When National Museums Liverpool reopens to the public, there will be plenty of covid-safe activities in venue and online for all the family to lift your lockdown but the Aquarium and Planetarium at World Museum will be closed temporarily, as exciting new changes happen behind-the-scenes!

Anne Fahy, Head of World Museum, said of reopening on 18 May:

“From day one at World Museum, we will open the doors to our blockbuster exhibition, AI: More than Human, with carefully-controlled visitor numbers, and our usual galleries including the much-loved Ancient Egypt and Space galleries. We will also be introducing a new series of book-able family activities starting with Up Close With: Rainforests.

“The Aquarium and Planetarium will be temporarily closed, as we make improvements to them so that your future visits will be all the more enjoyable. We are really excited about the Aquarium changes, which include some lovely new tanks and our brand-new octopus, Polpo. There is also an immersive element to the Aquarium reopening which we’ll say more about later! In the Planetarium, we are completely updating our technology with new shows, ultra-high-definition and surround sound. We are also adding more accessible shows so that more visitors can enjoy the magic of a Planetarium experience. These shows change your perspective of the Universe and our place within it.”

→ Aquarium: Ever seen a Yellow Belly Slider or a Chocolate Chip Starfish?  

The refurbished aquarium at World Museum will reopen to the public in time for the summer holidays.

We’re replacing five of our tanks, and redesigning some of the other areas within the gallery. We will be able to display more animals including, for the first time, a common octopus called Polpo, who travelled to us from Portugal.

One of our new tanks will be dedicated to species of wrasse found in the Irish sea, including the brightly-coloured blue and pink Cuckoo wrasse, with a second window for extra viewing. We’re making a new home for our mangrove fish and bigger tanks for some of our existing animals. Visitors will also discover more about the world our animals live in and how all of us can help to protect them as the Museum emphasises its educational role around biodiversity.

Our fish are receiving their usual daily care in a special area at the back of the Museum. Ben Mitchell, Learning and Participation Manager (Live Centres) at World Museum, is responsible for looking after the animals in the aquarium and bug house as well as running our education sessions. Ben says:

“The Aquarium side of my job includes everything from medical treatments and health checks to water quality testing and much more besides. One of the things I’m most excited about is we’re going to be getting a specialized tank so that we can have a common octopus in our aquarium for the first time. We’ve called her Polpo! She is one of two octopus species that live in the UK. In the past, if you’ve seen octopuses in our aquarium, you’ll have seen a smaller species called the lesser octopus.”

→ Planetarium Changes: New equipment transforms visitor experience

The new Planetarium shows at World Museum will start in June 2021.

The Planetarium is undergoing a major upgrade. We will have a state-of-the-art system with ultra-high-definition projectors for the highest quality images and with surround sound for a fully immersive experience. Completely new shows will include “The Edge of Darkness” which reaches the outer limits of the Solar System, and a show for younger visitors about “The Little Star that Could”, as well as some old favourites in a greatly enhanced form such as “The Phantom of the Universe” which deals with the search for the mysterious Dark Matter. Each day’s programme of shows will have something to interest all ages and levels of knowledge.

Over the coming months we will be transforming our “relaxed days” with special adjustments for accessibility, events with BSL interpretation and an increased capacity for wheelchair users. Alongside that, we are planning parent and baby screenings to help you introduce your little stars to the stars. The exact days and times may vary but all information will be communicated regularly on the Museum’s website and social media channels.

Family fun from Tuesday 18 May: Book your family some one-on-one time to examine objects from our natural history collection and observe objects from our Space collection! Programme LEGO Robot Rovers and do some of the exploring you’ve been missing out on while in lockdown. Be part of LightNight’s special experience with Under the Sea at the Museum of Liverpool, AI: More than Human at World Museum and the John Moores Painting Prize at the Walker Art Gallery. 

World Museum is running a series of Up Close With sessions, allowing families to get close to our incredible collections for a “Look Don’t Touch!” exploration with experts. Topics include: rainforests; the International Space Station, insects, dinosaurs, fossil bones. The museum will also be hosting a series of Museums Playing Out events including a bug hunt at the wildflower meadow and pavement pictures in the forecourt. While Young People inspired by the AI: More Than Human exhibition, can try their hand at programming LEGO Robot Rovers with University of Manchester’s Computer Programming team; a science fiction flash writing competition with experts at University of Liverpool and the Science Fiction Foundation; and an introductory session exploring the Python programming language with experts from the University of Liverpool’s Computer Sciences department.

Elsewhere at National Museums Liverpool, Seized! The Border and Customs uncovered gallery at Maritime Museum will be hosting a Project Spy Trail around the gallery, allowing children over seven and adults to use the clues to discover a hidden message during half-term.

At Museum of Liverpool, celebrate LightNight at the Under-the-Sea event with larger-than-life Octopi Cali and Mari and their rivals the Lionfish all under the watchful eye of the ever-present Captain Barnacle, with Artemis Street Theatre Productions. This will be a fun and story-filled event with performances alongside the river on 21 May. It’s not just the children who will benefit from interactive sessions – also at Museum of Liverpool is a series of online creative engagement sessions aimed at 16–25-year-olds. The first of which is an introduction to 19th century boxer Jem Wharton, whose portrait is currently on display at MOL as part of the National Portrait Gallery’s COMING HOME project. The session will explore Jem Wharton’s connections to Liverpool and will also look at the artist William Daniels and consider what representation means to us. Other sessions include: a drawing class with illustrator, print maker and workshop artist Laura-Kate, exploring the theme of Home; Black Punch: Liverpool’s Boxing Legacy – In conversation with Ray Quarless; Creative Writing with Curtis Watts: The Power of Words; and Selenna Lavern Daye: Textile portraiture workshop.

Walker Art Gallery will be hosting an online photography workshop inspired by the John Moores Painting Prize exhibition for 16–18-year-olds and another for 19-24-year-olds. Exploring themes of identity and representation, participants will learn how to create their own photographs and develop their creativity.

Find out more