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Museum re-lives working people's lives
Pump House: People's History Museum (Manchester)
Member Name: logberg
Pump House: People's History Museum (Manchester)
Date: 20/12/05, updated on 13/01/06 (222 review reads)
Advantages: Easy to understand, good, relateable exhibits, changing exhibtions
The People's History Museum, in Manchester, is a window on how the working class changed the face of work, voting and industry in the United Kingdom, over 200 years.
When we arrived the extremely helpful receptionist handed us the informative pamphlet and suggested we go first to the video room to find out what the museum is all about.
From there we went into the exhibitions and learned about the cotton industry, union meetings, the suffragetes fight to get the vote for women, the Craft Union, the Co-operative Union and many other trials which workers have faced in the United Kingdom over two decades.
One poignant little ''room'' shows a tableau of Mr Josef Button's lounge, after his funeral. His wife Henrietta Button and daughter Clarrisa are just home from the sombre funeral service and their ''widows weeds'' are flung upon the table. They've just had a visit from his Amalgamated Society of Engineers representative to give them his death benefit; wisely he was a fully paid up member. No working or poorhouse for them.
All around the basement walls are huge, ornate banners from different unions over the years, some are quite beautiful in handi-work craft and presentation.
One ''glimpse back in time'', which brings home the poor working and living conditions of some, is the little table where you can make a box.
As you do, you learn about the life of a woman and her family who worked hard to put food on the table. She and her young children made boxes, in a day they made a gross (144) and then she took them to her buyer to receive the princley sum of one shilling. With great relief she could buy a meal on the way home; to bed early and up at 6am the next day to do it all again.
I spent quite a while in the Women's Suffrage and Women's rights floor; One Hand Tied Behind Us. I was particularly taken with a quote, printed in huge letters. Some of it I include here as it really did interest me;
Hannah Mitchell - .
''Even when men are willing for their wives to take on public work they never seem to understand that it cannot always be done between meal times.
''If you have two loaves of bread, sell one to buy roses.
''Most of us who were married found that Votes for Women was of less interest to our husbands than their own dinner''.
In this display there is a lot about Emiline Pankhurst and her daughters, Cristabel and Sylvia who founded the Women's Social and Political Union and worked tirelessly for the right for women to get the vote.
Young or old can appreciate the effort workers have put in to improve conditions; the General Strike is well documented here and I learned so much I was not aware of about this 9 Days in May - 1926. The Government won but the workers put up a strong and valiant effort to improve conditions and pay for the miners, backed by hosts of other unions.
You can roam around the 3 floors at your leisure and on the day we went, in August, there were two floors of regular displays and the top two were dedicated to the current ''changing'' exhibition: Crime and Punishment 1800-2000. We popped into the little gaol and saw the three meals set out for a prisoner on any given day. I wonder anyone wanted to go back to gaol all those years ago; A mug of ''muck'' for breakfast, meat and tatties for lunch and bread and a most awful bowl of ''gruel'' for tea.
Times are a bit different for the police today. In days gone by ''coppers'' had a very different way of policing : a set of stocks is accompanied by a large picture of a poor, hapless fellow not going anywhere in a hurry; no sleek police cars - an old movie shows the local bobbies in pursuit of a baddy and he gets quite a bollicking with the truncheons when they catch up with him - criminals got shipped away to the colonies and others of course ended up losing their lives with capital punishment.
Throughout the museum you can actually take part in displays. We made a badge, a little box and ''clocked'' in to take home souviners of our visit. We could have run a Punch and Judy show or shopped in the Co-op shop but we were too busy seeing and doing other things.
We even included a picnic lunch in the visit. You can take your own food if you want to, We did and then went back into the exhibitions for another look through.
We visited as individuals, on a FREE Friday, as happens every week,( it's open from Tuesday to Sunday, 11am to 4.30pm) but you can visit the People's History Museum in a group for educational tours. Staff will meet and work with you to present what your students need.
On the first Sunday of every month the museum really
does become a living museum: six living history characters bring the past to life which I reckon would help youngsters remember the history effectively.
I really did enjoy this musem, created in what used to be an Edwardian pumping station. It offers an insight into the history of working people in Britain while conserving and interpreting the working man and woman's struggle to get to where we are today.
The introductory video makes the point that this museum is not finished, it will continue to find ways to present Britain's working people's evolution and growth.
It also reminds the viewer that there is one area of working life not currently showing. 'There is a gap, and that is of the multi-cultural society and they ask visitors to make suggestions on how that should proceed. If I remember rightly, there is a plug there for funds to help with this too.
I took a lady in a wheelchair and we were only in the first exhibition room for two minutes and a staff member came up and offered me any assistance I required while in the museum.
That really impressed me but I have to add that quite a lot of the information was up too high for her to read and sometimes see. Have to say she is so glad she went though and is telling everyone about it so it didn't detract from her enjoyment too much.
That brings me to a point... there is plenty of reading involved if you really want to absorb everything, but take your time and do go when you are next in Manchester if you want to know more about the labour movement, the trials and tribulations on the road to getting a better life for workers in the Britain.
As mentioned earlier we went on a free Friday but if you go the other days it only costs one pound if you work and otherwise it is free.
We didn''t need to park but if you need to park the brochure advises that you can park at King Street West, New Bailey Street or Beck Street which is about 2 - 5 minutes away.
The nearest train station is Salford Street, Metro Link at St Peter's Square around 10 minutes walk.
Those wanting to access to other information ,use www.peopleshistorymuseum.org.uk
Summary: Easy to access all information, you can relate to so much
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