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Museum of Liverpool's Wondrous Place celebrates city's cultural heart


The Museum of Liverpool’s Wondrous Place gallery reopens this Friday after a major revamp including a new, more open design and a wealth of new exhibits.

Around 123 new lenders have offered items for display – including Olympic heptathlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson’s spikes, boxer Natasha Jonas’ shorts and belt, Grand National winning jockey Rachel Blackmore’s silks, a Melanie C stage outfit, one of Jodie Comer’s costumes from Killing Eve and Gary Christian’s hat and sunglasses.

The gallery was closed in 2018 and stripped out to make space for the hugely popular blockbuster exhibition Double Fantasy John & Yoko which ran for 18 months, followed by Liverpool on Wheels which closed in January this year.

Since then, it has been refurbished and the content reinvigorated to include a wealth of new material among 650 objects, interactive and immersive experiences which feature a fantastic range of performers, poets, writers, artists, musicians, comedians and sports people.

It has taken 20 months of planning and delivery, much of it carried out under challenging lockdown conditions.

Karen O’Rourke, curator of sport, music and performance, explains: “Our loan collections are ongoing; we’re adding to them all the time, and we’ve also asked some people to interact with us online too.

“The start of the gallery asks – is Liverpool a creative city?”

The newly rearranged second floor gallery features a mixture of old favourites and new exhibits, all laid out in a more open-plan and airy way than the previous space which was first designed and populated with items when the Mann Island museum opened 10 years ago.

Returning exhibits include a set of Beatles’ suits, John and Yoko’s bedspread, Lita Roza’s glamorous evening gown, Grand National and boxing memorabilia, Eric’s handbills and a Liverpool Everyman sign.

A new section of the gallery looks at Liverpool’s impact on the big and small screen including screenwriters, actors, directors and the city’s presence as an in-demand filming location.

Items on show include the wig and teeth worn by Sheridan Smith when she played Cilla, and ephemera from series like Bread, Scully and Z Cars.

Documentaries and TV series with strong social and political stories and themes, from Boys to the Blackstuff to Anthony and Little Boy Blue, are also represented.

Curator Kay Jones says: “We’ve worked in partnership with Liverpool Film Office, and with lots of production companies who have been really generous.”

The immersive Beatles experience In The Town Where I Was Born, and Kicking and Screaming – the Football Show, both return with the latter updated to include more recent sporting victories as well as looking at women’s role in the sport, racism issues, and the latest on Hillsborough.

The popular karaoke room is also back, while new interactive exhibits include a music quiz and a touchscreen map of filming locations.

New sections of the gallery also include a special area dedicated to the city’s important gaming sector; Docks and Decks – celebrating Liverpool’s club culture; a focus on the city’s music festivals, and Black to the Future, created in partnership with Liverpool Heritage Development Company, which celebrates the contribution of Liverpool’s Black artists to the city’s rich music scene.

The museum has also worked with other groups and organisations like its House of Memories, Writing on the Wall, Sonic Yootha and poster and print designer Dorothy to create new exhibits.

To celebrate the gallery’s opening there will be two days of events this weekend, November 27-28, including live music in the atrium, pop-up badge making sessions, puppet making and football tricks from Mr Silky Skills.

Wondrous Place officially reopens on Friday.