Liverpool. A Very Particular Gallery.

A few days ago I finally made my way to a place I’ve been meaning to visit for some time, the Victoria Gallery & Museum, part of Liverpool University. I had kept coming across references to it and had made various plans to visit but something had always come up and got in the way until the Saturday when I finally got through the door.

The Gallery is located on Ashton Street, off Brownlow Hill. It stands opposite the modernistic Metropolitan Cathedral, the warm, red brick of the gallery building is a stark contrast to the brash concrete and angular shape of the cathedral.

LIVERPOOL. Metropolitan Cathedral.

Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral

This isn’t the largest museum or gallery I’ve ever visited but it more than makes up for it with character and quirkiness. The interior of the building is largely unchanged from its opening, when the top floor, now the Tate Hall, served as the University’s library. It is a marvellous time capsule of Victorian design and style of that period. The magnificent entrance hall, now a excellent cafe, is dominated by a wonderfully tiled fireplace from which elegant stair cases lead off up to the higher floors.

LIVERPOOL. Victoria Gallery & Museum

The Entrance Hall Cafe.

LIVERPOOL. Victoria Gallery & Museum

Stairway to The Upper Floors

LIVERPOOL. Victoria Gallery & Museum Owl Skeleton

Owl Skeleton On The Stairs.

Some of the displays are contained within individual rooms, which I found helped, I was able to focus more on specific items rather than be overwhelmed by larger displays.

The top floor of, the original museum library, now the Tate Hall named after Sir Henry Tate one of the University library’s benefactors, is a large and airy space with a beautiful beamed ceiling. This part of the gallery contains a wonderfully quirky mix of displays, one end has exhibits charting the part Liverpool University played in nuclear research, for medical uses originally and then how that changed with the onset of WW2 and then with the coming of peace developments with lead to the building of the Large Hadron Collider. At the other end of the room however there is a display of dentistry through the ages with a reconstruction of a typical Victorian era Dentist’s surgery and a collection of dentures form around the world.

LIVERPOOL. Victoria Gallery & Museum Tate Hall.

The Tate Hall.

One final aspect which made my visit so enjoyable was the staff, they are amongst the most friendly, approachable and well informed that I have met, only to happy to discuss the museum, its history and displays. Treat yourself to a couple of hours away from the rush of the city centre, next time you are near or in Liverpool, pay the Victoria a visit.

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The Singing Ringing Tree

High on the moors at Crown Point above the East Lancashire town of Burnley stands this sculpture, The Singing Ringing Tree. It’s one of four such outdoor pieces which go under the collective name of The Panopticon, or being able to see all. Each piece is of a different design, the Singing Ringing Tree takes the shape of a wing blown tree, distorted by the constantly blowing, moorland winds. Additionally the lengths of tubing that go together to make the sculpture are tuned and as the wind passes over them a constant and ever changing series of notes are produced. It is an eerie experience to stand close by and hear the ever changing soundscape of fluting drones and tones increase and decrease in volume, produced as the winds change direction and intensity. My original image was a colour shot but there was something about the starkness of the location and the artwork that persuaded me that a black and white image would work best. If you have a chance the Singing Ringing Tree is one of the more unusual public artworks you will find.

The other three pieces are sited around other East Lancashire locations, collectively they represent the regeneration of a part of England’s north west which has suffered due to the decline of the traditional heavy industries. The locations are Atom at the village of Wycoller, Halo above the town of Haslingden and Colourfields which is built onto a former gun battery sited in the town’s Corporation Park. It is a summer project of mine to visit all of the sites to see what images I can produce from the artworks and their locations.

Panopticons Art Project

Tourist Information Panopticon Art Project

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