written by Chrissy Partheni
Identifying your museum’s unique offer, using small, specialised collections to engage imaginatively with your audiences and making the most of any available resources are key factors to any museum’s success. The Greater Manchester Police Museum does all the above well and has ambitious plans for the future.
The museum is housed in a listed building which served as the headquarters of the Greater Manchester Police until its evacuation in 1998. It is situated 10 minutes away from the Manchester Picadily station in close proximity to the local colleges and schools. The museum is listed as the 6th best visitor attraction in Manchester, it is free and has 10,000 visitors a year, half of which are educational visitors. The GMPM is also used as a resource for ESOL tutors for familiarising students with specialised vocabulary.
The original prison cells and the court room as well as the modern motor bikes and other relevant police equipment are a treat for young visitors! The courtroom is a realistic setting for training new officers in court procedures and legislation and it is also regularly used for filming purposes and fundraising events in collaboration with local charities.
Special events are organised in collaboration with the police forces and as the curator Duncan Broady puts it: ” it’s amazing what police on horses outside the museum can do to attract families and new visitors “. The museum team draws upon its relationships with the police not just simply to organise special events but to improve design, to photograph collections and to utilise GMP’s public relations expertise. The Museum has a substantial Flickr presence (https://www.flickr.com/photos/44340545@N05/sets/72157622738919156/) and a significant number of social media followers.
The museum is home to the archives and photographs of the Greater Manchester Police forces, an amazing record of social history. Among the museum collections are records of foreign residents in Salford dubbed as the “Salford Aliens”, the name given to all the foreign people who moved to Salford between 1914- 1926.
Talking to Katie and Duncan I find out about future plans and ambitions: the ground floor store is soon to move to the basement, freeing exhibition space and improving collections’ storage. Documentation of the collection in Mimsy is under way, and a display on WW1 in August. The team is also looking at ways of generating income and how best to work collaboratively with local communities and organisations preventing hate crime and contributing to social cohesion.
To conclude my visit Duncan treats me to the incredible story of Herbert Winstanley the money forger and the investigation that led to his arrest. I recognise in his voice the passion and knowledge that make museum professionals and volunteers unique.
High up on the wall is a display of the most incredible weapons people have used to harm others. I consider the impact hate and violence has on people and on society while being reminded of the impact museum objects can have in telling powerful stories and generating dialogue on important social issues.
The GMP Museum’s website is currently under construction.
Thank you to Katie Brown and Duncan Broady for showing me around their museum.
Twitter account @GMPMuseum
Facebook: Greater Manchester Police Museum