‘The Plague!’ and other sketches

Another blog post from our Exhibitions Assistant Josh Butt.

The PlagueAs part of the Hidden exhibition we are asking visitors which hidden history you would like to see re-imaged. So far we have had several interesting sketches drawn on our blackboard including the above image which looks like it was inspired by the grisly bits in the Peasants’ Revolt scene!
Despite this sketch being basic in nature it is very similar to Red Saunders’ initial sketching process which is also fairly basic. The image below is an example of a sketch that features in the Evidence Room section of the exhibition. You can see how Red is starting to think about clothing, poses and props for the Peasants’ Revolt scene.


Match Girls StrikeWe have had several other imaginative sketches drawn on our blackboard including the inevitable dinosaur scene. It seems that every young child’s fantasy is for a T-Rex to come back to life! One of the better (and more relevant) sketches is pictured below, entitled “The Match Girls’ Strike”. The sketch is in reference to the strike at the Bryant & May match factory in 1888. Women and girls working at the factory were inspired by Annie Besant to go on strike after being treated horrendously by their employers with poor wages, unfair fines, 14 hour days and the health risk of working with Phosphorous. The strike was successful and was a great early triumph in the fight for the rights of women workers. Follow this link to learn more about the Match Girls’ Strike. The museum hosted an event to remember the 125th anniversary of the Match Girls’ Strike on the 6th July.

To browse the works on display in the exhibition visit www.hiddenphm.wordpress.com. As well as collecting people’s sketches we are also asking visitors which historical events or figures they would like to see re-created so you can add add your vote here.

Experiment #1: Part 3 – the post its!

Setting up- 11th July  (3) Setting up- 11th July  (7) Setting up- 11th July  (1)

In the next part of our experiment we learned a valuable lesson: never assume your visitors are psychic. After the results of our chalkboard experiment we enthusiastically stuck up big sheets of paper outside the galleries asking visitors ‘What’s your favourite object?’  We popped some post it notes on a table and waited for the responses to flood in.  Would visitors prefer Tom Paine’s desk or Hannah Mitchell’s kitchen?  The Co-op shop or the Tin Plate Workers’ banner?  After a couple of days we went to look:

‘my iPad’

‘my phone’


‘my boyfriend’

D’oh!!  We’d only gone and asked the wrong question!  We should have asked ‘what is your favourite object in the museum?’.  Massive lesson learned!

We put up a sign to try and get some more of the answers we wanted….

Day 6- 16 July 2013 (14)

Fortunately this seemed to work and we did notice an increase in the number of favourite museum objects.

Interestingly, we got more comments via thNumber of commentse post it system than we did via the chalkboard.  We got 114 comments over 16 days in the chalkboard system (an average of 7.125 comments per day) and 302 comments over 13 days (23 comments per day) in the post it system.  Admittedly, we did have more places to add comments for the post its (2 pieces of paper outside Main Gallery One, 1 piece of paper outside Main Gallery Two, and visitors also posted comments on the chalkboard outside Main Gallery Two), but there was a substantial rise in engagement.  This may have been a result of the positioning, the medium or perhaps visitors engaging more with the question they thought we were asking.  35% of visitors told us their favourite object in the museum when we asked the question on the chalkboard.  Only 21% of visitors did when we asked the question on the post its (although this figure raises to 51% when you include visitors’ favourite personal objects).  The vast majority of the comments were outside Main Gallery One, where we didn’t have chalkboards previously.  This appears to be a good location to engage our visitors and is definitely something to explore later in the project.

Total - excluding blackboard Total    Floor 1 - by lift Floor 1 - by entrance to main gallery oneFloor 2 - on paper Floor 2 - on blackboard

Surprisingly, there were no favourite objects (PHM or personal) stuck on the chalkboard outside Main Gallery Two.  This may have been because the question was not posed there, so visitors felt more freedom to comment on other areas.

The favourite PHM objects were very similar to when we asked on the chalkboard.  When you combine the results the jukebox is thFavourite objects - post itse clear favourite!Favourite objects - psot its and chalkboard

Next step is for visitors to vote out of the top three objects – will the jukebox be the victor again?

