Manchester Jewish Museum has moved temporarily into the basement of Manchester Central Library for the next two years as building work starts on the major extension of its historic Cheetham Hill building,thanks in part to a £2.89m National Lottery Heritage Fund Grant.

The museum is currently housed in a former synagogue on the edge of Manchester city centre. It will close for two years  to allow for the extensive building transformation. During this time, the museum is moving its collections into the city centre – creating an interactive pop-up Jewish Museum in the centre of Manchester for the very first time – from Tuesday 16 July.

Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council, said:

“I’m delighted to be opening the pop-up Jewish Museum in Central Library. The museum plays such a valuable role in bringing communities together, celebrating cultural diversity across Manchester. I’m very much looking forward to seeing the museum’s temporary city centre home, ahead of their exciting reopening in 2021”.

Museum objects, historic photographs and recordings are on display at Central Library to tell and share the story of Jewish Manchester. An ‘object selection machine’ designed by artist, Kirsty Harris, has been created specially for this new space to enable visitors to interact with and explore the museum’s collection. Objects inside the machine will include a World War One policemen’s truncheon, a 19th Century muff maker and a 1940s kosher ration book. Storytelling performances will bring these objects to life.

Alongside the ‘object selection machine’is  a ‘synagogue in a box’. Designed for schools visiting the Library, children will use art & craft materials to transform the library space into their own bespoke synagogues and, in the process, learn about the Jewish faith and worship.

Whilst based in Central Library the museum is also running a community outreach programme across Greater Manchester. Food, music and storytelling activities will be held in community centres, museums and libraries across the region. The ‘synagogue in a box’ will also be taken out to schools, giving children the opportunity to transform their classrooms into their very own bespoke synagogues.

The building within which the museum currently operates is a former synagogue – the oldest in Manchester. Built in 1874 by Jewish textile merchants, the Spanish and Portuguese synagogue has been described as a “jewel” by architectural historians. But the historic building needs urgent repairs. The development project will help repair and restore the Grade II* listed synagogue to its original architectural splendour.

Supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and thanks to National Lottery Players, the development project will also double the museum’s current size, creating a new gallery, café, shop and learning studio. The new museum will open in 2021.

Commenting on the move to Central Library, Museum Chief Executive, Max Dunbar, said:

“We’re thrilled to be moving into such a busy and prestigious venue as Central Library. With over 1.5million Library users a year, we will be able to share the stories of Jewish Manchester with even more people, building up excitement ahead of our grand re-opening in 2021. We’re extremely grateful to the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Arts Council England and Manchester City Council for making this move possible”.

The pop-up Manchester Jewish Museum is now open to the public and will be open Mon-Thurs (9am-8pm) and Fri-Sat (9am-5pm).

The Jewish Museum in Cheetham Hill closed to the public on Sunday 30 June.

A full programme of events for Central Library will be announced in due course.


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