Sunday saw the first anniversary and a very special birthday for Archives+, the successful project delivered by Mather & Co. at Manchester Central Library.
In the last 12 months Archives+ has seen over 800,000 visitors, 29,420 film views, 4,510 virtual postcards sent and 93,337 views of the Archives+ blog and website.
As far back as 2003 MBE Vicky Rosin, Director of Libraries at the time, had envisaged bringing together a mixture of archive and family history into one building.
The road for Archives+ was a long one. The original proposal saw the collection housed in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, but following an unsuccessful HLF bid in 2007 the entire project was relocated to Manchester Central Library in 2008.
Finally in 2012 Archives+ secured a £1.55m Heritage Lottery Fund grant and there was light at the end of the tunnel.
The vision was to create an interactive display that threw off the ‘stuffy image’ associated with archives and appeal to a younger audience. We wanted to engage with a digitally-aware generation whilst also increasing visitor numbers from 50,000 to 500,000 per year.
The design brief was to create a ‘wow factor’, but not detract from the beautiful architecture of Manchester Central Library. We built a truly living archive and combined the information with a social café space, for an informal vibe.
Archives+ has been praised with fantastic reviews, in particular the use of digital interactivity.
Neil MacInnes, Head of Library and Information Services, said:
“We’re offering the best of what museums and galleries do, but in a library setting – I don’t know anywhere else that does this.”
From a full-height virtual library stack, to the ghost of the first librarian, Archives+ has it all in an interesting, accessible and, most importantly, fun way.
It has been a fantastic year for the exhibition, which has just won The Edge Library Digital Award 2015 and now nominated for the Museums and Heritage Innovation Award 2015. Visitor numbers have continued to grow and there seems no sign of it ever slowing down.