and Maude was left in storage. However, in 2015 the taxidermy work was finally finished and she went on display in the museum – more than 65 years after her death.
Maharajah the Elephant
Another former resident of Belle Vue Zoo that can be found at Manchester Museum is Maharajah, an Asian elephant. He was acquired by the owner of Belle Vue from a zoo which closed its doors in Edinburgh and famously walked from the Scottish capital to Manchester with his zookeeper. The 220 mile journey took ten days and Maharajah is said to have received a very warm welcome when he arrived in his new home.
A Victorian street
If you’ve ever wondered just what it was like to live in the Victorian era, you need to visit Lark Hill Place at Salford Museum and Art Gallery. An atmospheric site with the lighting mirroring a winter’s evening, the street features typical shops and homes of the period – including a pub, a chemist and a sweet shop. Originally created in 1957, Lark Hill Place features many authentic shop fronts that were restored during redevelopment of Salford.
JRR Tolkien’s revolver
The works of Lord of the Rings author JRR Tolkien are thought to stem back to his experiences in World War One. He fought at the frontline during the Battle of the Somme in 1916 and was sent home after contracting trench fever. He remained ill throughout the rest of the war, and it was during this time recuperating that he began writing the early versions of his Middle Earth stories. His experiences during the war are thought to have influenced his works, and his revolver is now on display at the Imperial War Museum North at Salford Quays.
A piece of the World Trade Center
The Imperial War Museum North not only focuses on WWI and WWII but also includes artefacts relating to more recent conflicts. One of the most haunting is a large section of twisted steelwork from the Twin Towers. It highlights the devastating impact of the events of September 11 2001.
A 1930s shop
The People’s History Museum aims to tell the story of democracy and one display you’ll find is a replica of a 1930s shop complete with items on the shelves and a till. It’s part of a section about the history of the co-operative movement which famously began in nearby Rochdale with the Rochdale Pioneers.
Probably Manchester Museum’s most iconic exhibit, Stan the T Rex dominates the fossils gallery and towers over visitors. Named after the palaeontologist who discovered the bones, the skeleton was excavated in 1992 in the US. Stan is now so popular that you can also choose to get married underneath him!
A Victorian police cell
Find out what it was like to get locked up during the Victorian period by visiting the Greater Manchester Police Museum. This quirky little museum in the site of the former Newton Street Police Station and still retains its original cells – complete with hard prison beds. It also has a Magistrates’ Court dating back to 1895. It’s worth noting that it’s generally only open on a Tuesday.