The aim of this talk is to recreate some atmosphere from the Physical Laboratories of Manchester a century ago when its Director was Ernest Rutherford. It is appropriate, therefore, that it will be held in the old Physical Lecture Theatre from the 1912 extension to the Laboratories (now called the Pear Lecture Theatre). I will first give some background on the buildings which historically constituted the Physical Laboratories and then review some of the few surviving photographic images and their history. In the last couple of years these buildings have caused some media sensation after the discovery (or more accurately rediscovery) of radioactive contamination within them. Although considered as a potential health risk, the contamination may also be considered to be a unique form of archaeological data. In the final part of the talk I will describe some of the results of an archaeological approach to the radioactive (and mercury contamination) which in conjunction with historical information has allowed a reconstruction of how the Laboratories were organised during Rutherford’s time. In particular I shall focus on the central role of radium and associated technology for production of radioactive sources which made possible the epoch making discoveries at Manchester, not least the alpha-scattering law of 1911 and the atomic nucleus.