Maritime Museums are always a surprise for me. I have perceived some of them as really boring, some others as excellently entertaining. As we were in the building anyway (after having visited the International Slavery Museum) and had an hour before closing time, we decided to give it a chance. I was not disappointed at all and even wished that I would have had more time for it.
The Merseyside Maritime Museum is located in a former warehouse. From the short visit, I got a good impression. As I have visited Cobh in the same year, I easily appreciated the exhibitions about the Lusitania and Titanic disasters. Other points of focus were the history of Liverpool as a port, the Irish emigration of the 19th century and the merchant navy. The largest parts about Liverpool's role in slave trade and Transatlantic slave trade in general have been moved to the International Slavery Museum which is located in the uppermost floor of the building.
Like all National Museums in Liverpool, the Maritime Museum does not charge entry fees. It may be that a temporary exhibition is not accessible for free anyway. The Merseyside Maritime Museum is located in the same building as the International Slavery Museum. It's hard for me to say how much time you should plan for a visit as only had one hour. I would guess two hours would be fine, add or take a little more depending on your interest in the topics mentioned. Photography is allowed, no flash or tripod though.
If you can't decide which museum you would like to visit in Liverpool, I would recommend this one. Few others treat this topic in such an extensive way as this museum does. The exhibits are well explained. One item I remembered was a price list of a slave auction which showed different prices according to the "usefulness" of a human being.
The museum focuses on slavery in the English colonies and the USA. This undoubtedly involves Liverpool's role in the Transatlantic slave trade. The International Slavery Museum has also some parts on slavery in general. The part about life in Africa at the time the Transatlantic slave trade began tries to give you an insight, but can not cover the diversity of this topic. At the time of our visit, there was a temporary exhibition about modern slavery in Kazakhstan's cotton industry. Surely, some aspects could have been pointed out more extensively, for example the approaches to slavery by different European powers as well as the facts that some African tribes sold others as slaves to the Europeans. However, this does not change the fact that the topic of slavery is covered in an extensive way.
The International Slavery Museum is located in the same building as the Merseyside Maritime Museum and occupies the uppermost floor. Like all National Museums in Liverpool, there is no entry fee. However, it may be that you will have to pay for temporary exhibitions. To get an overview, 1 1/2 hours is enough. However, the museum has so much information that you can easily spend more two to three hours in it.
The Walker Art Gallery opened in 1877 with collections donated by wealthy businessmen. It covers mostly paintings from medieval art to the early 20th century. The full-size portrait of Henry VIII is well known as is Yeames' “And when did you last see your father?”. The Walker Art Gallery also has a collection of neoclassic sculptures and Victorian silverware in the ground floor. The temporary exhibition called “Alive” was for free and is highly recommended. However, I can not say if Walker has their temporary ones generally for free or not.
The Walker Art Gallery is one of the National Museums in Liverpool and charges no entry fee for the main exhibition. For a visit you should calculate around two hours, add or take depending on your interest in art and the topic of the temporary exhibitions.
The museum covers a wide range of topics: Natural history (with a focus on dinosaurs), world cultures (focus on Egypt), insects, an aquarium, astronomy, geology and archaeology.
It had its origins in natural history collection from 1851 and was moved to its present location in 1860. Since then, it has been often refurbished and expanded – the last time in 2005. The result is a huge museum with six stories where you can easily spend a whole day. It is one of the favourites with kids and has a lot of activities for the young ones. So expect a high number of kids in here. Also, many topics are rather prepared to be enjoyed by kids than by adults.
Like all of the other National Museums, the world museum has no entry fee (2013). If you are interested in all topics, you can easily spend a whole day in here. A short overview with focus on one topic is possible to be done in two hours.
This fantastic new museum, replacing the Museum of Liverpool Life, opened in 2010. It is open daily between 10am and 5pm except over Christmas and New Year. The ground floor and second floor are open and the first floor is set to open at the end of 2011.
As admission to the museum was free, I thought I would check it out and I was really impressed. The building itself is very contemporary and is a striking addition to the Albert Dock scenery. Inside the entrance is very airy and spacious and there are lots of staff patrolling the museum if you need any help.
The upper floor of the museum houses the 'Wondrous Place' exhibition which gives you an insight into life in Liverpool. Here you can learn about the origins of the Scouse dialect, check out memorabilia from Liverpool and Everton football clubs, listen to some music by Liverpool's many musicians, even journey back in time to see what life was like in an authentic Liverpool chip shop!
From the upper floor you are treated to a panoramic view of the Mersey, the Liver Building and Pier Head.
Note December 2011: 4 new galleries have opened at the museum! These are: The Great Port, Liverpool Overhead Railway, History Detectives and City Soldiers. I liked being able to walk inside the overhead railway!
A welcome addition to the Albert Docks regeneration, this museum is open daily from 10am-5pm. Admission is free.
