Manchester ‘Memory Boxes’ help generations to connect

A weekly series of “Memory Boxes” is being published online, featuring highlights from the city’s photographic collections which give insights into the history of neighbourhoods across Manchester.
Eleven Memory Boxes have been published so far by the Archives+ centre, based at Manchester Central LIbrary. The collections cover Cheetham Hill, Didsbury, Gorton, Harpurhey, Levenshulme, Moss Side, Withington and Wythenshawe, plus a bumper box for Manchester city centre. “Branch Libraries” and “Library City”, are special editions taking a look at the magnificent libraries past and present in Manchester city centre and the neighbourhoods.
The Memory Boxes were originally produced in physical form for distribution to Manchester libraries, boosting the local history offer to local communities. But when libraries were forced to close due to the coronavirus pandemic, staff decided to produce digital versions, to give people online access to discovering their family’s history, by looking back at the area where they grew up, bringing to light childhood memories and maybe uncovering some hidden gems in their family’s story.
Alongside photographs and oral histories, each Memory Box includes six worksheets based around the Archives+ themes – Industry, Place, Health and Living Conditions, Pastimes, Radical Thinking and Communities. These worksheets provide an opportunity for generations to connect virtually, for example grandchildren and grandparents can look at these collections together virtually, using the worksheets as prompts to get conversations started.
The images are sourced from two of our photographic collections – The Manchester Local Image Collection (https://images.manchester.gov.uk) and the Town Hall Photographers’ Collection (https://www.flickr.com/photos/manchesterarchiveplus/albums). These collections can both be accessed online, free of charge.
The Manchester Local Image Collection has more than 80,000 images and prints of Manchester and the surrounding area. The Town Hall Photographers’ Collection has over 200,000 images covering the varied work of Manchester City Council, giving a unique view of Manchester’s development over the last 60+ years. Volunteers have been digitising this collection over the last few years and, to date, almost 20,000 images are available to view on the Archives+ Flickr photostream .
Executive Member for Skills, Culture and Leisure, Councillor Luthfur Rahman, said: “When lockdown first began in March, we needed to think about how we could continue to support local communities via our digital platforms while libraries are temporarily closed.
“We’ve now begun the process of safely reopening libraries, but the online Memory Boxes project has proved invaluable in helping our libraries to stay connected with our communities, providing accessible, free digital resources to assist families in starting up conversations about their heritage.
“This is a brilliant example of the creativity of our library staff and another great way to engage Manchester residents with the rich collection of local archive materials we hold on their behalf. The Memory Boxes are helping people to share stories and connect across generations, which is so important and beneficial for older and younger people alike.”

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