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Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Save Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry!

I was horrified to see that the Museum of Science and Industry at Manchester is in danger of closing.  It is reported that the Science Museum Group, of which MOSI is now a member, has a massive operating deficit. It seems that MOSI, the National Railway Museum in York and Bradford's National Media Museum may face the axe in order to keep the Science Museum in London open.

Lancashire was the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, and Manchester – ‘Cottonopolis’ – was its beating heart.  The first inter-city railway was built here, and the Liverpool and Manchester Railway station is an important part of the MOSI site. Manchester’s contribution to the great scientific breakthroughs of the twentieth century such as computing is well known: MOSI is home to 'Baby', the first stored-programme computer built at Manchester University in 1948.

MOSI is a living showcase of our industrial past, in particular the industrial revolution, with nationally important collections relating to the cotton industry and the city’s social history.   If the collection is closed or dispersed, a wonderful treasure for past and future generations will be lost and is unlikely to be replaced. 

It seems unlikely that the City Council would take over MOSI, as it too faces swingeing cuts from Whitehall and has to prioritise funding for essential services.  But this could be a short-sighted view: I understand from the MEN report that over 830,000 people visited MOSI last year.  Visitors generate income for local businesses, which in turn pay their local rates, and hence more funding for Manchester.  A multiplicity of high quality tourist attractions are vital to help promote the city and attract visitors.

MOSI is not just a collection of machinery – the museum is a window into the past so that we can see how our Lancashire ancestors (including my own) lived and worked in Manchester.  It’s a great resource for local schools, colleges and students as well as tourists. Its closure would be a national disgrace, as well as a local tragedy.  

Although free admission boosts visitor numbers, I would rather pay a modest entrance fee, if this is the only way to keep the museum open.  However, it seems that the Science Museum Group does not have the power to impose entrance fees. 

Please take a moment to sign the MEN petition to save MOSI; there’s also one on

Update 6 May: The Financial Times is running the story this morning, and the MEN petition has already received over 20,000 signatures


Weaving shed, Haworth’s Mills, Ordsall, Lancashire. Illustration by H E Tidmarsh, Manchester Old and New Vol. II, (Cassell & Co., c. 1894).

Drawing cotton at Richard Howarth & Co., Tatton Mills, Ordsall, early C. 20th postcard.


Tony Grant said...

Sue this sounds very sad. I think a small entrance fee might go some way to helping. Perhaps some innovative ways of using the museums and getting local communities, schools and the public more involved in them needs to be considered too.

The point about theeir closure keeping the Science Museum in London is perhaps not quite fair. The Science Museum in Kensington has an enormous number of visitors every year and I am sure could support itself. I wonder if it has been supporting the museums in the north?

All the best,

Sue Wilkes said...

Hi Tony,
The point about MOSI's relationship with the Science Museum is that they were independent institutions until fairly recently. All these museums have had to cut staff owing to the coalition's cuts
Here's a link to the Science Museum Group's financial statement for 2011-2012 including the transfer of MOSI assets:

Tony Grant said...

Thanks Sue. I have had a look at the financial statement and found the article in the Manchester Evening News. I must admit the photograph of the sign board in front of the Manchester museum does look rather like a guillotine!!!!!
It seems ot bolis down to the reduction in the DCMS funding.
Museums are such a vital aspect of our communities and our way of looking at ourselves and knowing ourselves. I can sense the desperation in wanting to keep those museums open. Perhaps by becoming independent museums and getting business and industrial backing that might be a way forward, also including a small entrance fee into the mix?
There must be more ways to market themselves.I realise they must do some amazing things already. The whole thing seems very difficult. Maybe downsizing or amalgamating might be ways forward too. I hope nobody has to close.
All the best,

Sue Wilkes said...

Thanks, Tony. I hope all these wonderful museums can be saved for us and future generations.

Sue Wilkes said...

A new report on the funding clash between London and the provinces: