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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Birkenhead Festival of Transport 2013

I’ve not had a great deal of spare time of late and I have not uploaded some of my more recent photographs.  Going back a month; on Sunday 15 September I went along to Birkenhead Park to see the annual Birkenhead Festival of Transport.

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The Festival always features a popular traditional funfair.

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The weather was wet and windy and the planned Battle of Britain Memorial flight, which was to have performed a ‘fly past’ featuring a Lancaster bomber, had to be cancelled.

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But there were a number of other attractions to photograph.

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There were a range of road going steam engines as well as a Ffestiniog railway engine and carriage operating on a short piece of narrow gauge track.

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There were three steam powered street organs.

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The historic vehicle rally included a range of cars, vans, military vehicles and motor bikes from yesteryear.

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Whilst I missed the dog show I did manage to catch the American Civil War re-enactment group who, as well as marching, presented their bayonets and loaded their muskets and fired a few deafening rounds into the air.

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There was a stage which featured a number of performers.  Unfortunately for the Chester Brass Band the weather did not attract many spectators for their performance.

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Birkenhead Festival of Transport 2012

The Birkenhead Festival of Transport took place over the weekend of 22 and 23 September in Birkenhead Park.  I went along to see what was happening on Saturday which was a bright and sunny day for a change.

The highlight for transport enthusiasts is probably the collection of steam engines.  Some are working engines used in farming or industry for hauling large loads but quite a few are ‘showman’s tractors’.  These steam engines were used to erect, dismantle and generate electricity for fairground rides early in the last century.

The Blaenau Festiniog Mountain Railway had a temporary track laid in the park and a steam engine pulled two carriages full of passengers.

Whilst the festival principally celebrates transport throughout the ages it is also designed as a family fun day with many more attractions.

In keeping with the original use of the vintage steam engines as showman’s tractors there were a range of classic funfair attractions which were popular with many of the visitors to the event.

There were other working vintage vehicles such as a couple of fire engines from the City of Chester from the 1950s.

There was also a selection of classic and vintage cars from various periods from the last century.

The Wirral Model Boat Club had some of their boats out on the lower lake in the Park.

On both days there were two encampments within the park recreating two distinctive historic periods.  The first was a recreation of a Viking Village with demonstartions of how the Vikings cooked, made their clothes and managed their households.

The second historic recreation was from His Majesty’s 22nd Regiment of Foot.  The regiment are a living history group focussing on  the life and times of the ordinary British Soldier during the American  Revolutionary War 1775-1783.  The group represent a Section of the Colonel’s Company of the 22nd Regiment of Foot as it would have appeared in the year 1776.  At that time the 22nd Foot was garrisoned in New York which was apparently a loyalist city strongly opposed to independence from Great Britain. I was too late to see the regiment firing their muskets but got some photographs of them in their camp.

And a favourite with the younger children was the donkey rides.  I caught the donkey’s at the end of the day waiting patiently ready to go back to their stables.

The event was anticipated to attract around 40,000 visitors over the two days.