Manchester City Council’s bid for £1.6 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to create a state-of-the-art archive at Central Library has taken a big step forward.

The Archives + project aims to bring Manchester’s history alive with interactive exhibition areas on the ground floor and in the majestic domed Reading Room on the first floor.

The Central Library bid has won initial support in a two-stage approval process and the Council has been granted £72,500 to further develop its scheme. A final bid will be submitted in April 2012, with a decision expected in late July.

Archives + aims make the archive more accessible and draw out the fascinating stories contained in its vast collection, telling the story of Manchester’s social history and its people.

Central Library will bring together the largest and most important archives from different Manchester venues within the newly-refurbished Central Library when it reopens in 2014

The nationally important collection consists of items which take up 10 kilometres of shelving and features items including more than 50,000 rare books, photographs, parchments, leather-bound volumes, glass negatives and archive film. The oldest items in the collection date back to the 12th Century.

Councillor Mike Amesbury, Executive Member for Culture and Leisure, said: “Manchester Central Library is itself a treasure but an integral element of the extensive refurbishment that is currently taking place there is to make more of its very many treasures available to visitors in a meaningful and innovative way.

“The Archives + project promises to give people a personalised insight into Manchester’s social, family and industrial history, its people and the contribution they have made to wider social history.

Leaflet for the Great Suffrage Demonstration, 1908

“Manchester’s archive collections offer an authentic, first-hand narrative and visual record of many aspects of the city’s extraordinary history. They were created by people from all walks of life and cover a period of 800 years.

“There’s a real hunger for history out there, and we think this project will help bring it alive and reach a new audience. There’s still a lot of work to do but we’re excited to be in a position to develop our proposals further.”

The new exhibition areas would be enhanced with activities and events such as guided tours; live music, dramatic and literary performances; film shows; storytelling sessions and readings and special themed events.

Manchester City Council is investing £55 million in extensively refurbishing the Grade II* listed Central Library and any HLF funding would be on top of this.The Town Hall Complex Transformation programme will see the Central Library and Town Hall extension extensively refurbished to deliver state-of-the-art services and preserve both gems for future generations. It also involves a design competition to ensure St Peter’s Square provides a world-class setting for both historic buildings.

The unique partnership will bring together the records of Manchester City Council’s archives and local studies and special collections; Greater Manchester County Record Office; the British Film Institute; the North West Film Archive (Manchester Metropolitan University); Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre and Education Trust (University of Manchester); Manchester and Lancashire Family History Society; Manchester Registration Service and FamilySearch.

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