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Objects, disciplines and the Manchester Museum

At the turn of the nineteenth century, museums in Europe and North America were at their largest and most powerful. New buildings were bigger; objects flooded into them, and more people visited them than ever before. The Manchester Museum is an ideal candidate for understanding cultures of display in twentieth-century Britain. It is a treasure trove of some four million priceless objects that are irreplaceable and unique. Like many large European collections, the origins of the Manchester Museum are to be found in a private cabinet: that of John Leigh Philips. This book traces the fate of his cabinet from his death in 1814. The establishment of the Manchester Natural History Society (MNHS) allowed naturalists to carve out a space in Manchester's cultural landscape. The Manchester Museum's development was profoundly affected by the history of the University in which it operated. In January 1868, the Natural History Society formally dissolved, and an interim commission took control of its collections; the Manchester Geological Society transferred its collections the following year. The new collection was to be purely scientific, comprising geology, zoology and botany, with no place for some of the more exotic specimens of the Society. The objects in the collection became part of Manchester's civic identity, bringing with them traces of science, empire and the exotic. Other museological changes were afoot in the 1990s. Natural history collections became key sites for public engagement with environmental issues and biodiversity and more recently as sites for exhibiting art.

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The Manchester Natural History Society
Samuel J.M.M. Alberti

1 Prologue: the Manchester Natural History Society Like many large European collections, the origins of the Manchester Museum are to be found in a private cabinet: that of John Leigh Philips (1761–1814; see figure 1.1). Philips was involved in textile manufacturing as a partner in his family-based firm, and served in the First Battalion of the Manchester and Salford Volunteers as Lieutenant Colonel.1 The range of objects gathered by Philips and his contemporaries in the eighteenth-century provinces cannot be categorised using modern disciplinary parameters. He

in Nature and culture
The Royal Manchester Institution and early public art patronage in Manchester
James Moore

first library in Manchester – Chetham’s library could claim a fourteenth-century foundation – but it represented an important cultural meeting place for the city’s leading industrialists and professionals.22 During the first quarter of the nineteenth century, there built up in Manchester a small but important cadre of supporters of the fine arts. Of these perhaps the two most important in Manchester social circles were William Hardman and John Leigh Philips. Hardman occupied a large house on what was then the edge of Manchester, in Quay Street, which became an

in High culture and tall chimneys
William Roscoe, civic myths and the institutionalisation of urban culture
James Moore

. Plans were brought forward for a painting and drawing academy and a new, regular exhibition based on the model of the Royal Academy.24 While the management of the earlier societies had been primarily in the hands of artists, the new body sought to guarantee long-term institutional stability by placing the society in the hands of the permanent residents of the area. Roscoe’s close friend Thomas Taylor wrote to the Manchester collector John Leigh Philips pointing out that Roscoe: has endeavoured, in forming the plan, to avoid the rock on which the former split, which

in High culture and tall chimneys
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Basins, warehouses and wharves in canal-age Manchester
Peter Maw

, however, was built in 1850, twenty years after the arrival of Manchester’s first railway; see Adshead’s twenty-four illustrated plans of Manchester (1851). 174 GMCRO, RCCP, B2/6/3/90, incoming correspondence, 3 December 1806. 175 MALSU, John Leigh Philips Papers, M/2/1/68, 27 January 1815, T.M. Tate to Francis Philips. Basins, warehouses and wharves 199 176 Ordnance Survey plan of Manchester and Salford (1851), sheet 33. 177 CL, Archive of the Brownsfield Estate, Misc. 25, 12 June 1802, George Duckworth to Daniel Leech. See also Misc. 25, 6 January 1803, George

in Transport and the industrial city