Located in Manchester’s Left Bank, the People’s History Museum tells the history of Britain’s working class, and its struggle for democracy and social justice. Manchester was the world’s first industrialised city, making it the perfect host.
Currently themed around revolution, reformers, workers and voters, Gallery 1 opens with the statement: “Two hundred years ago Britain’s political system was corrupt and controlled by a few rich men. Without the right to vote, ordinary people had no power to change their lives.” Especially poignant given that, even with suffrage, the needs and demands of many working class citizens around the world are still frequently shrugged off, or entirely ignored.
Gallery 2 looks at politics and protest post-1945, noting a shift toward issue-based politics (e.g. war and peace, equality, gay rights, green issues, strikes and migration) as more Britons came to be accepted as citizens, rather than just cogs in a machine oriented around the aristocracy.
From the Tolpuddle Martyrs, who were deported to Australia in 1834 after they formed a union and refused to work for less than 10 shillings a week, to the Pride marches of the 1980s, the Museum pays homage to the groups and individuals who have worked and fought for worker’s rights, women’s rights and equality in its various other forms since Industrialisation kicked off.
It’s inspiring and comforting to navigate the exhibits and learn about these often-unsung heroes, and the milestones they marked. It also provides a frustrating reminder that good working conditions and a living wage are still not givens for many around the world.
Sounds dense, but the exhibit is laid out in a way that’s easy to access and absorb, with lots of fun features to keep kids engaged too.
Visit Phm.org.uk to find out more. Museum admission is free.