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Science and Industry Museum celebrates 40 years at home on site of global historical significance

One of Manchester's most visited museums is gearing up to host an array of special events and activities as it celebrates four decades of inspiring visitors with ideas that change the world.

The Science and Industry Museum is celebrating 40 years since opening on its site of significant global importance in the heart of Manchester. To mark the occasion, people visiting between Friday 15 – Sunday 17 September can take part in a host of free celebratory activities, including expert talks, behind-the-scenes tours and birthday-themed arts and crafts. 

Since it opened at its current home in Castlefield on 15 September 1983, the museum has been devoted to exploring Manchester's rich heritage and world-changing ideas, from the Industrial Revolution to today and beyond. It's uniquely placed to tell this story—sitting on the site of the oldest surviving passenger railway station, in the heart of the world's first industrial city, today alive with innovative discoveries in science and technology.

40th birthday activities

To mark its milestone, visitors can enjoy special 'spotlight talks' over the celebratory weekend. The free, 10-minute events will focus on the pioneering Liverpool Road Station and how it revolutionised the world, exploring how the station's buildings were transformed into a museum and how that museum is now setting out a vision for a sustainable future. They will take place at 10.45, 11.45, 13.45 and 14.45 on Friday and Saturday.* 

Those eager to see more of the site, which is currently undergoing a multi-million-pound regeneration project, can also join special walking tours on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. During the 30-minute sessions, members of the public will be given behind-the-scenes access to the museum's historic spaces, including some that are temporarily closed while conservation and repair work is underway.

From here, they'll be invited to explore its history, including its role in the birth of the Industrial Revolution, and imagining what life would have been like for the railway workers and passengers who filled the site almost two centuries ago. The free tours will take place on across the three days at 11.00, 13.00 and 15.00. Visitors can sign up for the tours at the front desk. Capacities are limited, so they are encouraged to arrive in good time to avoid disappointment. Large parts of the tours will be hosted outside, so they are also advised to dress for the weather. 

Birthday-themed arts and crafts activities will also be available over the full weekend. Visitors can explore more about the city's history of textiles production by creating personalised paper bunting or designing a birthday card, where they can also leave individual messages expressing what the museum means to them.

Visitors can also join in with a birthday sing-along during the popular Revolution Manchester Show—a free, action-packed science performance taking place at 10.30 and 13.30 on Friday, 10.30, 11.30, 13.30 and 14.30 on Saturday and 10.30 and 13.30 on Sunday. Throughout the weekend, visitors can also witness the museum's team of expert Explainers show off their scientific party tricks during interactive 'curiosity stops'. 

A new digital discovery guide has also been made available online to celebrate the birthday. It supports visitors with the top 40 things to see, do and discover at the museum, from its most iconic objects to inspiring stories and interactive activities.

The Landmark Trust is also running a series of hard hat tours on Saturday 16 and Sunday 17 September as part of Heritage Open Day, giving participants the chance to explore behind the scenes of its restoration of the Grade I listed Station Agent's House, which it began leasing from the Science and Industry Museum in April. The partnership will see the historic building, which is one of the city's oldest surviving Georgian houses, given a new use as an eight-bed holiday let, making it accessible to the public and enjoyed as a residence for the first time in 100 years. The tours will offer a sneak peek inside the building, and will take place at 10.00, 12.00 and 14.00 on both days. They are being run on a first-come, first-served basis, with tickets being handed out from 30 minutes before the tour departure time.

Across the same weekend, visitors can also enjoy a free ride to the museum and other cultural venues in the city. In celebration of Heritage Open Day the Museum of Transport, Greater Manchester is offering the opportunity to hop on board one of its heritage vehicles. A free Heritage Bus service will be running between the Cheetham Hill-based museum, the Science and Industry Museum and People's History Museum on Saturday 16 and Sunday 17 September. For more information, visit the Museum of Transport, Greater Manchester's website

A history of the site

The Greater Manchester Museum of Science and Industry, as it was then known, opened on Liverpool Road on 15 September 1983 (the 153rd anniversary of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway), with two buildings, Power Hall and 1830 Station, available for the public to explore.

1830 Station is the oldest surviving passenger railway station in the world and was the terminus of The Liverpool and Manchester Railway, the world's first inter-city railway. Power Hall was built in 1856 as the shipping shed for Liverpool Road Station. Through displays of historic working machinery, locomotives and recreated 19th-century interiors, both buildings were transformed into galleries that helped to tell the story of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, as well as Greater Manchester's history of industrialisation, social reform and innovation.

