Celebrating 100 Years of the Manx Museum

Manx National Heritage is delighted to announce the opening of MUSEUM 100, an exhibition marking the centenary of the Manx Museum, which celebrates its 100th birthday next month.

Opening on Saturday 22 October 2022, MUSEUM 100 is yearlong major exhibition, which has been 18 months in the planning and will feature a kaleidoscope of over 150 objects and treasures from the Manx Museum’s collections, many of which will be on public display for the first time. Highlights include the oldest surviving Manx registered motor vehicle, the first piece of Viking treasure ever collected by the Manx Museum and a magnificent Bryan Kneale mural. 

Katie King, MUSEUM 100 Exhibition Curator, explains:

The Manx Museum is home to an extraordinary collection of artefacts and archives that help tell the story of the Isle of Man and its people.Our national collections have grown over 100 years and reflect 10,000 years of our Island’s cultural heritage. They reveal stories about who we are as a nation and provide a constant source of inspiration and pride for each new generation. 

But if we look back some 150 years things were very different. It is hard to believe now, but there was a time when some Manx people felt their own history was so insignificant that the idea of a national museum was mocked? Surely, they said, there could be nothing of cultural significance to fill even one small room?”

A ‘tenacious band of patriots’ determined to research and protect the heritage of the Isle of Man, led by scholar Philip Moore Callow Kermode recognised the need was urgent. Farmers were using the Island’s medieval stone cross-slabs to fill gaps in hedges and builders sent a Viking treasure hoard to the tip. Manx cultural assets were sitting in British national museums. 

These scholars devoted themselves to rescuing and explaining the Island’s heritage. Their work uncovered such astounding artefacts that people started to take notice. An Act of Tynwald established the Museum & Ancient Monuments Trustees in 1886. 

The Trustees mission was to preserve the Isle of Man’s cultural heritage and to build a national museum.  Gathering a collection of significant artefacts proved straight forward enough, but finding a permanent home for the collection was a 30-year struggle. Philip Kermode again led the charge and on 2 November 1922 the Manx Museum was finally opened, in the former Noble’s Hospital building, which was gifted to the Manx Museum & Ancient Monument Trustees by the Henry Bloom Noble Charitable Trustees.

The Manx Museum was officially opened on 2 November 1922 by Lieutenant Governor Fry. In his opening speech he remarked “One hour spent in a museum will be worth, many hours spent in a book.”  Their dream had been realised; the people of the Isle of Man had their treasure house – The Manx Museum, Thie Tashtee Vannin.

Today the Manx Museum continues to tell the story of the Isle of Man and its people; revealing stories about how we have grown as a nation and providing a constant source of inspiration for each new generation.  The museum holds over one million artefacts in the national collections, and all are connected to the people of the Isle of Man and belong to the people of the Isle of Man.

Katie continued:

“When the Manx Museum first opened in 1922 this was a revolutionary approach. Whilst museums across the water were collecting antiquities and curios from far-off lands, the Manx Museum was collecting everyday objects belonging to ordinary people.  Manx National Heritage still follow the same fundamental principle of capturing the stories of the people of the Isle of Man told through their possessions and keeping them safe for the future.  The collections include library and archives, art, archaeology, clothing and textiles, furniture, natural history and social history. Our role is to preserve and make accessible these treasures for future generations – for you, your children and your grandchildren”.  

Running alongside the exhibition will be a specially commissioned family audio adventure. ‘MISSON 100 – SAVE THE STORIES’ has been created for Manx National Heritage by children’s theatre specialists Hello Little People. The audio adventure will take visitors on an immersive experience around the museum galleries as participants take on the role of Agent 100.

MUSEUM 100 opens on Saturday 22 October 2022 and runs until October 2023. The Manx Museum is open daily 9:30am – 4:30pm. 


Editor’s Notes

The Museum & Ancient Monuments Trustees were founded in 1886 to preserve the Isle of Man’s cultural heritage and to build a national museum. The organisation was founded in 1886, with a remit to collect and preserve the history of the Manx people and the Island itself. Some 130 years later we still follow that same principle. This means that the Manx Museum’s collections are unique, in that they only contains artefacts that are connected to the Isle of Man. 

In 1922, the Isle of Man’s first national museum opened, the Manx Museum. In 1938 we opened our first branch museum, at Cregneash and in 1951 a second branch museum at the Nautical Museum in Castletown. 

In 1951, the remit of the Trustees was broadened to include protecting the natural environment, and their name was changed to the Manx Museum and National Trust. Further sites were added with The Old Grammar School (1970), The Grove Museum of Rural Life (1978), The Calf of Man (1986), Peel Castle, Castle Rushen and the Laxey Wheel (1989), House of Manannan (1997), Rushen Abbey (2000), Old House of Keys (2001).

Today The Manx Museum is part of Manx National Heritage, the trading name for the Manx Museum & National Trust (1951) and a registered charity, responsible for protecting and promoting the Isle of Man’s natural and cultural heritage, looking after some of the island’s most special places, spaces, archives and museum collections, making these available to people across the world.

Image captions:

Watercolour Visualisation of the Nobles Hospital, now the Manx Museum, painted by Thomas William Cubbon (1887).