The highlight of the museum is a sprawling exhibition on Liverpool's wartime maritime history, focussing primarily on the loss of the Lusitania. There are also exhibits regarding the sinking of the Titanic, although for a more comprehensive and emotional exhibition on the Titanic, I would recommend the Maritime Museum in Southampton over this one in Liverpool. You can take photos, although flash photography is prohibited. Also this museum has great access. Wide revolving doors, lifts and ramps make this an ideal location for disabled visitors.
Housed in the same building on one of the upper floors, you can find the International Slavery Museum. The museum is gives an insight into West African cultures, as well as life on the plantations for slaves in the Americas. Personally I found this museum rather sterile. For a subject as thought-provoking as slavery, I was hoping the museum would have more of an impact. Instead it seems to meander off into a celebration of successful Black people such as Muhammad Ali, Dame Kelly Holmes, Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey among others. Strangely the museum awkwardly refers to these people as the 'legacy of slavery'. Not sure if that is entirely appropriate.
Like every town there is good & bad in the history of Liverpool. The worst part of Liverpool's history is that it was the centre for the African Slave trade. While of course this can't be changed, things have been done since to try to some amends for this. This first school of tropical medicine in the world outside of Africa was in Liverpool. There now also the International Slavery Museum
I have grouped this tip under the museum section, and this is partly accurate, although this place really is so much more than that. It is the Conservation Centre and the staff here look after the vast amounts of artefacts owned by all the Liverpool museums, quite a daunting task.
It is a fascinating place, naturally somewhat eclectic. There is just about everything on display from the obvious paintings and statues to things like a vintage motorcycle, which was my favourite exhibit. These exhibits are there however, to display the techniques used by the conservators, and these are in themselves fascinating. For example, I did not know that cleaning of stonework by laser rather than the traditional sand or water blasting was far more sympathetic to the stone.
There is also a section where one of the conservators is working, and you are encouraged to ask them about what they are doing. The young lady appeared to be rather busy, however, so I did not bother her with my inane questioning!
On the upper level, not really part of the conservation theme, there was a wonderful exhibition of photographs by Stephen Shakeshaft, a local newpaper photographer for many years. It is a temporary exhibition and only runs until 24 January 2010. I would highly recommend a visit if you can manage it.
It is not the largest museum by any means and you could easily see everything in an hour, but it is certainly worth a visit. It is open daily from 1000 - 1700 and, like most British museums, is free to enter. For mobility impaired visitors, it appears to be fully accessible.
I realise that this is supposed to be a part of the Merseyside Maritime Musem but given it's size, occupying nearly the entire basement of the building, I feel it merits a seperate tip. It is effectively a Museum of Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC), formerly Her Majesty's Customs and Excise (HMC&E). I know from personal friends that this amalgamation does not sit easily with either organisation!
This very interesting exhibition covers the history of the Revenue men, as they were formerly called, although it seems to be focused on the more modern aspects of their job. There are some very good interactive exhibits including interactive units and a "hands on" find the contraband display. Frankly, the ingenuity of smugglers is amazing.
HMRC deal with a lot of things. Obviously the alcohol, tobacco and perfume you would think of, but they are also involved in combatting people smuggling, weapons and even CITES products. The latter are basically endangered species, tortoise shells, certain snake skins, various animal products for traditional Chinese medicine etc. Given the amount of gun crime in the UK the display of seized weapons (pictured) is frightening.
Very well-presented, it is worth spending some time in. Oh, and if you visit, I managed to pass the test to be a Customs officer, have a go yourself!
The Museum of Slavery co-exists in the same building as the Merseyside Maritime Musem, and that makes sense. Much of Liverpool's prosperity in years past was brought about by the pernicious trade in humans from West Africa to the colonies of the West indies, and to a lesser extent, South America.
I visited here with an enquiring mind. The actual slavery exhibits are prefixed with a very harrowing and relevant exhibition about modern human trafficking which is frankly not for the faint hearted.
The main exhibition is very informative, giving graphic descriptions of the life of a slave in the Colonies, and accompanied by very good artefacts, models, contemporary descriptions and the like.
What I found unpalatable however was the seamless transition, if following the suggested path through the floor, how a slavery exhibition, the stated object of the Museum, transformed into a celebration of immigration into the UK of the descendents of some of these unfortunate slaves in the mid to late 20th century. It smacked to me of a political agenda, because there is no link here. There have been non-white people in Britain for many hundreds of years, a miniscule minority of which could be described as slaves. Why then, the implied correlation? I realise politics are not allowed in VT, and quite rightly so, it is a travel site, but I feel in the interests of fairness as to a place I have visited, these comments are justified.
Also, and in the same vein, there seemed to be no mention whatsoever of the historically proven part played by West African tribal chiefs in the slave trade. This hideous traffic in human misery would not have been possible without the connivance of Africans, as Europeans did not have the wherewithal to capture that number of slaves. Totally ignored. Is this a truth too unpalatable for modern British taste?
