Hayk’s week two: Armenia workshop reunion in Manchester
Hayk Mkrtchyan (ITP Fellow 2014), Senior Fellow 2017
It would seem that I brought the hot summer with me to London. It is + 31C!
My second week was full of energy, encounters and a lovely weekend in Manchester.
From Monday to Thursday I worked on different presentations which I will be giving during the Summer Programme; topics includes the role of the Senior Fellows, my institution and my work in Armenia on national partnerships.
On Monday evening Becca and I had a nice time at the British Museum’s Volunteers Party, celebrating the help and support that the team of 600 volunteers provide the museum with. Volunteer activities are very important to the British Museum – supporting audience programmes and making visitors’ gallery experiences more engaging.
On Friday morning I took a train to Manchester Piccadilly to meet Ronan Brindley from Manchester Art Gallery. Ronan is a UK partner representative, who Fellows going to Manchester on their UK partner placements will meet in July. Ronan and I worked together in Armenia on the workshop Learning, Engagement and Museums so it was great to see him again after this experience. Ronan planned a lot for me… and he was kind enough to invite me to his family home. My first stop in Manchester was Manchester Art Gallery (MAG).
Ronan took me around MAG explaining the challenges and difficulties of Art Museums in Britain today. We looked around the exhibition ‘Women and Children; Loitering Men’ comprising of photographs taken by Shirley Baker in Manchester from 1960-80. The exhibition was a great insight into the architecture of and everyday life of citizens in Manchester.
I found Manchester Art Gallery to be one of the best examples of how museums need to respond to the social needs of the city.
One of the great new initiatives in MAG is the recently opened Gallery Café. Working in partnership with award-winning Manchester based chef, Mary-Ellen McTague and Real Junk Food Manchester the museum can offer a ‘pay-as-you-feel’ children’s menu to support family audiences. The overall aim is to make the Gallery Café affordable and accessible to all.
There was also time for me to look at the museum’s educational and informal learning spaces, curatorial departments and Ronan’s office.
We had lunch at the Armenian Tavern in Manchester.
Here I left some postcards with the owners of the restaurant, hoping they will be signed by famous Armenian Manchester United football player Henrikh Mkhitaryan, for my young nephews.
Later that day I was hosted by Campbell Price, Curator of Egypt and Sudan at Manchester Museum. He took us around museum galleries and collection stores. Campbell is very passionate about his work and is looking forward to meeting ITP fellows in Manchester in July.
Here I walked through very emotional exhibition ‘Shabits: Suspended Truth’ by Syrian artist Zahed Taj-Eddin. The exhibition is about a universal and timeless human phenomena – Migration. The artist re-imagined shabtis (ancient Egyptian figurines that embody the servants of the dead) floating in the Gallery Space.
On Friday night Ronan welcomed me to his family home where we had an unforgettable dinner and some Armenian brandy after. In the morning we started with coffee and read newspapers in the garden. We headed to the 18-20th century heritage site Quarry Bank Mill for the day, which demonstrates Manchester’s role in the Industrial Revolution. In it’s heyday Quarry Bank Mill was a big industrial community which survives to our time almost intact. As a result it is able to present a full history to visitors of a Cotton Mill, Apprentice House, Residential houses of workers and so on. The sound of working machines really brings the space to life.
I returned to London on Saturday evening and spent Sunday exploring the history of London at the Museum of London and looking at contemporary art at Tate Modern.