Just returned from a short visit to Amsterdam to meet Opera, the designers working on the Ancient Worlds displays at the Manchester Museum. Opera are helping us to develop the second stage of a Heritage Lottery Bid. Last December Opera presented their initial ideas to develop the content of the Ancient Worlds galleries, which will open in October 2012.
The key idea we all really liked was to look at the past through the lives of characters, such as people with strong connections to the Museum, its collections and to archaeology in general, people such as William Boyd Dawkins, the first curator, or Barri Jones, whose excavations in the centre of Manchester redisc0vered the Roman origins of the city.
Some of the people could be historic characters, such as Worsley Man, whose head was found in a local peat bog in the 1950s or even an object or a piece of landscape. By engaging with a wide range of these characters visitors will be drawn into the displays and the various issues and topics of the discipline of archeaology (including Egyptology).
In Amsterdam we took this a bit further. It became clear that a disproportionate number of our collectors were middle-aged men with the money and leisure time to pursue archaeology (typically “men with beards”). Don’t get me wrong – I’m a middle-aged man myself ! We decided to change the approach slightly so the characters brought the story of archaeology in Manchester up-to-date by way of the more theoretical approaches that emerged from the New Archaeology of the 1970s.
The last couple of days has been a hectic round of editing and correcting the matrix ready to send back to Opera. With more visits booked in March and April this looks like it will develop very quickly.