In an unusual move, seeming to demonstrate an interest to take their already diverse business portfolio into the realms of heritage, the Peel Group have recently opened a 300,000 sq. ft. warehouse opposite their shopping behemoth, the Trafford Centre, that they're calling "The Museum of Museums".
Billed as "A breakthrough concept in cultural attractions" on their glossy website the new venture brings together eleven exhibitors across transport heritage, militaria, sports history, art, architecture, brewing, and bizarrely Totem Pole carving inside what was until recently a cavernous Argos distribution warehouse. For a few weeks entrance will be free while they 'soft launch' before unveiling the project officially later in the summer.
Peel claim to be providing a new space that can be home to “a vast array of changing collections that will appeal and stimulate the imagination of a wide audience“, however, without wanting to reflect on the work of any individual exhibitor in the space, what they have delivered is a confused, underwhelming and, at a proposed £6 a ticket, a cynical attempt to associate their vast shopping complex with some kind of cultural capital merely to to extract more of their visitors financial capital.
Target visitor numbers for the museum in 2010/11 have been set at 750,000 which “should be realistically achieved based on current footfall figures”, according to Crain's reading of the attraction's website - a figure I have to object to. When excellent attractions such as the Museum of Science and Industry struggle to bring in 745,000 visitors annually, even with their strong relationships with schools and a reputation for being the place to go for a family day out, bandying around figures like this with abandon is disrespectful to those professionals that have worked so hard to bring real museums into the public eye and irresponsible given that it could potentially be damaging to future funding bids from genuine heritage attractions, especially if they're judged on specious comparisons with these fantasies. Equally when the closest paying heritage attraction in Manchester, Manchester United's own museum, struggles to pass the 300,000 mark, even with one of the world's strongest brands behind it, the figure is simply ridiculous.
If this is what Jeremy Hunt means by philanthropy in the cultural sector we're in serious trouble. Vacuous, cynical and poorly executed it's reasonable to assume this project is being managed by someone with little or no experience of producing cultural exhibitions or someone who has found themselves in a position where expectations and available resources simply don't add up.
Either way, unless you're interested in its oddity factor, until they bring in someone with a vision to pull the whole thing together (or, as it is rumoured, it gets turned into a conference and corporate exhibitions venue), avoid .
Visit MoSI instead.