Manchester City Council has appointed Mather & Co to develop its application for funding to create 'Archives+', an archive exhibition space within the newly-refurbished Central Library.
The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has awarded Manchester a grant of £72,500 to develop the Archives+ application, after it successfully passed the first round of a two-stage approval process.
The scheme aims to bring together thousands of the region's social and family history records under one roof for the first time. Manchester is bidding for £1.6m to create the exhibition space, which would sit alongside a new archive centre.
The centre will house a nationally important collection of items that currently take up 10 kilometres of shelving. A decision on the bid is expected in September 2012.
The Archives+ project aims to bring Manchester's past to life, telling the story of Manchester's social history and its people through the amazing tales contained in its vast collection of more than 50,000 rare books, photographs, parchments, leather-bound volumes, glass negatives and archive film. The oldest items in the collection date back to the 12th Century.
Cheshire-based Mather & Co, which specialises in designing and creating some of the country's leading visitor attractions and experiences, will seek to make Archives+ a destination of national and international significance for anyone interested in local or family history.
Its design interpretation will bring together the latest in digital interactive exhibits and online materials with traditional showcase displays of books, maps and records, significantly improving access, storage and research facilities.
Interactive exhibition areas on the Library's ground floor and in the majestic domed Reading Room on the first floor will be included in the proposals, while the space would provide a base for activities such as guided tours, live music, drama, film showings, readings and special themed events.
Executive member for culture and leisure, Councillor Rosa Battle, said: "As we continue the work of refurbishing our magnificent Central Library, we are extremely excited about the prospect of a space within it that will showcase some 800 years of the city's fascinating history.
"Archives+ will give Mancunians and our visitors from around the world the chance to develop a fuller and richer understanding of the phenomenon that is Manchester and the people who have helped to shape its destiny over the centuries. We believe in the project and are delighted that HLF have offered us the opportunity to develop our proposals for the new centre."
Mather's design director, Dan Procter said: "Coming hot on the heels of our recent work on 'York Minster Revealed', this latest contract award is another flagship heritage project for our design team.
"We are delighted to have been selected on this exciting and innovative HLF bid. Central Library is one of Manchester's major cultural landmarks and, as a local company, we are thrilled to be working on a project that aims to make the Archives+ partners' collection accessible to new audiences and bring the city's history to life."