Mobile tech boost for Manchester Jewish Museum

Manchester Jewish Museum to work with local academic institution to ‘bring people back from the past’ in £420,000 Heritage Lottery Funded project

Manchester Jewish Museum is housed inside a former Spanish and Portuguese synagogue – the only UK museum inside a synagogue and was Founded in 1873 by Jewish textile merchants from the Mediterranean and the Middle East (Sephardi Jews), the building is Moorish in style and has over 40 exceptional stained glass windows.

It is now a Grade II listed building and has been described by English Heritage as “one of the highlights of Victorian Gothic architecture in the country and one of the architectural jewels in the degraded local area”.

Dr Timothy Jung, Senior Lecturer in Tourism Management, is now developing an app for mobile devices which visitors could use as part of their experience and which would explain the story more comprehensively. “We are looking at many different ideas for the app, including ways we could ‘bring people back’ from the past. We are all very excited about being a part of this huge project,” he said. “In previous projects, augmented reality has been used to tell personal stories from the past through overlaying of digital content onto the real environment. Using this approach can help Manchester Jewish Museum to bring its history to life while incorporating stories from the local community.”

The museum is located on the edge of Manchester city centre, in lower Cheetham Hill, and is an exceptional survival in what is now Manchester’s historic Jewish Quarter. In 1911 over 30,000 Jewish people lived and worked in this area, but this community has since moved out and, as a result, all the other synagogues have been abandoned, demolished or converted for industrial use. The museum now runs regular guided walks around this historic Jewish Quarter.

Max Dunbar, Museum Chief Executive, said: “We’re looking forward to working with Manchester Metropolitan University on this exciting project, using the latest technology to bring to life the story of Manchester’s Jewish community and its oldest synagogue building.”

The University is the only academic institution working with the museum on the project, which also includes a museum extension housing new galleries, learning and event spaces. The museum’s historic synagogue building will also be fully restored.

Dr Jung said: “This is an exciting opportunity for Manchester Metropolitan University to get involved in research focussing on Manchester’s community.”

The research follows on from work carried out by Dr Jung last year into tourists’ use of augmented reality in Dublin, and the potential uses of Google Glass for museums, which was trialled at Manchester Art Gallery.

He will be working alongside Dr Mandy Claudia Leue. Both researchers are members of the Creative Augmented Realities Hub at Manchester Metropolitan’s Hollings faculty.