Research projects

Every day, writers, artists and academics research The Portico Library's collection and archives, bringing to life its global history and 21st-century importance. Here are a handful of recent examples.

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Sharing The Portico Library's hidden heritage

In spring 2018 the Heritage Lottery Fund awarded The Portico Library a grant to catalogue its historic archives and share its discoveries. In December, an exhibition and accompanying programme of events will showcase the collection’s highlights and the stories we uncover. Expect to see material from our original minute books, early exhibition posters, architectural plans, Manchester ordnance survey maps, and the personal archives of eminent local figures such as Joseph Sunlight, Tinsley Pratt and Ernest Marriott.


Legacies of slavery & abolition in Manchester

A few months after The Portico Library first opened its doors in 1806, the UK Parliament voted to abolish the Atlantic slave trade. The Library's membership at that time included both anti-slavery campaigners and those who profited from the exploitative practice. The Library's own archives from the period provided researchers from The University of Manchester and the Manchester & Lancashire Family History Society with primary material from which new discoveries emerged. Read more...

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Finding the cotton famine

Academics from the University of Exeter have unearthed and gathered a collection of poems written in 19th-century Lancashire dialects recounting the hardships of the cotton famine of the 1860s. The launch event for this collection will take place at The Portico Library on 31st July 2018. The Library holds valuable collections of 19th-century poetry and North West history, as well as fascinating dictionaries of regional words and phrases, providing a rich resource for students of language and social history. Read more...

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'Made in Translation'

In 2017, internationally renowned textile artist and lecturer Alice Kettle initiated a collaborative group project with colleagues from Manchester Metropolitan University's newly established Faculty of Arts & Humanities, creating new works in response to The Portico Library's collection and history. The accompanying publication contains a unique collection of artworks and creative writing, celebrating the imagination and diversity of the responses. You can purchase the the limited edition book, designed by The Modernist Magazine's Jonathan Hitchen, at the Library or through our online shop.

Alice Kettle’s current exhibition at The Whitworth, Thread Bearing Witness, runs until February 2019.