Staff Top Picks: Badges and stickers in the Citizens section

In the second of our ‘Staff Top Picks’ series, PHM Marketing and Development Officer, Daisy Nicholson, explains why the badges and stickers in the Citizens section of Gallery Two are her most-loved objects in our collection. What’s your favourite item in the museum? Tell us on Twitter using #phmtop10.

Daisy Nicholson (5)

My favourite object(s) / bit of the museum are the badges/stickers in Citizens (pink) section – having grown up in the 80s and spent lots of time as a child on marches & demos etc.(very politically active dad!), I loved collecting related badges and stickers, though at the time didn’t appreciate the various campaigns’ significance. Seeing such collections on the galleries is a nice trip down memory lane, but more importantly reflects the importance of preserving this aspect of history.


Staff Top Picks: A Suffragette’s Home

In the first of our ‘Staff Top Picks’ series, PHM Director Katy Archer tells us why the poster A Suffragette’s Home is her most-loved object in our collection. What’s your favourite item in the museum? Tell us on Twitter using #phmtop10.

Katy Archer (4)

One of my favourite objects is the poster – A Suffragette’s Home, produced by the National League for Opposing Woman Suffrage around 1910. The poster appealed to the working man who has returned home from work to find his hungry children in an untidy house.

The poster stands out to me for a number of reasons. Its style, aesthetic quality and colour palette are striking and part of the iconic design of many posters of this era. The artist responsible for this poster was John Hassell who also designed the famous holiday poster, Skegness is So Bracing.

I also think it’s interesting to see a poster arguing AGAINST something that can now sometimes be taken for granted. Votes for Women is such an important part of the People’s History Museum and we have a fantastic collection of objects representing this story, as well as other organisations in Manchester such as the Pankhurst Centre who are key to telling the story of Women’s Suffrage.

PHM is a champion for the Wonder Women campaign commemorating how much will have been achieved in the 100 years from 1918 (when women first won the (partial) right to vote) to 2018. 1918 was the culmination of a long, hard struggle, and although we’ve come a long way, there is still much work to be done. With events, debate, music, art and more, Wonder Women is a five-year project that asks how far we’ve come – and how far we have yet to go.

So for me this poster sums up that struggle – it shows how women had to make sacrifices for a cause that they believed in – and it shows that there have always been (and continue to be) ideas worth fighting for!

It also reminds me that working towards a bigger goal and fighting for something you believe in is more important than keeping a tidy home – which is good to see as the poster also reminds me a little bit of my house when I get home from a day working at PHM!

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?

Experiment #1 – an update…

Over the past couple of weeks we’ve been asking visitors to the museum what their favourite object is.  Initially this has been through the very old school way of chalk and blackboards! (I don’t think they even use them in schools anymore….)  We used two blackboards, one in the foyer of the museum next to our ‘Welcome Wall’, the other was outside Main Gallery Two where the comments book is. The aim of the experiment was to see if and how the blackboards were used, and to compile a list of top 10 objects in the museum.

Day 1 - 26 June 2013 (9) Day 1 - 26 June 2013 (2)

Total number of commentsFrom 26 June – 11 July we had 114 comments.  Two thirds of all the comments were made on the blackboard outside Main Gallery Two.  In fact, in the first six days of the experiment, only two comments were made on the blackboard in the foyer.  There are possibly a couple of reasons for this.  Firstly, the blackboard outside Main Gallery Two is placed directly after visitors have gone round the museum so the objects will be fresher in their minds.  It is also placed within a ‘have your say’ section, including a video booth and a comments book, providing a context to initiate feedback.  The blackboard in the foyer is placed when visitors enter the museum, so they are less likely to have an opinion (unless they have visited the museum before, or perhaps only visited the gallery spaces on the ground floor).  The foyer area is also more ‘exposed’ – it is in direct view of the information desk – so perhaps visitors are less comfortable leaving comments when they are being observed.

what's your favourie object in the museumOnly 35% of all the comments were suggestions of favourite objects.  Interestingly the favourite object (with six votes) was the jukebox, and an additional three votes were for specific songs on the jukebox.  As we didn’t ask why people had a favourite object it’s difficult to know if it’s because the jukebox is the final display, because it is interactive or just because our visitors enjoy a song and dance.

Visitors definitely enjoyed making their mark on the museum and 28% of all comments were their own names!  Some comments were incomprehensible, either because they were written in another language, or because they simply made no sense!  Other comments were a bit silly, “For King Stark!”, but others engaged in debate, “should be more about the migrants’ contributions”.

Blackboard in foyerBlackboard outside MG2

Total comments

Special mention goes to our Gallery Assistants who got two votes as our visitors’ favourite object.  Not wanting to objectify them, but one of the comments actually said “the sexy attendant”, which no one has admitted to writing!

A couple of interesting notes:

Day 10 - 5 July 2013 am1)      One of our Gallery Assistants observed a visitor writing ‘Labour Posters’ on the upstairs blackboard.  Almost immediately, the next visitor leaving Main Gallery Two added ‘+1’ to the comment.  The next person then wrote ‘Get Labour Out’.  I’d definitely like to explore further how we can provide a forum for debate and find ways for visitors to interact with each other after being inspired by our stories and collections.

Day 10 - 5 July 2013 pm  (2)2)      I came back from lunch one day and noticed that the blackboard in the foyer had been wiped clean.  Apparently we’d had a large group of creative five year olds come in and draw all over the blackboard.  Obviously I didn’t want the moment to go unrecorded (as I wanted to see how the blackboards were used as much as what was written on them), so I asked my colleague Mark to recreate the masterpiece:

For the next stage of the experiment we will be using post it notes to see if a change of medium makes a difference.  We’ll keep you updated!

Play Your Part – the first experiment

Ground floor board RESIZED

Do you prefer brilliant badges or beautiful banners?  Do you fantasise about trying on a suffragette sash?

We’d like to find out what your favourite objects at PHM are.  You can tell us at the museum by writing (or drawing!) your answer on one of our chalkboards*, or if you’re not in the area pop it in the comments below.  To inspire you our lovely PHM staff will be blogging about their favourite objects over the next few weeks.

The top ten objects will feature in a very special ‘People’s Choice’ section on our website, so make sure yours is in there!

*Some of our very conscientious visitors “found” the boxes of chalk we put out and responsibly handed them back to our Gallery Assistants.  We’ve now added a label (silly us – obviously everything in a museum needs a label!)