So I am spending this week away from Scotland, and adventuring down to England! I have a five-day study trip to the city of Manchester for my Museum’s in the Making course. We are spending the week visiting various museums and getting tours from different curators, which is my favourite part of my program!! The journey itself took only a little over three hours by train to get to Manchester Piccadilly station from Glasgow Central. The city of Manchester is the third largest city in the U.K., with a population of around 2.55 million (so a little bigger than Saint John, New Brunswick).
We arrived Monday evening to settle in, before starting our museum visits. Tuesday morning we were not required to be anywhere until 1:50pm, so a friend and I decided to spend the morning at the Chetham Libray. The Chetham Library is the oldest public library in the English speaking world, which was established in 1653.
We had the sweetest tour guide take us around the library, who told us all sort of stories about the different books that are a part of the Chetham collection. After being a tour guide myself, I have learned how important it is to go on guided tours at historical locations, you honestly learn so much more than you ever would going around a location or exhibit on your own. The Chetham collection holds more than 100,000 volumes of printed books, of which 60,000 were published before 1851. The collection includes a first edition book of Homer’s The Odyssey (which I have actually read), works by Newton, and many important ecclesiastical works. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels used Chetham as a meeting place in the summer of 1845, which eventually led to their publication of The Communist Manifesto in 1848! They have the books that Marx and Engels used on display on a little table of their own.
The first official museum we visited on this trip was the Museum of Science and Industry. The Museum of Science and Industry was established in 1983, and it focuses on the industrial impact on Manchester through exhibitions based on textile production, the railway, aircraft, robotics, and computers. We were lucky enough to get to go downstairs and look at the archives with one of their curators. The curator had set out tables of books that were filled with textile swatches and fashion designs dating back to 1814 (that is the book I am looking at below!!!)
There were also different books that were dying manuals that we got to look at as well. I was pretty excited about that because I did a presentation on the invention of the aniline dyes last semester. The aniline dyes (or synthetic dyes) were first invented by Wiliam Perkins accidentally in 1853 when he created “Perkins Purple,” and below I got to hold one of his notebooks of different recipes he used to create coloured dyes!!
So day one of visiting Manchester was a huge success and I am sure the next few days will be as well! If you are interested in learning more about what my Master’s program is up to make sure you check out the Instagram account: @uofgdresshistory