Marie Stopes re-assessed: reluctant Mancunian, sexual revolutionary, birth control pioneer

Our very own Honorary Researcher Dr. Clare Debenham will be giving a talk about the life and impact of Marie Stopes at Manchester Museum on:

Saturday 10th of March 2018, book your ticket on Eventbrite!

Marie Stopes studying plant fossils now in Manchester Museum
Image courtesy of John Rylands Library

Marie was controversial in her lifetime, but since the Second World she has been maligned both in the academic world and in the popular press. Now is the time to re-assess her achievements. This talk offers a frank appraisal. 

Marie Stopes was the first female lecturer at the University of Manchester and worked on the Museum’s fossil plant collection. Her book, Married Love was published 100 years ago and became an immediate best seller as capturing the mood of the age. The enthusiastic response to Married Love encouraged Marie to set up the country’s first birth control clinic. 

This will be a rare opportunity to see the fossils collected by Marie Stopes and hear about her fossil collecting adventures.


Love Fossils? – We need your help!


If you love fossils and want to help us unlock the treasures of Manchester Museum’s fossil collection, this is your chance to make a real difference. This Valentine’s day, we are inviting people to unlock the treasures at the heart of the museum through our exciting new online project Reading Nature’s Library.



Reading Nature’s Library has been developed to reveal information about the museum’s amazing objects to help discover more about our world. The project is part of Zooniverse an online home for interesting projects looking for volunteer help. With over 4.5 million objects in the museum’s collection, recording this information is too great a task for us to tackle alone. The first few thousand objects have been photographed and we want your help to read the labels and record the names, places and other information.




Christmas at Manchester Museum

goldGold in quartzite. Geology Collection, Manchester Museum.

Gold – A Gift for a King

A Christian association with gold is the gift the three kings gave to Jesus in recognition of his kingship –

“and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshipped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:1–2, 11).

the-three-wise-kings-atlas-catalan-1375-fol-v-980x498.pngThe Three Wise Kings – detail from the Catalan Atlas, 1375. Image from

Gold is universally considered one of the great earthly treasures and an appropriate gift for rulers throughout history due to its rarity and purity.  The chieftains of pre-Colombian America interpreted its dazzling yellow colour as enchanted with protective powers captured from the sun god, wrought armour from the soft malleable stuff, which of course proved deceptive in battle.  Heavenly associations with gold are repeated…

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Object Lessons

An exhibition of stunning scientific models and illustrations now at Manchester Museum

The object-rich exhibition looks at this incredible collection through themes such as Craftsmanship, the Teaching Museum and the Microscopic. It combines George’s collection with the best models and illustrations from Manchester Museum and World Museum, Liverpool.

The beautiful objects blurred the boundaries between art and science and brought together the world’s leading scientists and most accomplished craftsmen. They reflect a moment in time when scientific discovery was rapidly developing, but technology could not keep up with techniques to record such findings.

To make sense of the exhibition we have split the displays into seven themes:

Craftsmanship features the highly-acclaimed Blaschka glass models, created by German glassworkers Leopold Blaschka and his son Rudolf.

In Understanding the Body models are used to explore the shape, movement and function of the body. A life-size papier-mâché anatomical wild turkey sits alongside an exploded cod skull and early German models used to teach the bite of a rattlesnake.

Recording the Extraordinary focuses on unusual things that are difficult to describe in words. Early illustrations of the Aurora Borealis, sit alongside a plaster moon crater and a globe of the stars. 

Exaggerated papier-mâché flowers and an Edwardian pop-up human anatomy book form part of Looking Inside.

Teaching Museum takes an overarching look at the context in which these models were created. Highlights include Japanese teaching scrolls from 1843 and wax fruits.

Minute details of plants and animals, as well as microscopic creatures are on display in Revealing the Microscopic including Early French flea photographs and models of pollen and penicillin.

Framing Time Some of the first illustrations of the Grand Canyon from the 1870s are shown alongside early reconstructions of long extinct fossils.

 We are also running a conference alongside the exhibition: Unlocking the Vault



Dear Reader,

My name is Megan Jones, I am a university student studying photography in my last year of education. I have been lucky enough to collaborate with Manchester Museum, in order to create my final year project. For this project I explored the mineral archives within the Earth Science Department in Manchester Museum. My projects purpose was to open the doors to the hundreds of hidden artefacts that are kept behind the scenes at Manchester Museum. As we all know there is no way that everything can be displayed at the same time so a lot of the artefacts go unseen by the thousands of visitors that come to Manchester Museum.


With over 17,000 minerals in the museums collection I set out photographing as many as possible the projects main intentions were to expose as much as possible therefore I could share the experience I have had exploring the mineral archives. I wanted to push the boundaries that surround museums, how our visits are censored even if we do not realise the museum is deciding what we get to see and what we do not.


By photographing minerals from the archive I have allowed myself to reproduce the minerals taking them out of their intended aura to create something completely different a reproduction with a different importance by it being a photograph this is something that can be reproduced and reproduced time after time in contrast with the originals locked away behind closed doors, therefore the importance of the images is very different in comparison to the minerals within the museum. My aim was to expose these beautiful minerals to the public allowing them to view the museum as I do, a place that people become inspired, mesmerised and captivated by the beauty one building holds.


If anyone would like to see more of my work and my classmate’s final year projects, we would like to invite you all to our exhibitions. Leaf Portland Street Manchester M1 6DW 16th until June 23rd June and also Tuesday 4th July until Saturday 15th July at Stockport War Memorial Art Gallery SK3 8AB.

Thank you or taking the time to read about my project any questions please comment below!

Object Lessons exhibition: coming soon

For the past few months I’ve been working on a really exciting exhibition opening on the 20th of May: Object Lessons


Blaschka Portugese man o’war.  Image courtesy of Rosamond Purcell

Blaschka Portugese man o’war.
Image courtesy of Rosamond Purcell

Object Lessons celebrates the scientific model and illustration collection of George Loudon. Each of these finely crafted objects was created for the purpose of understanding the natural world through education, demonstration and display.

The object-rich exhibition will look at this incredible collection through themes such as Craftsmanship, the Teaching Museum and the Microscopic.

George’s collection will be displayed alongside stunning models from Manchester Museum and World Museum, Liverpool.

Brendel plant models.  Image curtesy of Rosamond Purcell

Brendel plant models.
Image courtesy of Rosamond Purcell


A busy week of consulting!

Herbology Manchester

All the curators have been out and about over half term, in Manchester and beyond! We’re helping to spread the word about our new museum development plans. We want to hear what people think about our plans to build an extension to the Manchester Museum. It will house a new permanent gallery focusing on the history and culture of South Asia as well as a new exhibition space for host blockbuster shows. If you want to find out more, keep track of our progress on our Courtyard Project blog.

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