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Artist/curator opportunity. Research residency & exhibition: 'Sharing The Portico Library’s Hidden Heritage'.

The Portico Library has been central to Manchester’s cultural and intellectual life since its establishment in 1806 and is now open free to the public six days a week. Its collection of 25,000 rare books, archives and illustrations provides fascinating insights into the 18th and 19th centuries, and a diverse programme of events and exhibitions promotes contemporary responses to this history from established and emerging artists. As a registered charity, our role is to preserve the library and its collections and ensure they are shared with a diverse and growing audience of visitors, members and researchers.

Exhibition and project:
In March 2018 the library was awarded a Heritage Lottery Fund grant to catalogue its archive and promote its findings through an exhibition entitled ‘Sharing The Portico Library’s Hidden Heritage’. We are currently inviting applications and expressions of interest from artists and curators to collaborate on a research project to ensure high quality public engagement and emphasise the collection’s 21st-century context and relevance. The exhibition, launching in December 2018 and supported by The Zochonis Charitable Trust, will feature significant discoveries and provide an informative visual presentation of the archiving process itself.

The Portico Library’s archive records the history of the people, events, language, politics and communities of the North West of England over the last 212 years. It shines an important light on the social history of Manchester and Victorian Britain as a whole. This material, virtually untouched by contemporary researchers, reveals The Portico’s connection to events of regional, national and international significance. The selected artist or curator will work with our cataloguer and volunteers on and off-site to respond to the collection in innovative ways, liaise with appropriate partners, and develop informative and engaging exhibition interpretation.

Who can apply?
Artists, curators and researchers at all career levels are invited to apply. We encourage proposals from artists of all backgrounds and particularly welcome those with an enthusiasm for interpreting historical material. Applicants must demonstrate a previous record of successful similar projects, and provide examples of original, distinctive work. We aim to promote a wide variety of voices and perspectives and to enable a dynamic and thought-provoking programme for all the library’s visitors.

To apply, please provide a biography/statement and a selection of relevant images, plus details of previous projects.

What is provided?
- £500 initial contributor fee, with further funding anticipated (to be developed in collaboration with The Portico Library)
- Private access to the special research collection and archive with professional staff support
- Staffing for exhibition launch evening and associated events; invigilation for the duration of the exhibition; curatorial support
- Design and printing of exhibition booklet
- Publicity and promotion through The Portico Library quarterly magazine, website, social media and advertising

The Portico Library is located on Mosley Street in the heart of Manchester city centre between Piccadilly Gardens and St Peter’s Square, just a few steps away from Manchester Art Gallery, Chinatown and Manchester Town Hall. The library occupies the entire first floor in one of the last Georgian buildings in the city still used for its original purpose. As an early 19th century Grade II* listed building, the library unfortunately does not yet have entirely step-free access. To enquire about accessibility please speak to any member of staff on 0161 236 6785.

Application and selection process:
To apply for this opportunity, email The Portico Library’s Gallery & Exhibitions Organiser James Moss at with the subject line ‘Sharing The Portico Library’s Hidden Heritage’.

The deadline for applications is 11:59pm on Sunday 13th May 2018.

Please include a CV or biography/statement with details and images of relevant previous projects.

Shortlisted applicants will be notified on Friday 18th May and Skype/face-to-face interviews held during the week beginning 21st May 2018.

The successful applicant will be notified by Friday 25th May.