Transforming the way people engage with archives
Archives+ is an exciting new type of public space in Manchester, bringing together and integrating Manchester’s varied archive heritage from a number of key partners across the city. It formed a central part of the £50m refurbishment of Manchester Central Library and was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. A key part of the design brief was to allow visitors to engage with archives in new and exciting ways.
In the first of its kind in a library setting, this project encourages interaction by throwing off the ‘stuffy image’ associated with archives . The design is an original blend of exhibition and social café space that provides areas for groups to socialise whilst viewing archive materials or relaxing with a coffee. Visitors can create, contribute and respond to events past and present in Manchester, making it a truly living archive. Archives+ highlights include a giant ‘Virtual Stack’, which transforms visitors into archivists and allows them to ‘open’ archive boxes, a 3D Google type map where visitors can find historic events that took place locally and a ghostly guided tour of the libraries of Manchester by the first library manager Edward Edwards, who gives his account of the changes to Manchester since the first UK public library opened here in 1852.
Upstairs in the first floor reading room, objects from the special collections are displayed in two large glass showcases under the beauty of the Central Library dome and, at basement level, a new temporary exhibition space displays changing community exhibitions and programmes.
Manchester City Council
— Neil MacInnes, Head of Library and Information Services, Manchester Central LibraryWe were extremely impressed by their vision and ability to start to interpret our brief. Their vision excited the team from day one and they were a delight to work with, extremely professional at all times. I believe they met the brief and more and the finished product actually exceeded my expectations.