New Port Sunlight STEM attraction aims to bring the Lever legacy to life

In a project costing £130,000, PSVT will create a permanent exhibition in the Wirral village exploring the impact and legacy of Port Sunlight’s founder, William Hesketh Lever. Tony McDonough reports

Port Sunlight
Port Sunlight Village Trust will create a new STEM museum in the village

 

Port Sunlight Village Trust (PSVT) is to create a new addition to its heritage attraction that will look to inspire children and young people to take up STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths).

In a project costing £130,000, PSVT will create a permanent exhibition in the Wirral village exploring the impact and legacy of Port Sunlight’s founder, William Hesketh Lever, through innovative interpretation, creativity and co-production. 

It will become part of Port Sunlight Museum’s existing offer, almost doubling its size. It will be situated in a different public building to the museum, increasing access to Port Sunlight’s unique heritage.

READ MORE: Port Sunlight’s ambitious five-year growth plan

Dating back 130 years Port Sunlight is one of the most picturesque areas of Merseyside and attracts more than 300,000 visitors a year – as well as being home to more than 2,000 people.

It was built by soap tycoon William Hesketh Lever to house his workers from his factory and their families. The former Lever factory complex is now operated by multinational consumer giant Unilever and employs 2,300 people.

History Makers

PSVT has secured a grant £78,430 from AIM Biffa Award through their History Makers scheme which funds museums to create new exhibitions that will inspire the public through the lives and achievements of extraordinary, historical figures.

The scheme is managed by the Association of Independent Museums (AIM) and Biffa Award, a multi million-pound fund that helps to build communities and transform lives through awarding grants to communities and environmental projects across the UK as part of the Landfill Communities Fund.

Funding has also been secured by the MMIAH project funded through the Interreg Atlantic Area ERDF programme for a Cross Reality Experience within the new gallery, combining augmented and virtual reality.

Unilever
Factory built by William Hesketh Lever in Port Sunlight now owned by Unilever. Picture by Tony McDonough

 

This will provide visitors with a more immersive experience, enabling them to go back in time to the development of the site, early soap-making within the Lever Brothers factory, and to other sites that are connected to the Port Sunlight story.

The experience will blend computer generated imagery with present day and archive photography, with a mobile version to take to schools and youth centres. The gallery will feature new research, previously untold stories, and hidden treasures currently not on display.

First step

Katherine Lynch, director of Heritage at PSVT, said: “The new gallery represents an important first step in realising our ambitions for Port Sunlight. Over the coming years, we want to transform the village from a ‘hidden gem’ into a major visitor destination.

“The AIM Biffa Award and Interreg funding will support us on our journey to provide a high quality, joined up offer to visitors, to tell the complete story of Port Sunlight, and to embrace digital media appropriately.

“We want to ensure Lever’s legacy is relevant and accessible to everyone in order to sustain the village’s unique heritage.

“Our ultimate ambition is to create a new flagship museum for Port Sunlight, a place where we can tell the full story of the village’s significance. The AIM Biffa Award and Interreg funding provides us with the unique opportunity to test out our ideas with a new audience and inform our future plans.”

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