Ashtrays and Cream Crackers

This post is by Josh Butt our hungry Exhibitions Assistant

Box 37 (7)Last week the Exhibitions Team spent the day at our object store. We have been selecting objects for the next exhibition The People’s Business: Celebrating 150 years of the Co-operative. There were some interesting finds, including these Crumpsall Crackers matches and ashtray. It seems the Co-operative Wholesale Society (CWS) liked to advertise on absolutely everything, including depicting food at the bottom of an ashtray. It made me hungry.

The Crumpsall factory, located north of Manchester, produced a whole range of biscuits, cakes, jams and chocolate goodies. Crumpsall opened in 1873; it was the CWS’s first factory. In 1901 Crumpsall became the first factory in Britain to provide the 8 hour working day for employees. Other benefits were provided for workers, including dining rooms, sports fields and social activities. The Crumpsall factory lasted more than 100 years before closing down in 1985.

IMG_7327Whilst down at the objects store a colleague took this picture as I was tapping away at the laptop. It shows our various collection of typewriters and dial phones. It is kind of ironic that whilst the typewriter is now out of use (except by the Kremlin), and the laptop will probably be replaced by something better in the near future, the pencil and paper next to me has survived many different technologies.

Ingrid’s placement reflection

Today we have a guest post from Ingrid who is studying Museum Studies at Newcastle University and recently completed an eight week placement with the museum. Ingrid has been tweeting about it and more at @museumingrid

The work placement is a key part of Museum Studies Masters programmes, and I jumped at the chance to do mine at the People’s History Museum (PHM). I’d first visited the museum in winter 2010, where I had a chuckle at the temporary community exhibition of political Christmas cards and was struck by the contemporary and eye-catching way the museum presented the chronological story of working people in Britain.

My placement has been mostly within the Exhibitions department. I’ve been conducting research into Tailored Trades as part of a newly formed AHRC Network between Northumbria University and the University of Exeter. I’ve had the incredible opportunity to create a display case for their launch event – the case will be in the museum’s processional way museum on 29 June and will include objects highlighting the radical changes in production and consumption of clothing between 1880 and 1939.

paper pattern adverts from Labour WomanI’ve had the pleasure of working with the collections of both PHM and the Working Class Movement Library in Salford and have unearthed incredible treasures such as tailors notebooks from 1907, and these incredible paper pattern adverts from Labour Woman, the Labour Party’s publication for women. They’re so Great Gatsby!

I’ve done so much research into the banner collection at the museum and read so many different records from Tailors Trade Unions that I feel like I was a member myself! The solidarity of trade unions is such an inspiring story and one which is core to the museum’s exhibitions. Tailors trade unions are pretty much the first examples of women being active in trade unions, basically due to the amount of women who happened to work in these trades. The role of working women campaigning for rights and an active voice has been a real theme in my placement which has been an unexpected delight as it’s one close to my heart. This particular project has helped me to develop working knowledge of the exhibition process, I’ve really had to manage my time myself which has been a really useful experience which I’m sure will come in handy.

Food Pamphlet Table DisplayAnother task I was given was to create two small displays for the museum cafe, using material from the archive. I scanned in some eye catching pamphlet covers and newspaper articles and created reproductions to use as table top displays. This was really fun because the museum has some really amazing things in its archive that don’t often see the light of day, so doing this has meant that visitors can enjoy them and the cafe has been brightened up too.

I’ve also been able to experience the early stages of a major changing exhibition, as museum staff have been busily preparing ideas, having meetings and developing designs for the forthcoming exhibition about the Cooperative. I shadowed the Exhibitions Assistant in several visits to the museum’s collections store to photograph potential objects that may be selected for the exhibition. This chance to go truly behind the scenes and put my object handling training into practice was very enjoyable.

Emily Wilding Davison the one who threw herself under the horse a play by Cambridge Devised TheatreAnother one of my highlights has been blogging for the Wonder Women Manchester blog about a series of events at the museum in commemorating the centenary of Emily Wilding Davison’s death. There have been installations, talks and even a play in the museum!

