The Museum of Liverpool

We went to have a look around the museum where you can explore how the port, its people and their creative and sporting history have shaped the city.

The museum opened on 19 July 2011 in a purpose-built landmark building on Liverpool’s famous waterfront. The design concept for the building was developed by Danish architect 3XN and Manchester-based architect AEW were later commissioned to deliver the detailed design. It has won many awards, including the Council of Europe Museum Prize for 2013.

The Museum of Liverpool replaced the older Museum of Liverpool Life which closed in 2006. The original museum was housed in the old Pilotage and Salvage Association buildings on Liverpool’s waterfront, in between the Albert Dock and Pier Head. The new modern designed building now houses most of the original museum’s exhibits on a site close by.

National Museums Liverpool (who run seven facilities across Merseyside including the Museum of Liverpool) say that is the largest newly-built national museum in the UK for more than 100 years. The Museum quote a range of interesting facts about the building.

It occupies an area 110 metres long by 60 metres wide and at its tallest point it is 26 metres high and that makes it longer than the pitches at either Anfield or Goodison Park, more than twice as wide as the Titanic, and as tall as five Liver Building Liver birds placed end to end.

The museum’s frame is constructed with 2,100 tonnes of steel – equivalent to 270 double decker buses. The 1,500 square metres of glazing offer striking views of the city, especially from the 8 metres high by 28 metres wide picture windows at each end of the building. The museum is clad in 5,700 square metres of natural Jura stone, which if laid out flat would cover a football pitch. 7,500 cubic metres of concrete and 20 tonnes of bolts have been used in the construction. And 20,000 cubic metres of soil – equivalent to eight Olympic swimming pools – have been excavated from the site.

It is certainly a strikingly modern building.

The Museum displays are divided into four main themes:

  • The Great Port,
  • Global City,
  • People’s Republic, and
  • Wondrous Place

These are located in four large gallery spaces over three floors. On the ground floor, displays look at the city’s urban and technological evolution which includes the Industrial Revolution and the changes in the British Empire, and how these changes have impacted the city’s economic development.

The second floor looks at Liverpool’s strong identity through examining the social history of the city, from settlement in the area from Neolithic times to the present day, migration, and the various communities and cultures which contribute to the city’s diversity.

There are many highlights. I’ve noted some of these below.

Ben Johnson was commissioned to create The Liverpool Cityscape for the Capital of Culture year in 2008. He started the painting in 2005 and completed it during a public residency at the Walker Art Gallery in early 2008. It was originally displayed at the Walker as part of the exhibition ‘Ben Johnson’s Liverpool Cityscape 2008’ before moving to its permanent home in the Museum of Liverpool’s Skylight gallery.

The Liverpool Overhead Railway gallery tells the remarkable story of the first electric elevated railway in the world. The Overhead Railway was built in 1893 to ease congestion along seven miles of Liverpool’s docks. It was known as the ‘dockers’ umbrella’ as it also provided shelter from the rain. In the gallery you can climb into a carriage, which is fixed at the exact height of the original railway at 4.8m (16 feet) above the ground. The railway was eventually pulled down in the late 1950s.

The Liverpool and Manchester Railway ‘Lion’ is an early steam locomotive which is on display in the Great Port exhibition on the ground floor of the Museum. In 2007 Lion, was moved by road from Manchester to Liverpool after being on loan to Manchester while the new museum was under construction. Some conservation work took place prior to it taking pride of place in the new museum. It starred three films the most notable being the 1953 film ‘The Titfield Thunderbolt’.

There is an enormous model of Sir Edwin Lutyens’ 1930’s design for Liverpool’s Catholic Cathedral in the museum. It is one of the most elaborate architectural models ever built in Britain. It represents the ambitious plan to build the world’s second largest cathedral, and it would have had the world’s largest dome, with a diameter of 168 feet (51 m). It was however far too costly and was abandoned with only the crypt complete. Eventually the present more modern Cathedral was designed by Sir Frederick Gibberd with construction starting in 1962 with completion in less than five years in1967.

There are a range of exhibits displaying Liverpool Life over the ages. The social and community history collections include objects of local, national and international importance reflecting the changing history of the city and the diverse stories and experiences of Liverpool people. They include popular culture and entertainment, working life, labour history, politics and public health. The museum also has a large collection of oral history interviews and filmed video histories from local people with stories to tell.

