The evolution of a museum. The museum is housed in an old four-storey building with modern extensions. The building was originally known as the Tower Building and was constructed around 1860 by John Hutchinson as the administrative centre for his alkali business. It later became the head office of the Gossage soap company, which at one time was the largest of its kind in the world and handled half of the UK's soap exports. Moreover, the town of Widnes was once considered to be the centre of the chemical manufacturing industry in the North West and has strongly been influenced by it for the last 170 years. The origins of the museum lie in the centenary exhibition of the Society of Chemical Industry in 1982. The development of Catalyst was originally initiated by a number of companies in the chemical industry in partnership with Halton Borough Council. It began as a research project in 1982. A study was conducted to find out whether sufficient material and an appropriate location were available to set up a museum devoted to chemical industry and a temporary display area was set up in the Old Town Hall in Widnes. It was a very traditional exhibit based display that dealt in equal parts with the local chemical industry and other local history. By 1986 the space in the Old Town Hall was needed for other uses so Catalyst moved to its present location in Gossage Building in the West Bank area of Widnes. Dr. Gordon Rintoul, who became the new director in 1987, brought about a change of policy concerning the exhibition concept. He wanted to get away from exclusively local matters and focus on chemistry in everyday life. The museum opened as "The Museum of the Chemical Industry" in 1989. It is said to be the world's first museum dedicated to the chemical industry, although museums devoted to chemistry (rather than to the chemical industry) such as Kazan chemical museum, Farsman Mineralogy Museum, and the Kiev Museum of Chemical Industry did exist earlier.
In addition to a very comprehensive archive section and a wide ranging photographic section there are a fine collection and numerous hands-on interactive displays. The objects range from test tubes to a 20-ton cast iron caustic soda finishing vessel, laboratory equipment, and chemical samples. Catalyst has also collected some local social history objects which have helped to give a human context to the collection as a whole. The collection has concentrated, in terms of industry, on the salt-based chemical industries of Merseyside, South Lancashire and North and Mid Cheshire, along with other chemical industries that have arisen in these areas. The social history collection has been confined to Widnes and Runcorn and its environs. All Areas Accessible to Disabled Visitors - Lift to all areas. Facilities for Hearing Impaired Visitors - Induction loop on first floor. Ramp / Level Access. Toilets for Disabled Visitors.
Location : Mersey Road, Widnes, Cheshire, England, WA8 0DF
Transport: Runcorn (National Rail) then Bus. Bus route 9 stops outside.
Opening Times - Termtime: Tuesday to Friday 10:00 to 16:00. Weekends 10:00 to 17:00
Opening Times - School Holidays: Daily 10:00 to 17:00
Tickets: Adults £5.95. Concessions/Children (5 - 16) £4.95.
Tel: 0151 420 1121