I’ve really loved doing my placement at PHM, it’s gotten better and better and I’ll be sad to leave, thanks to all of the staff for being so supportive to their placement students, I’ve been one of a few in the time I’ve been here. It’s been incredibly varied, possibly due to the nature of my interests and I’ve loved every moment!

Trains, Technology & Timelines: Catherine & Harriet’s trip to London

Our first research trip to the big smoke of London was almost cancelled by the dramatic lightning bolt that hit Piccadilly Station yesterday morning.  However despite the freak weather we made it to London by lunchtime.

IMG_1388Our first stop was the Churchill War Rooms in Westminster to check out their 15-metre-long interactive Lifeline which contains all the key events in Winston Churchill’s life (including the first episode of Corrie!!). We wanted to find out how well this worked in engaging visitors and using digital images of their collections.  Initially we were flummoxed by how to work it, as we assumed (as many other visitors did) that it was a touch screen interactive table.  After a few minutes of swiping, waving and tapping, we noticed the sensor pads, which were located at the edges of the table.  Now we could work it! IMG_1389 The timeline was crammed with information, of varying levels of interest.  You could easily spend days reading everything!  Key dates from World War II were complemented by images from the Imperial War Museums’ collections, including photographs, letters, videos and posters.  There were surprising graphics that were hidden in some of the entries, including Frisbees that were launched along the length of the table.  We really liked how the collections were used in this way, and there were handy transcriptions of letters and options to enlarge the images.  The sheer volume of information has pros and cons, depending on each visitors’ level of interest and knowledge. If you wanted a brief overview of Churchill’s life, with key dates highlighted, then this probably wasn’t for you. But if you liked to dip in and out of the timeline to supplement your knowledge of particular dates then it was a useful tool.  For example, one little girl was very excited to find out the name of the first winner of the Tour de France!

IMG_1392The key thing we learned from it was that technology needs to stand the test of time (which is practically impossible as it moves so fast!).  We observed other visitors (mainly children) attempting to use it as a touch screen and giving up when it wasn’t working as they expected.  We really liked it as a simple tool for bringing in collections not on display (it would have taken a LOT of space to display all the images and letters that were in the timeline) and we’re thinking of doing something similar with our ‘Battle for the Ballot’ timeline in the PHM foyer.

IMG_1395Next on the list was the Grant Museum, stuffed full of curiosities of zoology (including delights such as a jar of moles and a walrus penis bone!) at UCL.  We’d gone to meet the brilliant Steve Gray, Research Associate at UCL Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis to discuss the Qrator project.  This project first sparked our attention because of the way visitors could have conversations about the themes and objects in the museum, both onsite and online.  Basically, visitors can answer questions posed by the museum curators (eg Should we clone extinct animals?) on iPads dotted around the museum.  Visitors can contribute to the debate and responses are not curated (apart from a swear filter and any deeply offensive comments being removed).  You can see the conversations on the iPads, on the website and you can also contribute via Twitter.  Using the Tales of Things website, the conversations are ‘attached’ to an object in the museum, becoming a permanent part of its object history.

We particularly liked this approach as it creates a two way dialogue between the museum and its visitors, and between the visitors themselves.  The questions inspire people to respond to the museum and in turn their objects, and many of the comments are both thoughtful and insightful.  The technology allows for instantaneous updates and the flexibility for the questions to be regularly changed.  Steve explained how he developed the app and how they are planning on developing it in the future, using video comments that can be uploaded straight to You Tube. This approach is definitely something we’d like to explore as part of the Play Your Part project.

Steve then invited us to his techy palace of an office (think Macs, projectors, Kinects, and even Lego!) to show us Survey Mapper, a free real-time geographic survey and polling tool, a project he is working on for his Phd.  A TV screen was hooked up to a Kinect motion sensor and you could ‘wave’ to answer the question.  There’s real potential for using this at the PHM with ‘voting’, so watch this space!

