Our venues

Creating the Conservation Centre

The Midland Railway Goods Offices before renovation

Following the creation of the conservation division, accommodation needed to be found that provided environmentally sound workspaces for the conservators who had previously been based across different venues.

The Midland Railway Building

Following a feasibility study a beautiful Grade II listed Victorian warehouse in the city centre was selected as the best candidate. In its previous life the Midland Railway Goods Offices - generally known as the Midland Railway Building - stored and dispatched parcels between Liverpool’s main freight terminals. Local architects Culshaw and Sumners built the warehouse in 1874, a time of great prosperity for Liverpool. Its design made use of the natural slope of the site, with inclined loading bays running through the centre of the building, enabling wagons to be moved by the force of gravity. It continued in this use until the 1950s, after which it fell into disuse and disrepair. However it still remained a beautiful example of urban architecture.

Suitability

The Midland Railway Building was suitable for conversion for a number of reasons, the main being:

  • The building was large enough to accommodate all the conservation team on one half-acre site, providing around 60,000 square foot of floor space.
  • Suitable access routes into the building allowed easy passage for large objects.
  • The city centre location, close to several of our other venues.

The interior of the building, before renovation

Renovation

The building itself was not in perfect condition with water penetration, settlement and timber and ironwork in need of repair, plus a new roof was needed. A wholesale conversion was required to provide working space for the many disciplines within the department, some of which have very definite needs. For example picture restoration needs high light levels; sculpture conservation needs high floor loading and access to overhead gantries. Some processes require fume extraction or space for water immersion. The workplaces also needed to be safe and pleasant for the staff housed there. Add to this space for a library, a meeting area and a public display area and the scale of the project becomes apparent.

The interior of the building, before renovation

Development work began in 1994, with the finished building opening in 1996 and the royal opening by HRH The Prince of Wales in December that year.

Public display spaces

When the Conservation Centre first opened it included displays introducing the work of conservators to the public. The Centre won the European Museum of the Year award in 1998, as well as the International Institute of Conservation's Keck award for promoting public understanding of conservation.

Almost ten years later the centre underwent a major refurbishment of the public spaces to create the Reveal gallery, which opened in summer 2006. The Reveal exhibition explored the use of science to help us understand more about objects, and their stories. The exhibition had a working laboratory at its heart, so that visitors could see some of the techniques used to examine objects in action. In 2006 Reveal was visited by members of the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee, conducting an inquiry into Science and Heritage. The subsequent House of Lords report on Science and Heritage highlighted the exhibition at Liverpool's Conservation Centre as an "impressive example" of how the heritage sector can make science accessible to the public.

A series of temporary exhibitions were also held in the Conservation Centre, which are listed on the Exhibition archive page|.

The public displays at the Conservation Centre closed to visitors on Friday 17 December 2010 following government cuts.

However our conservators are continuing their vital work to conserve our collections in the conservation studios.