Today we took the time to visit the People’s History Museum in Manchester. I actually hadn’t heard of it until yesterday, when we were looking for something to do as a couple having spent all of yesterday playing games (me, World of Warcraft; Christine, Guild Wars) and not really spending much quality time together.
The museum has been around since 1990, and was originally called the National Museum of Labour History. Indeed, there is a large focus on the history of workers’ rights, the rise of trade unions and the foundations of the Parliamentary Labour Party. That being said, it covers a wide range of subjects, especially the history of democracy in the UK. And Manchester is an ideal place for it, as it was the scene of the 1819 Peterloo Massacre, and the historic home of the Co-operative movement is nearby in Rochdale.
It sits in two buildings: the first is a modern extension, opened in 2010 and housing the main body of the museum. The other is the older Pump House building which was one of the three pump houses for Manchester’s Hydraulic Power system, for which there is an exhibition at MOSI about it. The Pump House holds the two temporary exhibition spaces, and when we visited there was a photography exhibition about the Oldham Road, and a special exhibition about the Temperance movement – again, a political ideology with strong northern roots. Pleasingly, the museum’s café stocks a range of temperance drinks, albeit alongside beer.
I found it really interesting, although it does have a rather left-wing political agenda. To me that’s not a bad thing but I could imagine some Tories feeling uncomfortable there. I actually learned a surprising amount of things that I wish I’d been taught at school, about this country’s history.
The museum is free to enter (donations welcomed) and is open most days of the year, although I’d advise against visiting next week as one of the permanent galleries is closed to rotate some of the exhibits. For once, I’ve already uploaded the photos to Flickr, as well as others that I took elsewhere in Manchester today.