Mather & Co designs interactive archive for £48m Manchester Central Library

Mather & Co has designed an archive centre for the newly refurbished Manchester Central Library, which will provide research facilities and interactive learning experiences for a broad demographic of visitors.

Manchester Central Library

Archives+ is part of a four year £48 million overhaul of the library, which has been backed by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The library reopens tomorrow where Mather & Co has created an archive that places an emphasis on accessibility and learning and the consultancy hopes to attract both traditional library users and new audiences with its design.

Interactive terminals have been incorporated in a bid to broaden the appeal of accessing local and family history in a participatory and interactive way.

Manchester Central Library

A ‘virtual stack’ allows visitors to explore the collections virtually by opening digital boxes to find documents which relate to Manchester’s local history. 

Another terminal encourages the exploration of the 3D environment of the local area around the library and identifies key historical events and how these relate to items in the collection.

A ‘ghostly guided tour’ of the library can also be accessed, which sees the library’s first manager Edward Edwards give his first hand account of the changes the library has witnessed since it first opened in 1852. 

The first floor reading room will host objects from the library’s special collections, displayed in two glass showcases under the Central Library Dome.

At basement level, a temporary exhibition space has been created which will feature changing community exhibitions and programmes.

Manchester Central Library

Mather & Co design director Dan Proctor says that through digital engagement the consultancy has been able ‘to throw off the stuffy image associated with archives and bring them into the digital age, so that more people can interact and learn about their local and family history.’

He adds, ‘We’ve combined the rich heritage of the Central Library with a modern approach – open spaces with areas for groups to informally socialise while viewing exhibition materials, watching film material in the video pods or relaxing with a coffee.

‘We want people to visit Manchester Central Library, see Archives+ and be inspired to take the next step into researching their own history or a subject area that interests them.’

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