Manchester is home to a number of pioneering museums, from large institutions like the Museum of Science and Industry and Imperial War Museum North to smaller yet distinctive organisations like Manchester Jewish Museum, the only Jewish Museum outside of London, and – yes – the Stockport Hat Museum.
The city’s historic standing as a centre of industry is well-served by the Museum of Science and Industry (or MOSI for short) but also by the People’s History Museum, which focuses on the history of democracy, protest, workers’ rights and class struggle in Britain. The People’s History Museum also honours Manchester’s strong socialist past, not least as the city where Marx and Engels worked on their Communist Manifesto. (Interested visitors can also check out the very desk where Marx and Engels wrote together, in Chetham’s Library in Manchester city centre.)
Those wanting to find out more about Manchester’s social history can access the Central Library’s vast archives, including local history books, maps and microfilms, for free. The Central Library is also home to the North West Film Archive, an amazing resource preserving the moving image heritage of Northwest England, as well as a BFI Mediatheque, one of just nine in the country, where viewers can watch hundreds of films from the BFI National Archives and other partner archives in cosy little pods on the ground floor.
Other libraries include the John Rylands Library on Deansgate, its awesome gothic architecture home to the University of Manchester’s Special Collections, and Salford Zine Library in Nexus Art Cafe, which catalogues more than 1500 ‘zines and other self-published works from around the world.
For sports nuts, the National Football Museum does pretty much what it says on the tin, while the Manchester University-run Manchester Museum on Oxford Road has got all your dinosaur, animal and mummification needs covered, with huge archives covering everything from Ancient Egypt to insects and botany. You can gawp at live frogs and reptiles in the lovely vivarium, and venture to the top floor to a newly opened workspace/creative environment called The Study, which offers a space for anyone to learn, explore and find inspiration. The Study shares its passion for open-access education with other creative establishments across Manchester like MadLab, on Edge Street, which runs accessible courses, night classes, book clubs, a friendly co-working space and loads more.