Skip to content

Research collaborations

We are one of the UK’s largest university museums and we’re a critical part of the research infrastructure. Find out about some of our current research projects.

Windrush 75th Anniversary

Connecting our Living Cultures collections from the Caribbean with descendant communities.

In this project, we are showcasing some of the objects from our Living Cultures collections that were gathered by anthropologists during fieldwork in the Caribbean.

We hope to talk, to remember, and to connect these objects with people of Afro-Caribbean descent or heritage in Manchester and beyond, building and strengthening relationships with our communities.

Windrush 75

What can we learn from climate change 66 million years ago?

A mass extinction at the end of the Cretaceous period, 66 million years ago, led to the demise of most of the dinosaurs and the majority of species on land and in the sea. A meteor impacted in the Gulf of Mexico at this time, but how exactly did the meteor impact cause mass extinction?

We are a partner in a three-year NERC project to study climate change at this time. Scientists at the universities of Manchester and Plymouth have been studying the composition of fossil molecules from bacteria that lived in peat and was accumulating at the time of the meteor impact. By studying their composition, it is possible to reconstruct the temperature change that happened because of the meteor impact. Global warming is forecast to exceed 2°C above preindustrial temperatures by 2100. Current climate models find it difficult to predict how the oceans and atmosphere distribute the warming around the planet. So this study will give us evidence so we can better predict our own future.

Zulu Traditional Beads

Dr. Njabulo Chipangura, Curator of Living Cultures, is involved in an ongoing research collaboration with Motsane Seabela who is the Curator of Anthropology at the Ditsong Museum of Cultural History in Pretoria. They have been carrying out provenance research on Zulu traditional beads at Manchester and Ditsong museums respectively. The first part of the exchange saw Motsane coming to Manchester Museum from the 20 – 29 May 2022 and they analysed 93 pieces of beads in the living cultures collection. This collection was appropriated from source communities in KwaZulu Natal by different collectors in the  between 1887 – 1930’s and deposited in the museum devoid of context and meaningful biographies. Their analysis focused on understanding the meaning of the beads in terms of their colour representations, gender dimensions, spiritual and ritual significance. In June, Njabu carried out a comparative analysis of the bead collection at Ditsong Museum of Cultural History in Pretoria working collaboratively with Motsane. A number of similarities were found in terms of place of origin, a lack of context, unprovenanced and absent social biographies. During this part of the research, Njabu and Motsane also travelled to Nongoma in KwaZulu Natal for a three days ethnographic research with communities. They were able to engage different communities who are still making and using similar beads and the spiritual, ceremonial and ritual stories were recorded with a view of filling absent biographies in their collections. An exhibition will be developed as an outcome of this work.

3D digital technologies to make objects more accessible

Our goal is to create a ground breaking user experience that enables users to touch and interact with digitally scanned museum artefacts and works of art which is also addressing the needs of our visitors who have sensory impairments. Working with Stoke On Trent based Touch & Discover Systems and a few of the world’s leading museums we have developed a console that provides a universal 3D interactive platform with innovative haptic technology; this will enable users to interact with high quality digital scans of objects that would never normally be touched because they are too fragile or protected in a showcase.

We’ve also worked collaboratively with students from Grange School, a local school for autism, and Project Inc., a specialist college for creative education, to create Digital Touch Replicas (DTR)  for the museum’s Golden Mummies of Egypt exhibition. Digital Touch Replicas are physical objects that can be explored by touch. Feeling different areas of the surface triggers hidden electronics, which in turn plays information relating to the area on a screen or tablet. Physical interaction with objects is particularly important for visitors with sensory impairments and for those who need to make physical connections with objects to make sense of them. This DTR technology, which aims to make museums more accessible, is based on research by Sam Beath, Senior Conservator at Manchester Museum, as part of a PHD at Loughborough University.

April the Tenontosaurus

April’s skeleton was purchased by in 1999: in recent years, the museum has worked with University of Manchester Earth Sciences students to study April’s bones and find out more about her. Previously displayed standing upright, research revealed that April would have actually walked on all-fours; derived from that research, work has been underway for several years to clean, conserve and rearrange April’s fossilised bones. The skeleton is now the centrepiece of the Museum’s new dinosaur gallery, walking on all fours again for the first time in over 100 million years.