A Visitor Team Day Out At Manchester Museum

Some of our Visitor Team Assistants recently took a trip to the newly re-opened Manchester Museum. Each person selected a favourite object, which they wrote a short piece on. Find out about the highlights of their visit and what you should keep an eye out for on your next visit to the museum!

Traveling in Style

Museum interpretation: Made in Dhaka, Bangladesh, this rickshaw is one of two that were commissioned by Manchester Museum. Three British artists, Daya Bhati, Saheba Shabnum and Helen Abdul, decorated the vehicle under the mentorship of Bangladeshi rickshaw artists, Syed Ahamed Hossan and Z.A. Saleh Zebermi. The rickshaw art was inspired by conversations about shared themes of culture, heritage and identity between South Asian communities in the UK and in South Asia. The international partnership was facilitated by the Uronto Artist Community.

During my trip to the museum, I explored their new and permanent South Asia gallery. Beautifully curated, the space explores South Asian and British Asian culture and celebrates the experiences and contribution of the South Asian diaspora. While all the objects told a story, I was particularly drawn to the vibrantly decorated rickshaw on display. When I saw the rickshaw, I was reminded of my travels some years back in north east Bangladesh. I remember my cousin, hailing two down for our party of four, the rickshaws were similarly decked out in bright colours and popular culture references. Gripping onto the side of the rickshaw, we weaved through the bazaar under a burgeoning sun. The rickshaw rider in his flip flops, rode the waves of noise, smell, people and animals that passed us by, and like threading a needle, would glide through the smallest gaps in the crowds, and come out the other side unscathed.

Whenever the rickshaw would slow down, I would pick up my camera and take as many pictures as I could, as though capturing these fleeting visions would slow time down enough for me to properly look at the minutiae of the everyday for these people. I would do this again when we ventured out in the dark evenings for food, capturing shuttered shops plastered with colourful posters, some faded by relentless beating of the sun. Sometimes we would be moving too fast and the camera would pick up only a blur of colour as though they were kicked up like dust. When I got home to England, my camera became a portal to those memories and that town and its people. But I realised quite quickly, that pictures just don’t do it justice. You have to see it for yourself. –Tahmina

Lessons From The Kākāpō

Kākāpō (Strigops habroptila) on display at Manchester Museum. IUCN Red list Status: Critically Endangered

The kākāpō grows to be about 2ft and is the heaviest parrot in the world. This bird is flightless, lives on the ground and historically has no natural predators. However, when European settlers arrived in New Zealand, the birds were hunted by these new inhabitants and the animals they introduced. The kākāpō’s populations declined severely but conservation programmes focusing on hand-rearing chicks and pest control have positively impacted their survival. The kākāpōs’ story is an important analogy about how we interact with nature, and our efforts, however small, can lay the foundations to recovery and regeneration. – Jason

Addressing Historical Omissions

The multilingual recruitment posters for the British Indian Army from 1914 on display in the South Asia Gallery were objects which caught my eye upon visiting the newly opened Manchester Museum.  

These posters each appeal to a sense of patriotism and duty, while promising wealth and prestige for those enlisting. Their messages instruct and implore: “This soldier is defending India.” “Who will take this uniform, money, and rifle?” “Look at this man. He is doing his duty to his King. He is demonstrating his bravery and making his family proud as well as earning more money than before.” 

74,000 soldiers from the Indian subcontinent died in the First World War, yet their contribution to the British War effort is still vastly under-acknowledged. 

The South Asia gallery was full of displays which corrected these historical omissions. – John

Beautiful Fractals

I choose the sea-fan coral as my favourite object, because of how much I love the intricacy of it combined with the subtle colour. I find museums very inspiring and fascinating for art and design ideas, particularly with regard to the displays of specimens from the natural world. I’m fascinated by the fact there are ‘technically’ no straight lines in nature (although it’s a debate that can get complicated). So, it could be a case of saying ‘almost’ unless we are talking at a quantum level. And the same type of patterns repeat across different species and natural phenomena.

This looks like a leaf or a plant, however, it’s an invertebrate marine organism. Each sea fan coral is made up of a colony of many creatures called ‘polyps’, which work together to feed on plankton in the water by using their feathery tentacles along a network of branch-like forms. Branches are a type of fractal pattern, which is a pattern that repeats at different scales. Apparently, these patterns are very special because they are aesthetically pleasing to our eyes- which are also made up of fractals. Different experiments have shown a physiological effect is produced that can reduce stress by up to 60 percent when they are experienced visually. –Debra

The Number Five

Basket star on display at Manchester Museum

I found myself extremely drawn to this beautiful basket star. A work of art in its own right, I love the intricacy of its long branch-like arms, now shrivelled and lifeless, but which would have once been reaching out into its watery world. As an ocean lover and a keen snorkeler, I have a fascination with marine inhabitants and a deep admiration for beauty found in nature. Basket stars are far ranging and can be found in all the world’s oceans, even in the Arctic and Antarctic regions. Some prefer deep ocean environments while others dwell in shallow tidal pools. The greatest concentrations can be found in the area of the ocean between Australia and Africa.

Basket stars typically anchor their central disc onto corals such as sea fans, as well as types of sponges, whilst the smaller species will cling onto seagrass. It feeds on passing prey, using its lengthy arms to catch its snack by keeping them in an outstretched position. Some basket stars can reach quite a good size, with arms up to 70cm in length. They can potentially live up to thirty-five years in the wild. Studying the anatomy of this basket star also got me thinking about the significance of the number five in nature and its reoccurring presence. The human hand with its five fingers and the human foot with its five toes. Echinodermata such as starfish, sea urchins and sea cucumbers are all five-actinomorphic, in other words; they are pentagonal and rotationally symmetrical. Many types of flowers can be found to have five petals and it occurred to me that when I doodle, I will always draw a flower with five petals and a star with five points. Perhaps five is a number is pleasing to the eye. – Lucy

An Old Friend

Stan, the cast of a Tyrannosaurus rex fossil skeleton.

First of all, I just wanted to say that it was very hard to pick a favourite item currently on display at Manchester Museum. The new galleries look amazing, and I love how they have also refreshed their existing spaces. I had such a nice time snooping around. That said, I am going to have to pick Stan; the cast of a Tyrannosaurus rex fossil skeleton. Seeing Stan is like seeing an old friend. I’m not sure you can call it a visit to the Museum without checking in on him. He is synonymous with the Museum. I love that dinosaurs are given pet names after the people who find their fossilised remains.

It is great to have Manchester Museum back. There has been a dramatic spike in families that I have spotted down at the gallery since they did reopen sporting designer dinosaur gear. When I clock this, or their dinosaur toys I can’t help myself but ask them how Stan was. – Ash

One thought on “A Visitor Team Day Out At Manchester Museum

  1. Great museum now open again. Such a smashing variety of objects and views from a VT team keen to keep eyes open, visit other exhibitions and enjoy what museums/ galleries are about.


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