The Whitworth Art Gallery, The University of Manchester


Slave Trade

Textiles have formed part of The Whitworth Art Gallery's core collections since it opened to the public in 1890. The collection of historic and modern textiles is the largest and most comprehensive collection outside London. 15,000-20,000 textile objects range in date from the third century AD to the present day. These textiles show many connections to the history of slavery, and the development of Manchester as the world’s first industrial city on the back of the textile trade.

The Whitworth Art Gallery was founded in 1889, as The Whitworth Institute and Park. It was originally a voluntary cultural, educational and technical institution marking the memory of one of the north west's great industrialists, Sir Joseph Whitworth. The first building was completed in 1908 and consolidated two of the world's great collections: British watercolours and drawings, and world textiles.

In the early decades of the 1900s, collections of prints and modern art were also established. To accompany this growth of collections, a public programme of displays, exhibitions, lectures and events was also established.

During the 1970s The Whitworth Art Gallery developed an expanded and internationally significant programme of temporary exhibitions that continues to the present day. Since the 1980s The Whitworth Art Gallery has reached out to a wider and more diverse community with education and events programmes to enhance public access and engagement with its collections and exhibitions.

The Gallery's education department established the first post-16 unit in a UK gallery and its work is widely acknowledged as delivering best practice for widening participation in higher education.