The following images are available on request:


 Mr P M C KermodeMr Philip Moore Callow Kermode – Founding member of the Isle of Man Natural History & Antiquarian Society (1879) , PMC Kermode devoted his life to protecting the Island’s heritage. He became the first curator of the Manx Museum when it opened in 1922. “When will Manksmen realise that these monuments so few in number, are of priceless value, that their beauty and their interest should be our greatest pride to preserve”  Mr P M C Kermode, 1894 
9531F1A6William Cubbon, Manx Museum Librarian 1922 -1932 and Manx Museum Director 1932-1940  Under the directorship of William Cubbon and Basil Megaw the Manx Museum continued to expand with new galleries in the 1930s and the first branch museum opening at Cregneash in 1938. They devoted themselves to the collecting of folk culture.   
 C102F0F0Basil Megaw, Assistant Director 1936-1940 and Director 1940-1957 “It is strange how seldom the things of daily life attract the attention of scholars…we resolved on a campaign of field work in the country, on the principle that we would not obtain what we required unless we went out to look for it.”Basil Megaw on folk collecting, 1939 


image021.pngThe Manx Museum, opened 2 November 1922    


image022.jpgRenault 8 Horsepower Type AX Motorcar (1911)Belonging to Wilson James Ashburner, a retired engineer with a passion for all things mechanical. It was one of the first motorcars to be registered on the Isle of Man and always caused much excitement when people saw it being driven in the towns and villages. The car itself was maintained by William Knox’s Engineering Company (William was the father of Archibald Knox). The family were great friends. This model was one of the most successful small cars of the pre-First World War era. Whilst not rare in its own right, this vehicle is special in that it is the oldest surviving Manx registered vehicle. It was issued the registration number MN12 and still holds the same registration. This makes it the oldest surviving number to car pairing on the Isle of Man.   When the vehicle was donated to the Manx Museum it was finished in yellow paint, though there is evidence that it has had other paint schemes in the past. The wheels have wooden spokes and detachable rims. To prepare for MUSEUM 100 the car’s engine has been conserved and partially restored. 
 image023.jpgHacker Record Player belonging to Maurice Gibb of the Bee Gees This 1970s Hacker record player once belonged to Maurice Gibb of the Bee Gees pop group, the most famous musical stars produced by the Isle of Man.The casing is covered in two tone black and cream vinyl, with a plastic carrying handle. To one side are three cream plastic buttons (volume, treble, bass). There is a red and silver ‘Hacker’ logo to the front. In its day, this was an item of some quality.Maurice Gibb was born on the Isle of Man. He found fame with his brothers as the Bee Gees, but in the early 1970s in a low point their career, the family returned to the Island to take advantage of its low tax status. Maurice lived in a large house called Kidborough and was friendly with the donors of this item. The soundtrack of ‘Saturday Night Fever’ revived the fortunes of the band, and Maurice finally left the Island for good around 1979/80. He then gave away a number of items to friends, including his record player. Maurice Gibb died in 2003, in Miami Florida. 
image024.jpgBallaquayle Hoard Eadgar Coin This tiny silver coin is the first object ever catalogued by the Manx Museum. Discovered in 1894, it formed part of an extraordinary Viking age treasure hoard. The treasure was sent to the British Museum as there was no national museum on the Isle of Man. It was the loss of such Manx cultural treasures that accelerated calls for a national museum for the Isle of Man.On 12 June 1894, whilst digging foundations for a new house on Derby Road, Douglas, the hoard was uncovered. It was described as one of the most dramatic Manx archaeological finds of all time, but newspaper reports suggest that not everyone understood the significance of the find. Leading Manx antiquarian Mr P.M.C Kermode was called for and declared the hoard a potential Treasure Trove. An advert appeared in the paper on 14 June informing ‘all persons in having in their possessions any portion of the Treasure Trove recently discovered are  required to deliver the same up to the Chief Constable’ – after hearing accounts that some items had been taken to a rubbish tip. The coin was minted between AD 957 and 970. It is inscribed with the name of King Eadgar, and also the person who minted the coin, Adelaver.  The silver coin was buried alongside hundreds of other coins and pieces of Viking Age jewellery in AD 970. The Ballaquayle Hoard was returned to the Isle of Man from the British Museum just in time for the opening of the Manx Museum in 1922.  It has remained on display ever since.  
image027.jpgThe Juan Nan (Watterson) Family Armchair (c.1700) This rather battered old oak armchair was donated to the Manx Museum from the Watterson family of Ballahane, Rushen in 1938. It had been in the same family home since 1700.  The chair has been much used, repaired, well-loved and has seen much change on the Island. It has been handed down from generation to generation. It is claimed that the father of Methodism John Wesley climbed upon this chair and used it as a pulpit when preaching on the Island in either 1777 or 1781.The construction of the chair itself is also very unusual. It is one of a small number of armchairs identified as uniquely ‘Manx’ in style, rather than replicating English styles. The chair has been made using a tradition of agricultural joinery, rather than typical furniture joinery.  The seat stretchers show nail marks indicating the chair has had a succession of fabric or leather seats rather than wooden ones. It is exceptionally rare. 

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RAAUE: S’preevaadjagh yn çhaghteraght post-l shoh chammah’s coadanyn erbee currit marish as ta shoh coadit ec y leigh. Cha nhegin diu coipal ny cur eh da peiagh erbee elley ny ymmydey yn chooid t’ayn er aght erbee dyn kied leayr veih’n choyrtagh. Mannagh nee shiu yn enmyssagh kiarit jeh’n phost-l shoh, doll-shiu magh eh, my sailliu, as cur-shiu fys da’n choyrtagh cha leah as oddys shiu.

Cha nel kied currit da failleydagh ny jantagh erbee conaant y yannoo rish peiagh ny possan erbee lesh post-l er son Rheynn ny Boayrd Slattyssagh erbee jeh Reiltys Ellan Vannin dyn co-niartaghey scruit leayr veih Reireyder y Rheynn ny Boayrd Slattyssagh t’eh bentyn rish.

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Watercolour Visualisation of the Former Nobles Hospital (1887), now the Manx Museum.png
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