I trust museums generally. Certainly, in places like Laos and Cambodia, I will expect a certain political bias, and amend my views accordingly, but I do not expect it in a British Museum. Interestingly, on the same day, I visited the National Conservation Centre and saw a wonderful photographic exhibition by a man called Stephen Shakeshaft, a local photographer, who did much more to describe the obvious problems of immigrants to the UK generally, and Liverpool specifically, than this Museum ever will.
As I say, criticizing a museum in this country does not sit well with me, and this is the first time in my VT career, or indeed elsewhere, I have felt the need to, but in the interests of fairness I feel compelled to alert the reader to my concerns.
By all means visit, it is worth seeing, but remember what it is you are not told and what it is you are meant to be seeing.
The history of Liverpool is inextricably linked with the sea and seafaring and it is only natural that there would be a Maritime Museum here. Indeed, I discovered in the Maritime Museum here that the town was actually founded by granting a Royal Charter to the fishing village of Lyrepool (which means muddy pool) as the King of the day wanted to establish a maritime base to invade Ireland.
As I mentioned in my indroductory page to Liverpool, my first sight of the city was from the sea, albeit only a short passage from Belfast in the 1970's, but many millions of people left here, principally for America, and many sailors returned here from all over the globe. Unfortunately, due to various circumstances, many more sailors never returned. Interestingly, I still sing a song in my music career called "The leaving of Liverpool" and there are many more in similar vein, particulary and appropriately, sea shanties.
This Museum is hugely interesting for anyone with even a passing interest in the sea, or even anyone with an interest in the city in which it stands. Set fittingly in an old dockside building there are exhibits covering the whole gamut of sailing history. I was particularly taken with the Second World War section and the section about the Titanic. Coming from Belfast, where the ill-fated ship was built, it seemed quite close to home.
Admission, as in most UK museums, is free and opening hours are from 1000 - 1700 hours every day except Christmas and New Years Day.
On a day's relentless sightseeing in Liverpool recently, I visited the World Museum, and very interesting it was too. As the title suggests, there is a bias towards educating youngsters, a perfectly noble ambition, and the hordes (I use the word advisedly) of kids about the place bear witness to their success in this direction.
Situated over a number of floors in a delightful old building (see photos), there does not seem to be any main theme. A decent aquarium sits close to an excellent collection of Egyptian artefacts, close by a great exhibition of world cultures, and much more.
Speaking of the Egyptian exhibition, the staff in this Museum are great. I was leaving the Egyptian room, primarlily to avoid a particularly noisy group of 7 year olds when I was accosted by an attendant asking had I seen a particular exhibit. Actually, I hadn't and, with obvious pride, she showed me a belt worn by an ancient King (one of the Rameses, I believe). We had a good discussion about the workmanship involved in it and the possible provenance of certain stains. It was evident she was keen to show visitors what the Museum had to offer as opposed to the sour-faced attendants evident in so many museums worldwide. A nice touch, I thought.
As with most UK museums now, entrance is free, although donations are gratefully received, and it certainly is worth donating for what is a very interesting experience. I probably spent two hours here, although I could have spent much longer had I had time.
The Museum is open from 1000 - 1700 hours each day, excepting Christmas and New Years Day.
All things nautical! The Merseytime Maritime Museum relates the story of Liverpool's development as a port and shipbuilding center - and its connection to the transatlantic slave trade as well. The Maritime Museum houses very interesting exhibits about some of the ill-fated ships connected with the Merseyside region, including the Titantic and Luisitania liners. (Cunard was headquartered in Liverpool.) Another exhibit deals with the important roles played by customs and excise officials - and some of the contraband that they have seized over the centuries.
The International Slavery Museum occupies one of the MMM's floors - but there's a little too much information crammed onto one floor, if you were to ask me. They try to tell ALL of the history of slavery - and its effects - in one place. I think it's great to have a slavery musuem in Liverpool, but it really deserves its own building. (As it stands, the Slavery Museum would be better pedagogically if it were more narrowly focused, I think.)
Wonderful "Civic art gallery" (i.e., originally a municipal collection) with some exceptional paintings, many Pre-Raphaelite beauties in particular. The Walker also has a fine collection of Renaissance Italian art, much of which entered the Walker through the donations of 19th century industrial magnates who were very fond of 15th and early 16th century masterpieces.
The main collection of the Walker is free, although there is a charge for special exhibits.
The Walker opened in 1877, making it one of the older Municipal art galleries in the world.
World Museum combines historic treasures from across the globe with the latest interactive technology. We rather hurried this museum but did see the aqurium and an excellent exhibition on the history of pop music in Liverpool from Frankie Vaughan through the Merseybeat years to todays the Zutons.
We also had lunch here and the cafe had some wonderful pies - high pies with fluted edges that I had never seen before with some unusual fillings - mine was toad in the hole.
I will explore this museum more on a future visit.