Manchester Museum, part of the University of Manchester, is the UK’s largest university museum and home to around 4.5 million objects. It is currently undergoing a major £15 million transformation project, Hello Future, and is due to reopen in February 2023. Manchester Museum is dedicated to becoming more inclusive, imaginative and caring for the diverse communities it serves.
OSCH Manchester is overseen by Dr Sadia Habib who joined Manchester Museum as the City Coordinator in May 2019.
Sadia has established and continues to maintain a growing community of young people who engage with Manchester Museum in a variety of critical and creative ways, in person and online; developing a rich and varied programme of youth-led activities and opening-up new opportunities to explore heritage in inspirational and innovative ways.
Sadia’s contribution has been recognised both by the Museums Association, as one of three shortlisted nominees for the Radical Changemakers award in 2020, and then in 2021 she won the Manchester Cultural Award for her work in the ‘promotion of equality and social justice’.
The Manchester Museum OSCH Young Collective brings together around 50 young people from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds who Sadia supports to produce events and campaigns that reflect their own passions and interests.
Through OSCH, young people are now embedded in the museum’s day-to-day work, from working as paid staff in the museum shop and supporting the Visitor Team with events, to being actively involved in recruitment and training. The Collective has also organised and delivered activities, events and workshops for their peers and communities, addressing a wide range of topics including culture and heritage, decolonisation, racism in education, radical reading, colourism, music and poetry. Sadia has organised trips for the Collective to other arts and heritage spaces, to exhibitions and to the theatre. Sadia is keen to bring the young people together for social activities, like picnic in the park or pre-theatre pizza. Many of the young people have also been invited by Sadia to share their experiences in external heritage, academic and policy conferences, roundtables, symposia and seminars.
Members of the Manchester Museum OSCH Young Collective have also played an important role in the development of the UK’s first permanent South Asia Gallery, due to open in February 2023. Some of the young people, supported by Sadia, have been working alongside a group of community co-curators, staff from Manchester Museum and the British Museum, and with the Gallery Designers, to co-produce the content for this unique new gallery.
Sadia was keen to create digital spaces for the Collective to be able to share their engagement with heritage, and so she set up the OSCH blog, which is a popular read, as well as the OSCH Manchester social media on Twitter and Instagram where she and the young people regularly share their activities.
In partnership with the British Council, Manchester Museum secured funding from the Youth Accelerator Fund, to run a youth-led programme for the UK’s first South Asian Heritage Month. For this the Museum recruited five interns, ran an open call and supported other young people’s events. The South Asian Heritage Month activity, delivered by the OSCH team, was awarded the University of Manchester’s Making a Difference Award for Outstanding Public and Community Engagement by Our Cultural Intuitions in 2021.
In March 2021, Manchester Museum recruited two Cultural Learning and Participation Officer apprentices. This is an 18-month level-3 programme, and is coordinated by Manchester Museum’s Barinur Rashid, with support from Sadia Habib. The apprentices have become an indispensable part of the OSCH and Manchester Museum teams, working alongside the wider Collective and museum staff, running projects, planning new activities and inspiring others to join.
Illustrations by Shafia Fiaz