Football is an important aspect of life in Liverpool. Liverpool Football Club Museum and The Everton Collection have both lent the museum an array of memorabilia. And there are exhibits from Merseyside’s other team Tranmere Rovers.

Whilst ‘The Beatles Story’ museum elsewhere in the Albert Dock has a large display to experience, the Beatles show at the Museum of Liverpool tells part of the story of the Fab Four in Liverpool which was the birthplace of a musical and cultural revolution that swept the globe.

At the time of our visit there was a special exhibition showing local music legends Gerry and the Pacemakers.

I took a number of images from the day, but there is much to see and experience and it will be worth re-visiting the museum to take it all in.

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Fog on the Mersey

I took a few pictures of the River Mersey from Birkenhead just before the Christmas break. An early morning fog was burned off by the sun on both the Liverpool and Wirral riverbanks, but it refused to fade away over the river itself and by lunchtime it made for an eerie sight. The blanket of fog made the famous skyline of the city appear to be built on a low-level cloud.

The City’s two cathedrals, St John’s Tower and the both the old and new old Royal Liverpool hospital buildings can be seen clearly. However, the Albert Dock and Pierhead are under the mist, with only the top of the Echo Arena and BT Convention Centre to be seen. The rest of the City is in bright sunshine.

Just another day on the river and with apologies to the Geordie band Lindisfarne who sang about the Fog on the Tyne… the fog on the Mersey is all mine, all mine, the fog on the Mersey is all mine.

Liverpool Waterfront by night

As the clocks go back and the nights draw in I went down to the Woodside Ferry terminal in Birkenhead on the Wirral side of the River Mersey to take some images of the World renowned Liverpool water front in the fading light of the day.  If anything the darkness and the artificial lighting of night enhances the views of the Pierhead and waterfront buildings.

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In December last year Liverpool’s waterfront was named as England’s “greatest place”.  Liverpool came top in a nationwide competition organised by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI).  Over 11,000 people voted from a shortlist of ten places aimed at highlighting areas which town planners have created, protected and enhanced for communities.   Liverpool was the overall winner in ‘England’s Great Places’ competition.  The High Street in Thame, Oxfordshire and Saltaire, the World Heritage Site-designated historic village near Bradford were second and third respectively.

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The RTPI organised the competition to show what planning and planners can do to make the most out of England’s stunning heritage to create vibrant, beautiful places for people to live and work.

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Liverpool’s waterfront is arguably the jewel in the city’s crown and is a source of immense civic pride. The iconic Liver Birds, the Three Graces (the Liver Building, the Port of Liverpool building and the Cunard Building) along with the Anglican and Catholic cathedrals and other landmarks such as St John’s beacon provide a stunning backdrop to the River Mersey.  UNESCO World Heritage Site status was bestowed on the city’s waterfront in July 2004.

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There is now so much to see and do on the waterfront with the Tate Liverpool art gallery; the Merseyside Maritime Museum; the International Slavery Museum and the Museum of Liverpool; the Echo concert arena and the BT Convention Centre, the 60 metre high Liverpool Big Wheel and the recently opened Exhibition Centre Liverpool – are all within a stone’s throw of one another.

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There have been other developments over the years including the re-instatement of the cruise liner terminal at Prince’s Dock and the building of a number of tower blocks such as Beetham Tower and Its close neighbour and the tallest building in Liverpool, the West Tower.

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As well as the big cruise liners, the river is regularly used with the Belfast ferry from Birkenhead and the Isle of Man Steam Packet company ferry from Liverpool.  Both were moored in the river tonight.

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The waterfront has been transformed over the last few years and makes a great subject for photographers.

Light Night Liverpool 2014

The annual ‘Museums at Night’ festival gives visitors free access to museums from sunset onwards along with special one-off events around the UK.  It ran from Thursday 15th to Saturday 17th May.  On Friday night the annual ‘Light Night Liverpool’ took place as part of this national event.

As well as access to museums, art galleries, exhibitions and special performances there were a range of events out on the streets.  I tried to get around as many as I could with my camera.  I decided to leave my tripod in the car and walked around the city taking some handheld shots which meant I have had to really push the ISO film speed settings on my camera.

The one-night event celebrates the city’s arts and culture scene in over 50 venues across the city with many of the events adopting a World War I theme as 2014 marks the 100-year anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War.  There are further events planned in the city to mark the start of the ‘Great War’.

There were thousands of people in the city along with the usual night time revelers who were packing the bars and clubs.  There was a tremendous atmosphere around the city as people made their way around the venues, taking in the sights and sounds of Light Night.

