On Monday I ventured out to the People’s History Museum in Spinningfields, on the edge of Manchester and Salford. I was meeting David at 12 midday, but got in really early so spent a lot of time gazing in wonder at the enormous Father Christmas outside the Town Hall in Albert Square. As David pointed out, Santa bears resemblance to Zippy from ‘Rainbow’ in daylight, and given that the giant red ribbon from World Aids Day was up next to him, we wondered if Manchester City Council were trying to tell us something.
The People’s History Museum, which is concerned with the history of working people in Britain, is very modern, all glass, light wood, steel and sparseness. It opened in it’s current incarnation in February 2010, and the permenant exhibitions are divided across two floors into Pre 1945 and Post 1945. Pre 1945 includes the Chartists, Peterloo, Suffragettes, Marxists, Trade Unions… Post 1945 includes things like the founding of the NHS, the Labour movement, Socialism, Anti-Poll Tax, Trade Unions…
We enjoyed the Nye Bevan speech about the NHS, and I enjoyed Henry Hunt’s speech in Manchester, 11 years after the Peterloo Massacre.
Downstairs are the temporary exhibitions, Death and the Working Classes, which looked back to the nineteenth and early twentieth century, and to the normal everyday approach to death amidst such occurrances as the Cholera epidemic and World War I, and to the clothing and rituals around death. There were interesting prints and pictures, and the overall impression was of interest rather than something upsetting. Though it was incredibly poignant in its matter of factness in terms of the written and spoken accounts. We also saw the exhibition on alternative, political, Christmas cards, which had been grouped historically and thematically. Some very dark humour, and some absolute hilarity, from across all eras. It was nice observing how the issues and themes touched on tied in with various items from the permenant exhibitions.
The cafe is very nice, and I had the best hot chocolate I’ve had in a long time.
It took us a long time to get around the whole museum, but it was worth it. We talked a lot about history, student protests, and other things as we made our way round. We kept on seeing things that resonated today.