Manchester Museum

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Main entrance of Manchester Museum. © Nick Higham 2004

The Manchester Museum is owned by the University of Manchester. It is one of the top three university museums in the United Kingdom. It sits at the heart of the University's Neo-gothic buildings. It provides access to about six million items from every continent of the globe. Butterflies and carvings from India; birds and bark-cloth from the Pacific; live frogs and ancient pottery from The Americas; fossils and native art from Australia; mammals and ancient Egyptian craftsmanship from Africa; plants, coins and minerals from Europe; art from past civilisations of the Mediterranean; and beetles, armour and archery from Asia. The museum has acquired a cast of a fossilised Tyrannosaurus rex from South Dakota called "Stan", which was unveiled on 4 November 2004.

The origins of the Museum lie in the great quest for knowledge and improvement in medicine, science and art that has been the hallmark of the world’s first industrial city. This was fuelled by the wealth created by Manchester’s international trade in textiles from the late eighteenth century.

The first collections were assembled by the Manchester Society of Natural History, formed in 1821, and in 1850 the collections of the Manchester Geological and Mining Society were added.

Unfortunately the societies encountered financial difficulties and, on the advice of the great evolutionary biologist Thomas Huxley, Owen’s College (now the University of Manchester) accepted responsibility for the collections in 1867.

The college commissioned Alfred Waterhouse, the architect of London’s Natural History Museum, to design a museum to house these collections for the benefit of students and the public on a new site in Oxford Road. The Manchester Museum was opened to the public in 1885.

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"Stan" the T rex at Manchester Museum on 4 November 2004 when he was first exhibited.

Two subsequent extensions mirror the development of the collections. The 1912 ‘pavilion’ was largely funded by Jesse Haworth, a local textile merchant, to house the archaeological and Egyptological collections acquired through excavations he had supported. The 1927 extension was built to house the ethnographic collections. The Gothic Revival street frontage has been ingeniously integrated by three generations of the Waterhouse family.

In 1997 the Museum was awarded a £12.5 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and this, together with monies from the European Regional Development Fund, The University of Manchester, The Wellcome Trust, The Wolfson Foundation and other sponsors has enabled the Museum to undertake the refurbishment and building which opened in 2003.

In 2004 the museum acquired a cast of a fossil Tyrannosaurus rex which is mounted in a running posture. "Stan" as he is called is the second most complete T. rex ever found and was excavated in 1992 in South Dakota, USA by Stan Sacrison. The cast has been brought back by a team of paleontologists from the University of Manchester led by Phil Manning.

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