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Archives Plus

Archives Plus is an exciting new project bringing together Manchesters archive heritage from a number of key partners across the city at Manchester Central Library

This innovative project is designed to encourage the use of archive collections through an engaging introductory exhibition. The ambition was to use digital interpretation and innovation to make the stories in the collections more accessible to visitors and new audiences to Manchester Central Library.

"In the first of its kind in a library setting, this project encourages interaction with the collections by throwing off the "stuffy image" associated with archives and bringing them firmly into the digital age. The design is a blend of exhibition and social café space in the heart of Manchester Central Library. It provides areas for groups to informally socialise whilst viewing exhibition materials, watching film material in the video pods or relaxing with a coffee. Visitors can create, contribute and respond to events past and present in Manchester, making it a truly living archive.

Accessibility and learning is at the very heart of the design - many more items are now out on display and visible than ever before. The use of digital interactivity not only lends itself to the needs of the mainly 2D paper archive collections, but allows visitors to explore what is potentially complex material in a digestible, visual format. Real objects from the archive collections are rotated in new, state-of-the-art showcases in both the ground floor exhibition and reading room.

The activities in the ground floor exhibition includes a full-height virtual library stack, allowing visitors to select archive boxes to explore what lies within, and café table projections and the ghost of the first librarian offering his views on the history of libraries in Manchester. It works to dispel any myths about archives, making them interesting, accessible and, most importantly, fun. Visitors can also explore historic events that occurred in central Manchester on an interactive map beneath the dramatic "Oculus", and this links visitors directly to specific collections in the stores.

Archives+ has been an overwhelming success so far, attracting school-groups, families, young people and traditional library users as well as those visiting for a coffee and to take in the surroundings. Since opening, the library has seen increased school group numbers, and 90% of young people felt the offer was "young people friendly".

Visitor numbers have continued to exceed expectations. Two million people are expected in the first year alone. Further to that, visitors have been engaging with the library collections once inside: 18,884 people have already attended activities and programmes, 29,420 films have been viewed, 5,000 local studies books have been issued, and over 1.3 million people have accessed image from family history collections online. "

Archives+ has been an overwhelming success so far, attracting school-groups, families, young people and traditional library users as well as those visiting for a coffee and to take in the surroundings.

Samantha Withers, Project Designer, Mather & Co Ltd

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Exhibition fact file

What's Inside

Manchester's archive heritage

Museum

Manchester Central Library

Date

February 2014

Designer

Mather & Co Ltd

Cases Used

bespoke