Aid for Spanish Civil War banners!

I recently had the pleasure of treating a set of Six Spanish Civil War banners in the Textile Conservation Studio the project was undertaken for the Marx Memorial Library in order for the banners to go on display at an exhibition at Islington Museum and was funded by the Textile Society and GFTU educational trust Most of the banners were made from cotton canvas with a ground layer and water based paint, they were used by the Communist Party Hammersmith to raise funds to help civilians fleeing the conflict. I spent between 5 and 15 hours on each banner depending on what each one required. Two of the more complicated banners are featured in this post and demonstrate quite different conservation problems.

Arms & Justice for Spain during conservation People's History Museum

Arms & Justice for Spain banner during conservation

The first banner I want to highlight is entitled Arms and Justice for Spain it is very striking image featuring the recognisable symbol of unity in a handshake between three men in this case. The style is reminiscent of Picasso with the expressive figures drawn in profile. Water-based paint has been used and it was well bonded to the canvas ground in most places apart from the area of upper text which had become cracked along fold lines from previous storage. This required a stabilisation treatment to ensure that no more paint was lost using an adhesive which had a matt appearance to match the quality of the paint. I undertook a series of tests to find a suitable adhesive using samples to experiment with before treating the object. Isinglass (fish glue) was found to be the best choice in this instance because the bond strength was good and it did not appear shiny when applied to the paint.

Arms & Justice for Spain after conservation People's History Museum

Arms & Justice for Spain banner after conservation

The second banner is different to the rest of the group as it was made with oil paint it is entitled International Brigade and features the single figure of a Republican solider against a background of swirling flames. The image is a little difficult to read because a lot of the paint is loose and in some areas it has been lost completely. It was also clear on first inspection that there was a ghost image of text underneath the top layer of paint. Further investigation revealed that the banner had been once used as a book shop sign and then recycled as a banner and it is likely that a weak bond between the old and new paint is what caused much of the current damage.

Underlying text Peoples History Museum.jpg

International Brigade banner highlighting the underlying text

Due to the extent of the damage most areas on the banner required treatment to prevent further loss occurring. This time I used an adhesive called Beva which is safe for oil paints and provides a strong bond to secure the loose paint. We aim to preserve what remains of the original material rather than trying re-touch/re-paint areas of loss, so the banner does not look like new but the paint is much more stable, it is able to hang safely and is more accessible for visitors and researchers.

International Bridage during conservation People's History Museum.JPG

International Brigade banner during conservation

Each banner was also fitted with a white cotton sleeve for display which provides even weight distribution when suspended from a pole. The banners will be on display from the 5th of May to the 8th of July 2017. Spanish Civil War Exhibition A5 leaflet

International Brigade after conservation.jpg

International Brigade banner after conservation

 

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Who are your LGBT+ activist heroes and heroines?

A guest blog by Community Curator, Jenny White

Picture blog post 1

I’m one of 11 volunteer Community Curators helping to create a fabulous new exhibition at People’s History Museum exploring the fight for equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans* people. Never Going Underground will run from February to August 2017 alongside a programme of workshops, talks and family friendly events.

  • What is ‘LGBT+ activism’?
  • Who are your LGBT+ activist heroes and heroines?
  • Who are the people and organisations which have helped shaped LGBT+ equality?
  • What are the events which marked a turning point in the fight for LGBT+ rights?
  • What are the current issues still to fight for – how far do we still have to go?

We’ve been pondering these questions and more as we start planning for the exhibition. We’d love your input and ideas and we’ll be delivering a number of community workshops over the next few months to help shape the exhibition contents.

The scope of the Never Going Underground exhibition is huge, and it’s great to be involved in this project to tell this remarkable story.

LGBT+ rights have come a long way in a relatively short time. We’ve gone from Radclyffe Hall’s plea for acceptance of ‘inverts’ in her 1928 novel The Well of Loneliness, to Prince William offering a royal seal of approval to LGBT people on the cover of this month’s Attitude magazine; from lesbians denied custody of their children to full adoption rights; from police arrests for cottaging and raids on gay book stores to two policemen proposing to their partners during the 2016 London Pride parade.

The fight for LGBT+ rights has included political goals – changing laws and policies – as well as cultural goals – challenging society’s views on LGBT+ people and gaining wider community acceptance. Activism has taken many forms: from the direct action of the Gay Liberation Front and Outrage!, to the lobbying tactics of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality and Stonewall, to Boy George’s No Clause 28 single and Gay Sweatshop Theatre Company shows.

There’s also inter-LGBT+ community activism – there are issues with racism, transphobia, different approaches to what Pride events should be about.

