Capturing the Manchester Together Archive in Virtual Reality

by | Feb 16, 2020 | Arts Management and Museology, Engagement and outreach, Teaching and Learning | 0 comments

The Manchester Together Archive (MTA) is a collection of about 10,000 items from the spontaneous memorials in St Ann’s Square and other places in Manchester after the Manchester Arena Attack (May 2017). The MTA is currently being digitised by volunteers (the digitisation project is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund). This will lead to a digital archive, which would be freely accessible online. This is a collaboration between Manchester Art Gallery, University of Manchester and Archives+ (you can find more about the project and UoM’s involvement here: The MTA is also one of SALC’s Impact Case Studies).

Also, over the last two years, the MTA has been held in a refurbished room in the basement of the Manchester Art Gallery. Physical access to it is limited and currently reserved primarily for members of the families of the bereaved and first responders from the emergency services. People that have visited the MTA have commented on how both the physical space and the access to the material has helped them in their recovery process.

However, not all families have been able to visit the MTA. Also, due to space limitations and capacity issues, it hasn’t been possible to extend the invitation to people who have been injured. Additionally, the current space that MTA occupies will change use next year, which makes it important that the space is captured and documented. To address these issues, the project partners are using Virtual Reality (VR) technology to capture, annotate and provide remote access to the MTA. Initially, this access will be for family members and people who have been injured. Longer term, and based on front-end evaluation we will do, access to the VR version of the MTA might be extended to the broader public, through the digital archive space that MAG, Archives+ and UoM are currently developing.

The project:

  • Builds on and enhance an existing partnership with Manchester Art Gallery, Archives+ and Manchester City Council on developing, researching and using the Manchester Together Archive;
  • Offers opportunities for cultural professionals and members of the public to engage with ICP’s and SALC’s research, teaching and KE that relate to the Manchester Together Archive;
  • Has a strong relationship with teaching and research within SALC: teaching-wise it is directly linked to the ICP MAs (and in particular the Digital Heritage Semester 2 module) and their aims to provide students with opportunities to work on real-life and impactful collaborative projects with cultural partners and, in the process, acquire valuable and career-oriented skills and experience. Research-wise, the project relates directly to the research that ICP has been developing the last couple of years with its cultural partners on the Archive. This includes joint conference presentations, publications, an AHRC-funded CDA, successful grants (HLF and British Academy) and an international network on archives of spontaneous memorials, led by ICP. More details:

Internal Partner(s): DigiLab

External Partner(s): Manchester Art Gallery; Archives+; Dr Falk Morawitz, VR Consultant

Funding source(s): SALC SR

Project duration: 2020-ongoing

Project lead(s): Dr. Kostas Arvanitis

Blog image from Manchester City Council.