The doors of People’s History Museum (PHM), the national museum of democracy, will reopen on Tuesday 1 September. Never has there been a more fitting time to enjoy an encounter with history’s change makers and today’s campaigners who all play a role in achieving progress and equality through ideas worth fighting for.
PHM’s two permanent galleries are where visitors can explore some of the ground-breaking ideas that have led to universal suffrage, workers’ rights, votes for women, election by ballot and equality for all regardless of gender, race, sexuality, age or disability. Both galleries will be open to visitors, including two newly installed digital interactives, as well as a series of new Family Friendly additions.
Black Lives Matter protest images go on display
The experiences that PHM offers are as much about the future as the past. Going on display from 1 September 2020 in the Mini Theatre in Main Gallery One are one of the museum’s new acquisitions made during lockdown. This projection will feature the images of photographer Jake Hardy, who attended the Black Lives Matter protests in Manchester during May and June 2020. On 31 May 2020 he took a series of 66 images, a large selection of which are now part of the museum’s contemporary collection and will be on display to visitors until 31 December 2020.
As well as sharing the images that Jake took, the display shares Jake’s personal story. Talking about taking part in the Black Lives Matter protests that took place in Manchester, Jake says, “For me, going to the protests was an incredibly moving and powerful experience. It was overwhelming being there, so I tried to focus my photography on capturing the pain and the raw emotion that others were clearly going through as well. For some, you could see this was the first time their voices were truly being heard. There was a real mix of emotion. It was uplifting, liberating… but painful – for many they were poking an open wound.”
Visitors to the museum and online invited to explore the legacy of the Peterloo Massacre
Two hundred years ago the Peterloo Massacre that took place in Manchester in August 1819 shook the world. This was a protest for rights and representation and is the point at which the story of Revolution begins in the permanent galleries of People’s History Museum. The events that saw 60,000 people gathered in peaceful protest to be broken up by the authorities leading to the death of 18 and the injury of around 700 is also covered in a new BBC 4 documentary Royal History’s Biggest Fibs with Lucy Worsley, some of which was filmed at the museum. In the programme, which will broadcast in September, Lucy is introduced to a new acquisition, the Peterloo cane which will be on public display in Main Gallery One until 31 December 2020.
This Peterloo cane was coincidentally owned by Charles Worsley. It is believed Charles Worsley was a protestor at Peterloo, who, like so many others, was dressed in his Sunday best with a cane a fashionable part of his attire. The inscriptions tell of the scenes that this simple cane witnessed and why this is such a significant object to the nation.
For those unable to visit the museum, People’s History Museum will continue its online programme of activities, Ideas Worth Exploring. These include Peterloo themed resources, with George Cruikshank’s cartoon, Universal Suffrage or the Scum Uppermost, 1819 as the inspiration.
This piece was commissioned just one month before the Peterloo Massacre of August 1819 and was designed to warn of the dangers of radical reform and potential revolution. It is also one of the treasures chosen by the PHM team to mark the 10th birthday of the museum this year.
Universal Suffrage or the Scum Uppermost, is the creative focal point for a Have Your Say online discussion, a fun Doodle Den for families to download and a Fabric of Protest creative Instagram event for over 11s. For more detail on all of these events visit phm.org.uk/whats-on/
PHM’s 2020 Banner Exhibition leads with migration theme
Found around the museum are the 25 banners that make up the 2020 Banner Exhibition, all of which explore the museum’s headline theme for 2020. From individual campaigns to those that have been used as part of international pledges of solidarity and support, the banners cover the period 1899 to 2019. Powerful, colourful, creative and inspiring, brought together, their narrative gives a greater understanding and insight into the issues, experiences, consequences and opportunities of migration.
Early in 2021 there will be more gallery interventions and events that explore migration taking place at PHM. These are being co-curated with a Community Programme Team made up of six individuals whose own lives have all been shaped by migration. Their combined experiences put them in a unique position from which to examine the topic of migration in today’s world, to reflect upon the global situation and to look at the stories of underrepresented groups.
Katy Ashton, director of People’s History Museum, says, “We are reopening with experiences that highlight the core spirit of People’s History Museum, looking at the past, present and future of ideas worth fighting for. Contemporary collecting represents a significant part of our work, and has been one of our key activities during the lockdown period. Through it we seek to reflect people’s voices, campaigns and protests today so that we can ensure that now and in the future these are central to our work. That we can share Jake Hardy’s powerful images of the Black Lives Matter protests in Manchester as we reopen is the first step in how our contemporary collection will feature in our upcoming projects.“
The buildings and spaces that make up People’s History Museum, which is located in Manchester city centre’s Spinningfields area, will be open from 1 September 2020, including the original Edwardian Grade II Pump House and the state of the art modern multi-storey extension. PHM’s shop will also be open. Opening hours will be Tuesday to Sunday, 10.00am until 5.00pm.
You can register for a timeslot to visit PHM up to two weeks in advance via the museum’s website, with free entry and a suggested donation of £5. PHM will ensure capacity is reserved for those unable to book online.
To support PHM in its contemporary collecting you can donate to its Collective Action appeal: phm.org.uk/collections/help-build-phms-collection/