Then there are so many issues still to be tackled: marriage equality in Northern Ireland; recognition of non-binary people; self-declaration of gender; and the 75+ countries which currently outlaw homosexuality to name but a few.

Picture 2 blog post 1

We’d love to hear any suggestions on what we should include in the exhibition. Also if you have banners, badges, papers stories relating to the fight for LGBT+ equality that you would be willing to share, then please do get in touch by emailing nevergoingunderground@phm.org.uk For twitter users our project hashtag is #NGU2017

Who mined the coal? Who ran the locomotives? Who built the Manchester Ship Canal?

5 February - 4 March 2016, WEA Course - British Photogrpahy & Industrial Society. Navvies, Manchester Ship Canal by W E Birtles © Chethams LibraryA guest blog by WEA tutor Mark Krantz

The coal owners, engineers, contractors, and financiers were all crucial. But without ‘grafters’ the coal would remain underground, trains could not run, and the Ship Canal would never have been built.  The photographic exhibition Grafters: Industrial society in image and word brings to life those who were central to the productive processes – the workers who did the hard grafting.

Pit brow girls from Wigan, locomotive cleaners from Lancashire, navvies who dug the ship canal, all are brought to life in enhanced photographs.photographer Ian Beesley

Leading documentary photographer Ian Beesley has curated this exhibition. To accompany these scenes of industrial life, Ian McMillan, the ‘Bard of Barnsley’, has written new poems giving new voice to the unknown people captured in the images.

To discover more about the history, politics, and technology that inform this exhibition the Workers’ Education Association (WEA) is running a five week course at the People’s History Museum, led by tutor Mark Krantz.

The exhibition curator Ian Beesley will give a guided tour of the exhibition and lead a discussion about the photographs.

This five week course started on Friday 5 February and will run until Friday 4 March.website

Find out more about the WEA courses that run at PHM please check the museum’s website.

Grafters will be on show until Sunday 14 August. Please check  the What’s On section of the museum’s website for details of theWhat’s On events programme that will run alongside the exhibition.

 

Scope marks 20 years since the Disability Discrimination Act

PHM has been working with Scope to collect campaigning material relating to the campaign for the Disability Discrimination Act. Here their Campaign Officer, Tom Hayes, writes about the success of the project so far.

Nelson Mandela is known the world over for his impressive fight against racial segregation in South Africa.  Helped by a recent blockbuster film, Britain’s women’s suffrage movement is better known among people today. Whether projected onto big screens or taught in classrooms, similar civil rights fights from Selma to Stonewall are well-known.

Other equality campaigns have been wholly forgotten, however. Twenty years ago this month, Parliament finally passed a law to ban discrimination against disabled people. This change would never have happened without the fierce campaigning of disabled people.

Rights Now! rally, Trafalgar Square.jpg

Rights Now! rally, Trafalgar Square. Copyright Scope

In their thousands, disabled people gridlocked cities up and down the country, throwing themselves from their wheelchairs and chaining themselves to buses. Their message was clear: activists wanted rights. Not tomorrow or in a year, but, as their campaign’s name demonstrated: Rights Now!

For the first time, disabled people joined together, discovered they were not isolated and alone, and decisively smashed society’s flawed view of disability as something requiring pity not rights.

The law passed twenty years ago – the Disability Discrimination Act – fell short of the civil rights Act that so many disabled people campaigned for. But the campaign itself was life-changing for so many and challenged society’s stereotypes and negative attitudes.

Many of the leading disabled campaigners drew inspiration from the fights against Apartheid and for the vote for women.

The suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst is the only person that one of today’s leading disabled campaigners and a civil rights veteran, Baroness Jane Campbell, says she would be if she could travel back in time.

Many Rights Now! members moved into disability rights campaigning  from the anti-Apartheid movement because they despised the injustice of segregation wherever they saw it.

However, in sharp distinction to the equality campaigners who inspired them, Baroness Campbell and others have a hidden history of campaigning. The campaign which took so much of the media spotlight in 1994 and 1995 has been entirely forgotten today.

Young disabled people – even those who campaign for change in their communities today –have been shocked to find their rights have not always been there and needed a fight to bring about.

That’s why Scope has been celebrating the civil rights activists who fought for equality and brought about the change that happened twenty years ago this month.  We’re proud to be working closely with the People’s History Museum to preserve a past in danger of disappearing. Together we have appealed to campaigners to rummage through their attics and find mementoes.

In the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing some of the treasures that leading campaigners have shared with us as a direct result of our joint public appeal for donations. Until that time we will be sharing some stories of the civil rights campaign, as told by the leading activists themselves.

