The Power Hall at the Science and Industry Museum – one of the most beloved industrial heritage galleries in the country – is to be restored to full working condition. Announced in the museum’s 50th birthday year, the transformation is part of an ambitious, multi-million-pound long-term plan to reveal how the ideas explored at this historic site have changed the world.
The museum is embarking on a programme of work including major repairs to the roof and a redisplay of the gallery content. The transformed displays will explore the ongoing relationship between humans, machines and power at this historic site in the heart of the world’s first industrial city.
The urgently-needed work on the roof will be completed thanks to a £6m contribution from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. Further funding for the redisplayed gallery content and returning the machines to steam has been provided by the Science Museum Group.
The Grade II listed Power Hall was built in 1855 as the shipping shed for Liverpool Road Station, the world’s first purpose-built passenger railway station. The building houses Europe’s largest collection of working steam engines, the majority of which were built in Manchester.
The restored Power Hall will show how Manchester rose to be a player on the world stage, through the stories of the people who built and maintained the amazing machines on display.
The project will take two years, with the Power Hall reopening in Summer 2021. Visitors will be able to watch the teams undertake extensive training to get the steam-powered engines back up and running.
Sally MacDonald, Director of the Science and Industry Museum, said: “The Power Hall is one of our most evocative and impressive galleries. The sound of the machines working, and the whistle and smell of the steam as it drives them, is a truly incredible experience and one that we know our visitors love. This project will allow us to not only carry out much-needed repairs, but also transform the Power Hall into a multi-sensory gallery showing how Manchester provided the power that changed the city and the world – from the way we work to the consumer society we live in.
“Human skill and ingenuity made it possible to apply power to industry, transforming the way we live and work forever.
“The Power Hall will be a place where everyone can enjoy sharing a visit, find in-depth stories, and have a great experience. And you’ll be able to see how we keep them running too – we’re opening up our workshop areas, so you’ll be able to see our team working on the exhibits.”
Arts Minister Rebecca Pow said: “The UK has world-class museum collections and our industrial heritage in particular should be accessible and enjoyed by everyone. I am delighted that DCMS is able to support the refurbishment of Power Hall so that we can celebrate Manchester’s industrial history and inspire the engineers of the future.”
The Science and Industry Museum site on the site of the Liverpool Road Station terminus of the Liverpool Manchester Railway, the world’s first purpose-built passenger railway. Among its globally important buildings are the world’s first passenger railway station and the oldest existing railway goods warehouse. In total there are two Grade I listed buildings and four Grade II listed buildings on the site.
The Power Hall is not the only building on the historic site to be undergoing major conservation work. Additional funding from the Science Museum Group will allow important repairs to take place on the Grade I Listed 1830 Warehouse, the world’s oldest surviving railway goods warehouse, and the Grade II Listed New Warehouse, which houses the museum’s Textiles Gallery, Revolution Manchester Gallery, Experiment family section and bistro.
It was also recently announced that planning permission has been granted for a new Special Exhibition Gallery on the lower ground floor of the New Warehouse which will show off the beauty of the historic Warehouse basement and Colonnaded Viaduct. This new space will originate and host the world’s best science exhibitions which, along with an exciting programme of events and the Manchester Science Festival will create a beacon for contemporary science in the region.
Sally MacDonald said: “I am excited to be able to announce the start of these important projects which will create a more sustainable museum and help us look forward to another 50 years of success. We are uniquely placed to tell the story of the world’s first industrial city, and the ideas that were born here and which change the world. This work will ensure the museum is a key cultural destination that the city can be proud of.”