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History of the Museum

Opened in 1969, the North Western Museum of Science and Industry quickly outgrew its temporary premises on Grosvenor Street in Chorlton-on-Medlock. When Liverpool Road Station closed in 1975, Greater Manchester Council agreed to purchase it to become the museum’s new home.

1983: Open for business

The museum re-opened on 15 September 1983, the 153rd anniversary of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. Our first major gallery was the Power Hall.

1984: An electrifying development

Work began on the development of the National Electricity Gallery, co-funded by Greater Manchester County Council and the Electricity Council.

The central exhibit, a turbo-generator from the Back o’ th’ Bank Power Station in Bolton, had be craned in through the roof in parts and reassembled. The gallery opened in March 1986.

1986: Adding air and space

In December 1985, the museum took over the running of the former Greater Manchester Air and Space Museum (now known as the Air and Space Hall) from Manchester City Council. The first major new exhibit was the nose cone of a Trident jet airliner.

1987: Saving the station

The Station buildings needed repairs to make them fit for public access. The restoration of the former shops and carriage shed was a big challenge. This structure was so unsound that it had to be completely dismantled and rebuilt.

1988: Ramping it up

A major project to renovate the Great Western Warehouse began, and in November, the Xperiment! science centre opened on the top floor.

1989: With a little help from our friends

Since the museum opened, the Friends of the Museum helped to bring the site to life by running steam train rides at weekends. In 1989, they launched a major project to build a full-size replica of the Planet locomotive, which came into service on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in December 1830.

1991: The power story continues

A new section of the Electricity Gallery opened in February and the Gas Gallery opened in November.

1992: Restoration, restoration, restoration

The 1830 Warehouse was the world’s first railway warehouse. Badly derelict by 1983, it needed major restoration. Work began in 1991 and the first restoration phase was completed in 1992. By the time the third phase was completed in 1997, the total cost stood at £5.5m.

1998: The digital summer

To mark the 50th anniversary of the development of the world’s first stored-program computer in Manchester, we opened Futures Gallery, featuring a unique working exhibit of the Baby computer as its star exhibit.

2001: The UK’s first on-site collection store

In September we opened our Collections Centre. This was the first on-site centre for object and archive collections in the UK. The Lancashire Mining Museum in Salford closed, and their collection made its way to our stores. In 2001, the museum also became free to enter.

2005: The Liverpool to Manchester Railway turns 175

The museum celebrated 175 years of the Liverpool to Manchester Railway with a Riot of Steam festival – featuring a restored Lion loco that ran on the LMR from 1830 to the 1850s.

2007: Invasion of the Daleks

Our special Doctor Who: Up-Close exhibition had a record-breaking run attracting 226,246 visitors over 9 months. A Guinness World Record was set in August when we welcomed the largest-ever gathering of Daleks.

2008: Busy bodies

In February we opened Body Worlds 4, which featured bodies preserved through plastination. Media coverage provoked a diverse response, from admiration to outrage, but that year our visitor numbers reached an unparalleled 819,000.

2010: The great Great Western Warehouse

Work began on the £9m redevelopment of the Great Western Warehouse in November 2009, and by the end of 2010 the new Learning Centre, Conference Centre, Restaurant and Cafe, Museum Shop and main entrance were open for business. The reincarnated Experiment! hands-on science gallery opened in December, to the delight of many of our regular visitors. HRH The Prince of Wales also visited the museum, pulling up to the 1830 Station Platform in the Royal Train.

2011: Revolution Manchester

In January the museum opened Revolution Manchester, featuring a stunning digital sculpture and a 50-screen video wall. The new gallery tied together 200 years of Manchester innovation, and provides an inspiring introduction to just a few of the ideas that changed the world.

2012: Welcome to the SMG family

The museum took the historic step of merging with the Science Museum Group (SMG), in order to secure its financial future. In doing so, the Museum of Science and Industry became a national museum.

2013: Highlights Gallery

The museum celebrated its 30th birthday. The Highlights Gallery was opened with the Creating the Illusion exhibition, a fascinating look at the history of animation in the North West.

2014: A Welcome face-lift

A new Welcome and Entrance was unveiled in 2014, including huge glass gates designed by Peter Saville, opening up a magnificent new view of our historic site. The museum also took Collider, its first major touring exhibition from the Science Museum since joining the group.

2015: The Innovation Race

The Innovation Race exhibition commemorated the role of Manchester manufacturers during World War One, and brought together hidden treasures from the museum's archive and object collection.

2016: Wonder Materials, ECOS and Manchester Science Festival's 10th birthday

The Wonder Materials exhibition opened, a highlight of Manchester’s year as European City of Science (ECOS). This exploration of the story of graphene was the first major exhibition generated at the museum to be destined for an international tour. 2016 also saw the 10th birthday of Manchester Science Festival, produced by the museum. The 2016 festival had 90 partners and attracted over 136,000 visitors, including one astronaut in the shape of Tim Peake, who hosted a family-focused Q&A session. 

In addition, the end of the year saw the museum receive planning permission to build its new Special Exhibition Gallery.

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