The campaigns which inspired disabled activists twenty years ago are honoured every day by the People’s History Museum in the galleries that are seen annually by tens of thousands of visitors.

Together we want as many people to see disabled people’s campaigning, right alongside better-known movements, so that their campaigning can inspire today’s activists as much as others do.

Disabled people’s campaigning has been central to our national march towards equality. Scope can have no better partner to honour this campaign than the People’s History Museum – the nation’s own museum of democracy and equality.

Election! Britain Votes: the results are in!

Volunteer Amber Greenall-Heffernan dissects our visitors responses to questions posed to them in Election! Britain Votes.

As part of our recent ‘Election! Britain Votes’ exhibition, we asked visitors to do a ballot paper vote on certain issues surrounding elections and the government. In total we had almost 2,800 responses! A lot of people also left comments and wrote their opinions on the ballot papers which proved for interesting debate. Here are the results –

Our first question was:

Would having an elected House of Lords make our democracy more representative and therefore fairer?

Parliament is made up of two chambers; the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The House of Commons is where elected MPs debate laws. Once a bill is approved in the House of Commons, it is then reviewed by the House of Lords. The House of Lords is an unelected chamber and peerages can be titles passed down the generations, spiritual peers (for Bishops and Archbishops of the Church of England) or given by a panel which includes the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.

For this question, 78.1% voted Yes and their responses included comments such as “Yes but only if they still are experts in their fields” and “Yes, or appointed from society”.

21.9% voted No for this question. One visitor commented that the House of Lords “needs people who have expertise and cannot be strongly influenced by whips”. Another pointed out that for democracy to be fair, we need representatives from all areas of life, and thus appointing Lords works too. There were also quite a few people who responded and said that instead, we should get rid of the House of Lords altogether!

Ballot Paper with Comments

The next question was:

In order to increase the number of female MPs should parties have to meet quotas for female candidates?

In the 2010-2015 government 22% of MPs were female. The 2015 General Election saw an increase in female MPs, who now make up 29% of the government. However, there are questions of how representative this is. A common criticism of the House of Commons is that it does not reflect the composition of the population, of which 51% is female.

The idea of quotas for female MPs is often widely debated. The results for this question were very close – 52.2% voted Yes but many of these respondents commented that it should only be a temporary measure “until the inequality is changed”. Many respondents also believed that the same should be done for MPs from ethnic minority backgrounds, as in 2010 only 27 MPs (out of 650) were from an ethnic minority.

For the 47.8% that voted No, many believed that “positive discrimination is still discrimination”, and candidates should be elected on their talent alone. Otherwise, as one visitor pointed out, it would undermine the basis on which they were elected.

Next, we asked:

Should we lower the voting age to 16 years old?

For the Scottish independence referendum in September 2014, the voting age was reduced from 18 to 16. The referendum had a record-breaking turnout of 84.5% and more than 100,000 of these voters were 16-17 year olds. There is some debate to whether the voting age should be lowered; the Liberal Democrats promised it in their 2010 manifesto, Labour backed it in their 2015 Manifesto but the Conservative Party opposes it.

Similarly, the results on this question were divided. 53.9% of respondents voted Yes, many citing that 16 year olds are classed as adults in other aspects of life and so they should also be able to vote. A lot also voted Yes but on the condition that politics is taught as a core subject in schools.

On the other hand, 46.1% voted No, one visitor stating that voting is beyond comprehension at that age and “16 year olds are not mature enough to vote”. Interestingly enough, the House of Lords very recently backed an amendment to give 16 and 17 year olds the vote in council elections, with plans to do the same for the EU referendum later this year.

Perhaps one of the most contentious questions we asked was:

Should we allow prisoners to vote?Ballot Paper

When people are sent to prison, they are no longer allowed to vote. In 2013, the Joint Committee published a report on the issue of prisoners’ voting eligibility. In this report, they recommended that prisoners should be able to apply to register to vote 6 months before their scheduled release date.

The response to this question was quite split. 32.3% voted ‘Yes, All Prisoners’, many believing that prisoners have the right to vote, as they have human rights and should be able to speak for themselves. One visitor asked, “How else will we achieve prison reform?”

A lot of responses were indecisive on the subject explaining that the issue was undoubtedly complicated and 30.2% voted ‘Yes, Some Prisoners’ as they think that voting should be allowed for some, dependent on their crime and release date.

37.5% voted No because they believe prisoners lose their right to vote with their freedom. One visitor said that prisoners have “committed crime and must give up their right” and that they should wait until they are released to vote.

We also asked:

Should the UK adopt a different voting system?