Light Night projections

There were two ‘Light Night projections’ one shone on the Bluecoat building, an arts centre in one of the city’s oldest buildings in the centre of town and the second on the Bell Tower of Liverpool’s Metropolitan Catholic Cathedral. The two projections paid tribute to the centenary commemorations of World War One showing how the war was reported back on the ‘Home Front’.

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The Catholic Cathedral is in the university quarter and university buildings and the Everyman Theatre were all lit up adding to the atmosphere as the light started to fade and the projections switched on.

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The First World War was the first total war, with the whole nation mobilised behind the campaign.  Men enlisted to the army while women took on jobs in industry to keep the country running and to help the ‘war effort’.  The projections convey the sense of optimism for the war through archive photographs, postcards, newspapers and other memorabilia.

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At the Bluecoat the voice of David Charters, a former Liverpool Daily Post journalist known as the ‘Bard of Birkenhead’ was played reading his play ‘A Dream of Wilfred Owen’ alongside the slide show.  Wilfred Owen lived in Birkenhead and as well as a soldier he was one of the leading poets of the First World War.

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Candle lit Labyrinth at Blackburne House

Blackburne House is a Grade II listed building, situated in Liverpool’s Hope Street quarter.  It is a centre of education for women as well as hosting range of social enterprises.

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The labyrinth is a design by Gareth Price from Reddoscar, who has designed and built labyrinths for the LightNight Festival over the last four years.  It is supported by LIPA, Blackburne House and Liverpool LightNight 2014.

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The public were encouraged to take a walk under the stars, through the candle-lit labyrinth, in the setting of Blackburne House.  The labyrinth is an ancient symbol of creativity and mindfulness and as the organizers say ‘testament to the creative spirit of Liverpool and its community’.

It was still light at 8.30pm when I captured some images of the event here.

Friends of the Flyover and BEGA ‘Lighting the Way’ exhibition

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The Churchill Way flyover runs from Islington, past Central Library, Walker Art Gallery and the World Museum through to Dale Street.  It was built in the early 1970s and won a Concrete Society Award in 1971.  It is the only surviving part of a wider plan to give Liverpool an urban motorway network in the 1970s which would have seen the M62 brought through the city centre right down to the docks on the banks of the River Mersey.

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Liverpool City Council has proposed demolishing the flyover in its future planning strategy however the ‘Friends of the Flyover’ has raised £40,000 through a crowd funding website.  The group was set up after the city’s 2012 Strategic Investment Framework proposed the removal of the Churchill Way flyover.

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The group plan to transform the unloved concrete structures into a cycle and pedestrian-friendly parkway with arts spaces, landscape gardens and coffee shops.  The project has been compared to New York’s High Line a linear park built on the site of an old railway, which has revitalised part of Manhattan’s West Side.

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For Light Night the Friends of the Flyover invited members of the public to join design professionals and students to create a temporary lighting installation on the walkways of Churchill Way Flyover to see how light can transform spaces.  The event was hosted with Zumbtobel and BEGA lighting companies.  There were some rudimentary lighting units and ‘art installations’ along the walkways.

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Bring the Fire Project: Japanese Fire

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Bring the Fire Project is a Liverpool based collective of fire performers, circus skills teachers and flow arts promoters and they are first fire dancing group based in the city.

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Their performance comprised of live drumming, fire costumes and dancing with a mixture of elements taken from Japanese traditions.

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The troop use a variety of costumes and fire apparatus to turn their performances into a symmetry of patterns combining with the human body in motion.

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Fire dancing is a stunningly beautiful art form, which is gradually growing in popularity, and they believe that now is a good moment to provide people with the chance to discover, practice and perform in Liverpool.

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Bring the Fire Project were accompanied with live drumming from TaikoDragons, a Wirral based organisation who teach, share and showcase the ancient art of Japanese Taiko across Wirral and Merseyside

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TaikoDragons is supported by Merseyside Police as an activity designed originally to provide an outlet for young people.  TaikoDragons now work with many sectors of the community including people with special educational needs, those with sight and hearing limitations, the elderly and many more sectors within the community.

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I did not get a great vantage point but managed to capture some elements of the event which took place at Wellington’s Column outside the Walker Art Gallery where many spectators headed after the performance.

As well as the special Light Night exhibitions there were some old friends lit up in the Liverpool night sky, including the Radio City Tower photographed from Mount Pleasant.

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