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It’s always nice when you visit a new city & you spot a building that makes you say, “Wow, what’s that?”. Oftentimes, the building in question is some mundane office building. In Liverpool, it’s the stunning Museum of Liverpool, which in addition to being a beautiful modern contribution to the waterfront skyline, is also one of the best city museums in the world.
The Museum of Liverpool is located right on the Mersey near the Albert Docks. It’s also near several hop-on, hop-off bus routes. Entry is free, with donations suggested. The museum is informative, while also remaining very kid friendly. Unlike other city museums, it’s actually a national museum, the first of its kind & the largest new national museum in Britain in over 100 years.
First opened in 2011, the Museum of Liverpool (official website) is comprised of several floors that tell the history of the city, with a particular focus on the port, social life, & Liverpool’s importance to global pop culture & sport.
On the ground floor, there is an exhibition titled “The Great Port”, which tells the story of the Port of Liverpool. It starts with the geology and first inhabitants of Merseyside, then tells the history of the docks as well as transportation in the area, including the railways, roads, and canals.
Included are the remains of Manchester Dock, where the museum now sits.
The museum exhibits then get more personal by including the history of dockworkers, along with their individual stories. The Liverpool docks have now moved to a modernized port north of the city.
The Museum of Liverpool does not gloss over the fact that enslaved Africans were a critical part of transatlantic trade. While sugar & tobacco were carried by ships built in Liverpool, helping the city become wealthy, forced human labor was as well. This is an important fact that the city is increasingly beginning to reckon with. For even more background on Liverpool’s connections to slavery, you can also visit the nearby Merseyside Maritime Museum & International Museum of Slavery.
Another ground-floor exhibit called “Global City” tells the story of multicultural Liverpool, both historic and modern, with a specific focus on China.
The upper floors are accessed via the pretty spiral staircase in the center of the building.
The next floor up goes through the full history of Liverpool, starting with prehistory. There is a lot packed into this main section of the Museum of Liverpool, with just enough information to be informative, but not too dry. The exhibits contain items from local archeological sites & the port, as well as life in the city.
There is also an exhibit about the defunct overhead railway, which once ran along the waterfront. You can also see the old train from below, a cool way of presenting it.
Also on the first floor is a space for rotating exhibitions. On my visit, there was a special exhibition about the Blitz in Liverpool. The port city was a major target for bombing during World War II. The exhibition included photos of the ruins & landmarks, as well as stories from those who experienced it.
The top floor of the Museum of Liverpool is devoted to the people of Liverpool.
The first section, titled “The People’s Republic,” is an ever-evolving exhibit that covers social movements in Liverpool, as well as health, language, and how people have lived and worked in the city. It’s similar to the excellent People’s History Museum in Manchester and the People’s Story in Edinburgh.
The final section of the Museum of Liverpool is called “Wondrous Place.” This area has exhibits about sport, music, and entertainment, all of which have massive importance to Liverpool.
Every football team in the city is given plenty of space to showcase their achievements, both on and off the pitch. There are also exhibits about boxing and the Grand National, which is held in Aintree each year.
No discussion about Liverpool’s contributions to pop culture is complete without the local music scene. As you’d expect, there’s plenty about the Beatles, including The Beatles Experience video show.
However, there are also displays covering smaller local scenes that never became more widely known. And there’s also a karaoke room, should you wish to contribute your own take on Liverpool music.
Liverpool is also the 2nd most popular U.K. filming location after London. There is a section about television shows & movies filmed in the city. Many celebrities have also come from Liverpool.
The entertainment exhibit doesn’t stop there. There’s an area about locally produced video games, some of which you can even play. In the entrance, there’s a section about Liverpool comedy.
The Museum of Liverpool is one of the best examples of a city museum. Not only does it provide interesting insights into the city’s history & people, but the Museum of Liverpool also shows how connected the city has been with the rest of the world. It’s the sort of place you can spend hours in to get a deeper knowledge of the city, or you can just take a quick walk through it. For more nearby history, visit Merseyside Maritime Museum & International Museum of Slavery or take a Liverpool Beatles tour.
Here are some great Liverpool tours & activities & other things to see & do in Liverpool.
If you’re looking for a place to stay in Liverpool, check out these Liverpool hotels.