In the UK we currently have the voting system ‘First Past the Post’. This means that whichever political party has the most votes, wins. However, this is seen by some to produce unrepresentative results, and other voting systems such as Proportional Representation (PR) and Alternative Voting (AV) have been suggested instead. PR is a system which makes the seats won proportional to the percentage of votes, and AV is a system in which voters rank their candidates in order of preference.

An overwhelming 51% voted Yes for Proportional Representation and 20.2% voted Yes for AV. 28.8% voted to keep First Past the Post as one visitor commented: “I used to think PR was a good idea, but post-election I’m glad UKIP only got 1 MP despite the percentage of votes they received!”

Quite a few people also wrote that they would rather have a Single Transferable Vote which is a form of proportional representation which allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference.

And, our final question was:

Should the Queen still play a part in the political process?

As our exhibition explained, the Queen has certain roles in Parliament. She appoints a new government, opens parliament each year, dissolves parliament before an election and signs bills into laws. She has the right to vote but chooses not to, in order to stay politically neutral.

41.3% voted Yes to the Queen still playing a part in the political process as she is the head of state. One visitor wrote: “She is more than just a figurehead, she is our leader!”

58.7% however, voted No, some visitors calling for an elected head of state, some believed that she has no real power, and some visitors wrote that the monarchy should be abolished instead.

One of the aims of the Election! exhibition was to engage visitors and to provide a space where visitors, researchers, activists and museum staff could get involved and debate election issues. The engagement within the exhibition has been incredible, and it has been very interesting looking through all the responses. Did you vote in our ballot? What do you think?

Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp

A guest post by Placement Student, Caitlin LaPorte

Fire Dragon Feast for the Future poster, copyright People's History Museum  During my work placement at the People’s History Museum I was given the opportunity to curate a display from objects featured in the museums peace collection. The peace collection is quite extensive, containing various anti-war photographs and memorabilia. While researching the collection I found the material surrounding Greenham Common women’s peace camp to be very intriguing and decided to focus my display on the subject.

Greenham Common Peace Camp banner, copyright People's History MuseumRAF Greenham Common was a Royal Air Force station located in Berkshire, England that was chosen to house nuclear cruise missiles during the Cold War. In September of 1981, the peace group Women for Life on Earth marched from Cardiff to Greenham in protest of the government’s decision. The first on-site protest occurred when the women arrived at Greenham and chained themselves to the base fence. Shortly after this, the camp was officially established.

Greenham Common Peace Camp banner, copyright People's History MuseumLife was not easy for the women living at Greenham Common. The conditions could be harsh since they were living outside and without electricity. There was also constant opposition from authority and the local community. Greenham Common underwent several camp evictions over the years and hundreds of women were arrested by police. The locals staged protests as well, not wanting the presence of the camp in their community.

Despite the opposition they faced, the women of Greenham Common were extremely committed to their cause. They believed in a life without threat of cruise missiles and violence. Greenham Common women’s peace camp quickly became internationally recognized, bringing a new focus to the peace movement. The last of the cruise missiles were removed in 1991, but the site remained an active peace camp until 2000. Greenham Common is now public park land.

Caitlin’s exhibition Greenham Common is on display from Thursday 7 May – Thursday 28 May 2015.

Share your voting memories

COL131COL130A post by volunteer Amber Greenall-Heffernan

In the build up to the General Election on the 7th May, we have been asking visitors to share their voting memories in the Election! exhibition here at the People’s History Museum. We have had a variety of responses, and visitors have shared memories such as voting in the EEC referendum in 1975, students in university celebrating the election result in 1997 and even bumping into exes at the polling station!

A handful of people seem disillusioned, saying they have never voted and believe it doesn’t change anything, but overall the responses havCOL132e been positive. Many visitors consider voting to be a democratic right and have written about the importance of having a vote in a democracy. One visitor believed that voting is a right we take for granted when others are risking their lives across the world to have a vote and another said that everyone has the right to be able to say how we live together in a society.

 

IMG_0715A common theme running through the responses is the sacrifices that groups such as the Chartists and Suffragettes made for the right to vote. Michael Carter, pictured, explains why he will be voting this year:

“Due to the suffragette movement and in particular Emily Davison, who stepped in front of King George V’s horse at the Epsom Derby in 1913 in favour of women receiving the vote, I consider it a privilege and a necessity to vote. One lady lost her life for the chance to have her say therefore in memory of her I must vote.”

In our exhibition, we have also been asking if people will be voting in the General Election this year and why. Again, a lot of people have responded with exercising theCOL133 right to vote because of the historic struggle for voting rights. But what is also interesting is the overwhelming response from young people who are not old enough to vote but wish that they could, as well as the excitement from first-time voters.

What are your voting memories? Will you be voting in this year’s General Election and why?