Engaging publics in the design of the new Textile galleries

The Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) has as its mission the inspiration of all its visitors, including future scientists and inventors, with the story of how ideas can change the world, from the industrial revolution to today and beyond. Their vision is to be a world-leading, inspirational museum about the potential of science and industry to change our lives.


In 2016 MOSI were working on a 10-year master plan which would develop four major new narrative galleries. One of the first galleries to be redeveloped would be the museum’s textiles gallery, which previously covered the key role that Manchester played in Britain’s cotton industry. The new gallery, ‘Cottonopolis’, would aim to go beyond the traditional textiles narrative and explore the interrelated themes of industrialisation, urbanisation and technological change.

In preparation for a Heritage Lottery Fund application for funding and to inform the development of the new gallery content, MSI were looking for a set of strong and reliable baseline data covering visitor attitudes towards the old textiles gallery, as well as recommendations for the best ways to use museum objects, stories and interpretation methods that would appeal to a wider public.


The project developed a strategy to engage with visitors to MOSI’s textiles gallery in order to evaluate their perceptions of and attitudes towards its current format. Based on the evidence gathered, researchers identified key areas relating to objects, stories and interpretation methods that appealed or did not appeal to visitors.

The findings were presented in a final report that included data-based recommendations about what changes needed to be made and what form they should take, which would inform both the HLF funding bid and future development of the gallery.

Project team

Alejandro Marambio-Tapia, PhD Candidate in Sociology, University of Manchester. Currently a doctoral researcher and graduate teaching assistant at the Sociology Department of The University of Manchester, Alejandro holds an MSc in Sociology and an MA in Social Communication. His research interests are in the area of Economic Sociology, Class, and Consumption. He also has experience as a science communication and outreach officer for the civil service in Chile, where he was born.

Michelle Stephens, PhD Candidate in Textiles, MIRIAD, MMU. Michelle graduated from her B.A.(Hons) in Fine and Applied Arts (First Class) at the University of Ulster (2010). Upon completion, Michelle was accepted onto the ‘Making it’ programme with Craft NI (2011-13). Michelle is also a member of the internationally recognised “Sixty Two Group of Textile Artists”. Most recently, she finished her Masters in MA Textile Practice (Distinction) at MMU (2014). This body of research forms a practice-led PhD within MIRIAD at MMU (2015-18).


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