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Councillor Amesbury's Open Letter On City History

Councillor in charge of culture and leisure speaks up

Published on January 16th 2012.

Councillor Amesbury's Open Letter On City History

This is an open letter to Manchester from Councillor Mike Amesbury, the Executive Member for Culture and Leisure, in response to our Manchester Gallery close article last week.

WHEN I took up my post as Executive member for Culture and Leisure in 2008, two conversations remained with me. One with Professor John Pickstone, whose passion and enthusiasm for a Manchester Histories Festival to tell the Manchester story persuaded me to support this, and the second was with Jonathan Schofield, the Confidential editor and Blue Badge tour guide, who argued that there needed to be a coherent narrative in the city for visitors and locals about Manchester History.

Archives+ will draw in new audiences, we hope there will be two million visits each year to Central Library, and that we will then encourage them to go on to visit other museums, libraries and archives across the city region.

Much has happened since then. The first Manchester Histories Festival was a success with over 4,000 people taking over their Town Hall to celebrate our radical and pioneering contributions to the world.

The second one will be even bigger and better taking place from 23 February to 4 March (click here. www.manchesterhistoriesfestival.org.uk).

Mike AmesburyCllr Mike AmesburyThe establishment of the Manchester Histories Strategy, was in a large part a result of the Manchester Histories Festival. During the autumn of 2009, cultural and heritage partners from across the city of Manchester prioritised the need to make better sense of the rich, disparate histories of Manchester and the city region, in order to strengthen how these stories are told and to engage more residents and visitors with them and strengthen a sense of place.

I cannot, of course fail to mention the success of Manchester Day, a parade that has revived the spirit of the great civic and political processions of Manchester’s past.

Moving forward, as Manchester unashamedly does, our multi million pound transformation of the much loved Central Library will tell the historical story of Manchester louder and prouder than ever before.

Manchester City Council submitted a Round 1 application to the Heritage Lottery Fund in April 2011, to obtain additional funding for Archives+ at Manchester Central Library. This Round 1 application has been successful in securing initial support for a £1.6m Heritage Lottery Fund grant.

The major new Archives+ initiative in the Central Library, will raise awareness of and provide easy access to Manchester’s histories for the broadest possible audiences -existing and new ones. The project will make archives more accessible by creating exciting interpretive exhibition spaces to provide new ways for more people to discover the richness and relevance of archives, share their own stories and have a personalised experience of the city region’s history. A new learning programme will help people learn about and enjoy this nationally important collection comprising 10km of items some dating from the 12th century, including parchments, leather-bound volumes, photographs, glass negatives, film archives and over 50,000 rare books.

Archives+ won't be a Museum of Manchester - in fact it challenges that very idea. Do we need a museum when we can see the city is already its own museum? This new approach seems much more in keeping with Manchester as the original modern city.

Archives+ will draw in new audiences, we hope there will be two million visits each year to Central Library, and that we will then encourage them to go on to visit other museums, libraries and archives across the city region.

Obtaining funding on this scale from the Heritage Lottery Fund is a two-part process, and a successful outcome to the Round 2 application later this year will be needed to secure the full £1.6m. In the meantime, work on the detailed Development Phase of the project has begun and a specialist exhibition designer has been appointed to enable detailed design of archive exhibition areas to commence.

So three cheers to a great future celebrating our proud past.

Councillor Mike Amesbury
Manchester City Council

Display Boards 004New history board in Castlefield

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AnonymousJanuary 18th 2012.

Maybe the City is it`s own museum but I am fed up with giving a brief tour of one of the conservation areas. Where are the interpretation panels, instead of the giant sexy (except for the gay one!! not my type) posters which surround a dead building site! Please tell us Mike!

JS3January 18th 2012.

We have a lot to offer to tourists, it just isn't marketed or maintained well at all! The Artisan markets in Castlefield are a step in the right direction to revive Castlefield, why aren't they being promoted more by MCC?

John PickstoneJanuary 26th 2012.

Mike, Thanks for the kind words.
I'm confident that Archives Plus (and Manchester Art Gallery) will display intriguing particulars of Manchester history. I'm hoping they will also project wider views of the city's past and present -- in ways which can impress tourists and Mancunians, young and old. I'm concerned that with the mothballing of Heaton and Wythenshawe halls, we are gradually losing access to the impressive collections of local historical artwork held by the City. But let's be optimistic: with new money for Renaissance and new connections for MOSI, these could yet be historically creative times.

Meanwhile, see you at the 2nd Manchester Histories Festival, Feb 24th to March 3rd, manchesterhistoriesfestival.org.uk ,
and let's hope we can continue to support our wonderful director, Claire Turner, in building an incomparable, year-round network linking all who care about Manchester's continuing history.

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