The Portico Library

On Paper: Triumph & tragedy in the library archives exhibition at The Portico 7th December 2018 – 21st January 2019.

The Portico Library, Manchester, was founded as a Library and a Newsroom in 1806.

For the first time in its history, The Portico Library has this year been able to organise and catalogue its archival material digitally, thanks to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Ever since the first recorded lease of the Library’s plot in 1792, what consistently shines through is a sense of vivacious storytelling. On Paper considers the parallels between the historical role of printed matter and the Library’s archives. In collaboration with artist Theresa Easton, we have unearthed personal stories of daily life throughout the Library’s history, creating new artworks to interpret our discoveries.

Reading newspapers was a social affair and the Newsroom and Smoking room provided Proprietors with a comfortable environment to discuss articles such as Angus Reach’s 1849 investigation into the condition of the labouring classes in Manchester. ‘Morning Chronicle – Chap Book’ is a snapshot of Reach’s first impression of Manchester that uses the popular Chap Book design from the 17th and 18th century.
‘The Daily Obscurer’ is a reference to a newspaper in Robert Tressell’s, “The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist”. A ‘flag book design’ captures the legacy of the Newsroom and its vast stock of newspapers. The newspaper committee reviewed the stock of newspapers and periodicals regularly; the committee was elected annually. It was not unusual to subscribe to more than one copy of the same newspaper due to its popularity.
Celebrating the contribution to literature of librarian Tinsley Pratt, a miniature collection, ‘A Library of Books’ references Pratt’s publications for children using recycled pages from an encyclopaedia. Titles of Pratt’s work decorate the spine of the books.

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