Possibly the coolest thing we did all day though, was to become a pigeon and fly through the streets of London!  (no we hadn’t been struck by lightning  – it was one of Steve’s very cool toys projects!).IMG_1398

Tailored Trades Network Launch at People’s History Museum

The People’s History Museum recently hosted the launch of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Supported Tailored Trades Network, we asked the network coordinators Dr Nicole Robertson and Dr Vike Plock to write us a short blog post about the launch and the network.

How did women in Manchester use home dressmaking to access fashionable clothes?  

What role did the tailored trades play in the lives of young working-class women? 

How are textile items preserved for future generations?  

These were the themes of an event held at the People’s History Museum on Saturday 29 June.  The event provided an opportunity to hear Dr Charlotte Wildman (University of Manchester) speak on working-class women’s fashion and Leanne Tonkin (Textile Conservator at the People’s History Museum) present on the work undertaken by the Textile Conservation Studio.

This event launched the ‘Tailored Trades: Clothes, Labour and Professional Communities 1880-1939’ project. A virtual exhibition of items associated with the project, from the collections of the People’s History Museum, Working Class Movement Library and National Co-operative Archives, can be found at http://tailoredtrades.exeter.ac.uk/

2.4  Paper pattern - dress and blouse

Useful Blouse and Afternoon Frock
(June 1933)
pattern printed in Labour Woman magazine
Most working-class women sewed their own clothes for their families.  Labour Woman was the Labour Party’s women magazine for 58 years. The magazine began by covering the fight for the extension of the voting franchise to women.

The ‘Tailored Trades: Clothes, Labour and Professional Communities 1880-1939’ project is a series of events organised by Dr Vike Martina Plock (University of Exeter) and Dr Nicole Robertson (Northumbria University).  Partners include the PHM and the Bishopsgate Institute.  The project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.  Details of forthcoming events can be found at: http://tailoredtrades.exeter.ac.uk/events/

28. NU Tailors & Garment Workers M&C Branch.._edited-2

National Union of Tailors and Garment Workers (NUTGW) M&C Branch banner (About 1939)
For those working in the textile trade, the profession could be one where employees were poorly paid and expected to work long hours.  A number of trade unions were formed to try and improve the conditions of employees in the textile trade and to represent their interests. M&C stood for Mantle and Costume, and this banner would have cost about £93 at the time.


The topic of the month at Culture Themes is museum badges, something that we are very lucky to have in abundance! We hold badges, brooches, pins and tokens from the French Revolution right up our own very fabulous PHM badges.IMG_1181

On a recent trip to our stores, I took a few images of a selection of badges I thought were topical/ interesting/ amusing! Some badges still have a certain resonance with issues and problems very relevant to contemporary society.

With the NHS very much in the headlines this week, this badge illustrates that it has been under fire before, and some groups have been keen to defend it. NHS

Our recent blog post looked at the NUT March in Manchester at the end of June this year, this badge shows that similar problems still face schools today as they did in the 1980s. Save our schools

The popular campaign for the release of Nelson Mandela from prison gathered pace in 1988 – the year of his 70th birthday – under the slogan ‘Free Nelson Mandela’.

Free Nelson Mandela

The late 1970s saw Rock Against Racism and the Anti-Nazi League fight racism and all kinds of oppression. The ANL looked to appeal to as many different people as possible such as football fans, students, skateboarders and vegetarians- as this badge illustrates! Patrons of a pub in Rusholme, Manchester, even set up their own group, ‘The Albert Against the Nazis’, with a badge and banner.


The 1980s resurgent anti-nuclear movement took this sentiment and used humour to appeal to an even greater number of people. Cat Lovers against the Bomb represents a number of such CND badges, including ‘Morris Dancers against the Bomb’, and ‘Gardeners for a Nuclear Free Fuchsia!’

Cat Lovers

These badges certainly point out the fact that there have ‘always been ideas worth fighting for’. What badge would you wear with pride? Have you got any images or memories of badges you have worn in the past? If you are sadly badge-less you can come and make one on our badge maker in Main Gallery Two!