Over the next four decades, more historic buildings across the seven-acre, city-centre site received a new lease of life and reopened as part of the museum. These included New Warehouse, which underwent a major renovation in 1988 and again in 2010. Originally exhibiting temporary displays on the textiles industry, printing and papermaking, New Warehouse is now home to the museum's three permanent galleries (Revolution Manchester, Textiles Gallery and Experiment), three changing exhibition spaces, main entrance, café, shop and conference space. The 1830 Warehouse, the world’s first purpose-built industrial warehouse, was also saved from dereliction and opened as part of the museum's public space in the late 1990s. 

In 1983, the museum was a welcome addition to Castlefield, which was undergoing a cultural revolution as it developed into the UK's 'first urban heritage park', encompassing Greater Manchester Council's Air & Space Museum (which became the Science and Industry Museum's former Air and Space Hall from 1985–2022), Roman Manchester and junctions of historic canals and rivers. 40 years on and the museum is central to the area's further cultural revival alongside Factory International's Aviva Studios and the National Trust's Castlefield Viaduct, which are all are helping to create a vibrant new cultural quarter.

Looking forward

The museum is currently undergoing a multi-million-pound restoration project. Although this means some of its best-loved galleries are temporarily closed, including Power Hall and 1830 Station, the critical repair work will make significant improvements as well as reveal new spaces and perspectives for all visitors to enjoy, play and learn in.

The first new space to reopen as part of the project was the award-winning Special Exhibitions Gallery, a spectacular new 725 square metre flexible gallery space that is originating and hosting some of the world's best science exhibitions in the North, including the current world-premiere experience, Operation Ouch! Food, Poo and You

Further works will see critical restorations and transformations to the museum's Victorian buildings, creating improved gallery experiences as well as indoor and outdoor spaces for everyone to enjoy. This will include a new experience in the 1830 Station, a Wonderlab gallery for families, a new entrance route through to Factory International, significant new outdoor landscaping, public realm provision and opportunities for outdoor play. This is all accompanied by huge environmental improvements happening across the museum. Almost 200 years ago, the site was the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. Now, work is taking place to inspire innovators of the future to power the next (green) industrial revolution and create a more economically and environmentally sustainable museum for the future.      

Sally MacDonald, Director of the Science and Industry Museum, said:

'We're delighted to be celebrating 40 years in our home of global historical significance. I'm so proud of what the museum has achieved over the past four decades, and especially proud of the multi-million-pound investment we're currently making to conserve and repair our wonderful historic buildings and develop new galleries and spaces for Manchester to enjoy. 
 
'What happened here changed the world, triggering a revolution in trade, technology, travel and time. It is where science met industry and the modern world began. We're dedicated to protecting and furthering this legacy by celebrating the technical skills of Mancunians past as well as highlighting the skills and pathways available to the next generation of technicians, engineers and creators who can change the world. So, what better way to mark our 40th anniversary than with a host of STEM activities and experiences for visitors to enjoy.' 

Over the past 40 years, millions of visitors have come to the Science and Industry Museum to explore Manchester's unique identity and ideas that change the world. It aims to provide inspiring STEM experiences to every visitor, including the hundreds of thousands of school children who come to explore the museum every year.  

*Subject to volunteer availability.

-ENDS-

For more information, please contact communications manager, Alex Urmston, on 07741 103 790/ alex.urmston@scienceandindustrymuseum.org.uk

Notes to editors    

ABOUT THE SCIENCE AND INDUSTRY MUSEUM  

The Science and Industry Museum tells the story of where science met industry and the modern world began. Manchester was one of the first global industrial cities, and its epic rise, decline and resurrection has been echoed in countless other cities around the world.   

The museum's mission is to inspire all its visitors, including future scientists and inventors, with the story of how ideas can change the world, from the industrial revolution to today and beyond.   

The Science and Industry Museum site is on the site of the Liverpool Road Station terminus of the Liverpool Manchester Railway, the world's first purpose-built passenger railway. Among its internationally significant 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 museum is currently undergoing a multi-million-pound regeneration project that will see brand new spaces opened and significant improvements made to some of its best-loved galleries.  

The Science and Industry Museum is part of the Science Museum Group, a family of museums which also includes the Science Museum in London; the National Railway Museum in York and Shildon; and the Science and Media Museum in Bradford. The Science Museum Group is devoted to the history and contemporary practice of science, medicine, technology, industry and media. With five million visitors each year and an unrivalled collection, it is the most significant group of museums of science and innovation worldwide.