People’s History Museum (PHM) is looking forward to a year in which it will share a programme of exhibitions, events, activities, discussions and more all focused on its headline theme of migration.

The national museum of democracy has been ambitious in its vision for 2021 with elements of the programme co-created, community led and collaboratively approached. The result invites visitors to explore migration from lots of different perspectives, with the voices and stories of those who have experienced migration being at the fore. A Community Programme Team, which has been working with the museum since 2019, has had a huge role to play, including the selection of a programme of exhibitions, and creatively through a series of gallery interventions.

Leading into 2021 #WELCOME?, an exhibition curated by the team at People’s History Museum, will open on Saturday 14 November 2020 (until Sunday 31 October 2021). The exhibition looks at the hostile environment faced by many migrants and the media perceptions of migration. Bringing the latter up to date it reflects the situation in recent months with migrant workers celebrated as ‘key workers’.

The 2021 programme will highlight and promote the diverse and multicultural history of Britain whilst providing opportunities for people to connect and discuss the issues surrounding migration. As a focal point a series of exhibitions will open from Saturday 6 March and run throughout 2021, some alongside each other and some in isolation. My Home Is Not My Own (Saturday 6 March to Sunday 4 July 2021) is a moving exhibition of stories and experiences made by 12 women from The Voice of Domestic Workers, a campaign and support group of migrant domestic workers. This Garden Of Ours [working title] (Tuesday 13 July to Sunday 3 October 2021) investigates the history of the migration of plants to explore the colonial links to contemporary issues around the migration of people. This exhibition will feature new artworks created through collaborative workshops led by artist Jessica El Mal.

Alongside these exhibitions will stand the Jo Cox Memorial Wall, which will go on public display for the first time (Saturday 6 March to Sunday 4 July 2021) since it was erected outside parliament following the murder of Jo Cox MP in 2016. The wall, which has been part of PHM’s collection since 2017, will form part of an interactive exhibition inspired by Jo’s words “We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us”.

Individuals who have made Manchester their home have contributed to the creative process with their knowledge, experiences and conversations; the result being a Virtual Memorial Wall to which visitors (both to the museum and online) will be able to add their own tributes and stories. This project, titled More in Common, is part of the wider EU Horizon 2020 supported CultureLabs project.

During the summer People’s History Museum’s main galleries will feature a series of object installations that explore the hidden stories of migrant workers, both historically and in current times. This is part of a series of interventions being staged by the Community Programme Team, that will include animated videos examining the different reasons people migrate.

The Community Programme Team has also been given access to PHM’s vast collection of political and trade union banners, looking at the symbolism carried by the historic pieces and how these messages would be interpreted today. For example, there are those in the collection that tell of the toil of white cotton workers in Britain, campaigning for better conditions for spinners and weavers, but no reference to the suffering of black slaves across the Atlantic who grew the cotton. These perspectives and histories, which often related to the empire and the trade benefits that it brought to Britain, will be made visible as part of a new interpretation carried out across the banner collection. Visually representing this work, the Community Programme Team is working with an artist to create a new banner that will be revealed to visitors in summer 2021.

The new banner, capturing modern views of migration, colonialism and empire, will take its place alongside those that form the 2020 – 2021 Banner Exhibition (until Sunday 9 January 2022), carefully curated to tell stories of migration, exhibited amongst the museum’s permanent display of banners.

Summer 2021 will also see a large scale art installation unveiled in PHM’s Engine Hall. Counter-flow (Tuesday 13 Julyto Sunday 3 October 2021) is the vision of artist Eva Mileusnic. Eva’s family came to the UK from Hungary and in her work she references migration, memory, identity and integration. She will produce a visual spectacle with 100 pairs of ceramic feet stood side by side, decorated in colourful textile patterns from around the world to reference global demographic shifts and the worldwide spread of cultural identities that follows. Workshops suitable for all ages will feature alongside this project.

During 2021 People’s History Museum will play host to two important loans, the first being an internationally significant object from the British Museum in the summer. The second is The Longest Act (the 1821 Land Tax Commissioners Act), which at almost a quarter of a mile in length is physically the longest piece of legislation that parliament has ever passed, it will mark its 200th birthday with a visit to the national museum of democracy in the autumn. It will go on display thanks to a loan from Parliamentary Archives.

The Longest Act will take its place in the galleries alongside an item from PHM’s collection that is also marking its 200th birthday, the Tin Plate Workers Society banner, which was created in 1821 to mark the coronation of King George IV. This is the oldest banner in a collection that is world leading, the imagery of which intended to inspire pride, hope and justice. Like the other banners in PHM’s collection, the Community Programme Team has looked at its symbolism through the eyes of their experiences and the world today.

The programme for 2021 will reflect People’s History Museum’s position as one of the UK’s most Family Friendly museums, with lots of activities to engage families both at the museum and online. The museum’s regular feature, Radical Lates on the second Thursday of every month, will be inspired by the theme of migration.

People’s History Museum will be open Tuesday to Sunday, 10.00am to 5.00pm. Closed Mondays. The museum and its exhibitions are free to visit with a suggested donation of £5. To find out about visiting the museum, its full exhibitions and events programme based both at the museum and online visit phm.org.uk.

ENDS