HERE's big news from Manchester's Museum of Science and Industry. The words below are the press release. The comments in the yellow box beneath are Confidential's.
Tony Hill is to step down as Director of MOSI (Museum of Science & Industry, Manchester) following the announcement of the merger between NMSI (National Museum of Science & Industry) and MOSI.
Tony has been with MOSI since 2005.
During his time as Director he has overseen many significant commercial and brand developments at MOSI including the successful £9 million redevelopment of Great Western Warehouse which includes the new Experiment! and Revolution Manchester galleries.
Since the re-opening MOSI has enjoyed record visitor numbers, greatly improved revenue generation and won numerous awards culminating in the Large Visitor Attraction of the Year for 2011.
He said: “I have loved working at MOSI with the fantastic team and ensuring that visitors enjoy their visit to one of Manchester’s greatest cultural spaces. However, I now believe the time is right to move on. I look forward to witnessing the Museum’s continued success in the future within the NMSI family of Museums.”
The merger between NMSI and MOSI was announced in November 2011 and will create one of the most important museum groups in the world, reaching over five million visitors annually.
Ian Blatchford, Director of NMSI said: “I thoroughly value the contribution which Tony has made to the success of MOSI over the past six years and wish him great success in the future. We look forward to working with our colleagues at MOSI to celebrate Manchester’s great contribution to the world of science and industry and communicate this to a wider and more diverse audience.”
There have been problems of under-investment at MOSI for many years, even decades - way before Tony Hill and his team's sterling efforts to turn things around.
Despite the brave words in the official press release above, from being the automatic first choice visit museum and gallery of central Greater Manchester it's now behind almost all the other key museums and galleries, in terms of presentability and attraction - away from the specialist transport and steam audience.
Manchester Museum, the Imperial War Museum North, John Rylands Library, Manchester Art Gallery and The Whitworth Art Gallery all seem better for that key tourist visit than MOSI. And this year we have the National Football Museum opening. If it were bigger the People's History Museum would give it a run for its money too.
Tour guides in Manchester now recommend the above places before MOSI - the latter looks tatty and tired in too many areas - and it's only the sheer power of the exhibits and the buildings that's keeping the visitor numbers up. At Confidential we've had MOSI guest comments that don't make for good reading.
The sheer scale of the place and the amounts needed to keep the multi-acre site running at an acceptable 21st century level means that even in the specialist areas the museum with the Grade 1 listed oldest passenger rail station in the world falls short.
The signage in some of the galleries is lamentable, worthy of an exhibition in some Museum of Museums in a gallery themed to the eighties and nineties. In many areas it just looks dusty and unkempt, despite all the hard work of the stretched staff. Even in newish galleries such as Manchester Science the holograms seldom work.
The merger with the National Museum of Science & Industry offers hope for a layer of re-investment that will tackle the basics before looking to new ideas. The new Revolution Manchester gallery shows the level of display the rest of the site should aim for.
Make the museum and its astonishing exhibits coherent and meaningful, do the simple communication things well, celebrate what's already here and let the rest follow.
With one addition.
The City should put big pressure on ITV to leave MOSI the original and adjacent Coronation Street set when it moves to MediaCityUK. This can be the centre-piece of a new science and media exhibition with instant popular appeal.
Manchester has always been a city of high science but also one of popular culture.
With investment in the right places it shouldn't take much given MOSI's lovely buildings and incredible artefacts to get it back on top again.
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