Manchester Museum's £2.9m Lottery windfall green lights £5m development


Manchester Jewish Museum has secured a £2.9 million National Lottery grant towards a £5 million development that will double its size.

New galleries, learning spaces, a shop and café will be features of the enlarged museum, incorporating an extension alongside its former Sephardi synagogue building.
The Grade II*-listed synagogue building — built by Jewish textile merchants in 1874 — will also be repaired and restored as part of the project.

Planning permission has been received from Manchester City Council and building work will start towards the end of 2018 with a reopening in the summer of 2020. An additional £1.5 million has been raised to date towards the development.

During construction, the plan is to operate a pop-up museum within Manchester Central Library, bringing its collection to a wider audience.

Nathan Lee, head of Heritage Lottery Fund North West, said the museum building was “an extraordinary piece of 19th-century architecture, as well as the city’s oldest synagogue. This is one of Manchester’s most important historic buildings and our investment is set to bring it back to life for a new generation. Visitors will hear moving and uplifting stories about one of the UK’s oldest communities.”

The Lottery funding has been welcomed by writer and museum patron Howard Jacobson, who described it as “a vital resource, especially at a time when memories are shortening and histories are being lost.

“It’s a live museum, always showing you something that you didn’t know, always finding new ways to express what the city was and what the city is.”

Museum chief executive Max Dunbar told the JC that when news of the Lottery money was relayed to volunteers, “one of them broke down in tears because he was so excited. Emotions run high in this place and a lot of our volunteers have been with us from the beginning in 1984. This is a momentous time in our history. The buildings will be transformed into a world-class museum.”

The development will facilitate the display of more pieces from its collection of 31,000 items, ranging from personal letters and photos to Torah scrolls hidden from the Nazis.

“In such troubled times, it feels like the right step to develop the museum,” Mr Dunbar added. “The historic stories of Manchester’s Jewish community are also the stories of today. They tell of people forced to flee their homes, who settled in a new country to rebuild their lives. These stories remind us what happens when people, politics and religion drive us apart — and how a city like Manchester can bring people together.”

The digitising of the museum collection will also be part of the project and Mr Dunbar wants to get “as much online as we can. The website will be at the heart of our rebranding campaign.”

Fundraising will continue to bring in the money needed to finish the project.

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