Liverpool’s very own museum. Which is to say that the Museum is about Liverpool – the first of its kind in the UK. And with an 800 year history, the Museum of Liverpool is no vainglorious enterprise – the city really does have an impressive story to tell.
With exhibits ranging from the city’s sometimes dubious contributions to the British empire and resulting immigration, its trading links with the Orient, there’s tonnes of stuff about Liverpool’s mercantile and military significance. Liverpool’s resulting status as a cultural and racial melting pot is reflected in its indelible imprint on the worlds of music, sport, architecture and comedy. The museum takes aim at explaining the Liverpoolness of the city from the ice-age to Brookside.
800 years over three floors? Not an easy task. But the Museum of Liverpool makes a good stab at it (a fact recognised in its Museum of the Year award, from the Council of Europe), with galleries crammed with detail, colour, reconstructions of Victorian slums and gleaming rail carriages from the fabled Overhead Railway.
Museum of Liverpool’s City Soldiers gallery tells the story of the King’s Regiment – one of Britain’s oldest regiments, created in 1685, and Liverpool’s regiment since 1881. More recent displays take in Eric’s, Cream and the city’s rich cultural and footballing heritage – no stuffy ‘old things in cases’ museum this, though even little ‘uns will goggle at the miniature model of Van Lutyen’s plan for the Liverpool Catholic Cathedral.
There are also temporary exhibition spaces in the Museum of Liverpool, with contributions from Roger McGough in 2012 looking at famous Liverpool doors, and a fascinating project looking at the life of Britain’s first transgender patient, April Ashley (co-curated with Liverpool’s excellent Homotopia queer arts festival). There’s a fearsome programme of free events and talks so check ahead before you visit.
The museum was designed by Danish practice, 3XN – replacing the Museum of Liverpool Life – and its ski-slope profile divides opinion, but is an unmissable addition to Liverpool’s famous waterfront. Look for reflections in the TV-like windows – and great views from the museum of the Three Graces, Mersey and promenade.
There’s an impressive shop, great for your Liverpool-gift needs, and a rather less impressive cafe. Make sure leave time to see the nearby Piermaster’s House too – once the Museum of Liverpool Life, it now provides replicas of Liverpool homes gone by and is well worth 30 minutes. Like the Museum of Liverpool it’s absolutely free.
Visiting the Museum of Liverpool
James Street on the Wirral Line is the closest train station, while buses stop nearby at the Liverpool One bus station. Museum of Liverpool is open daily 10-5.