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2020 Reader Favourites

8 January 2021

Clockwise from top left: The poetical works of Lord Byron (inside cover), owned by William Cuffay © People's History Museum; Black Air Raid Precautions volunteer print by Cliff Rowe, around 1940 © People's History Museum; Michael Foot's coat, 1981 © People's History Museum; Lithograph portrait of William Cuffay © National Portrait Gallery, London; The Belle-alliance or the Female Reformers of Blackburn!!! print, 1819 © People's History Museum

For the first blog post of this year, we take a look back at your favourite reads from last year.

2020 Reader Favourites

Thousands of you have read People’s History Museum’s (PHM) blog each year, where we share posts from the PHM team and other experts, with behind the scenes stories, coverage of PHM’s exhibitions, events and Learning Programme and highlights from the museum’s unique collection; but which posts were most popular?

Left to right: Lithograph portrait of William Cuffay © National Portrait Gallery, London & The poetical works of Lord Byron (inside cover), owned by William Cuffay © People’s History Museum

William Cuffay, Black Chartism and a treasured object

The story of William Cuffay clearly appealed to lots of you, as it was our most read 2020 blog.  Back in April, on the anniversary of the 1848 Chartist mass meeting on Kennington Common, London, PHM Researcher Dr Shirin Hirsch explored the life of PHM Radical William Cuffay and revealed a precious, rare and poetic treasure of Cuffay’s from the museum’s collection.  The object in the story, gifted to Cuffay as he set sail on a prison ship for Tasmania in 1849, is on display in the museum’s Labour History Archive & Study Centre, accessible by appointment, so you can come and see it for yourselves when PHM eventually reopens.

Left to right: Black Air Raid Precautions volunteer, print by Cliff Rowe, around 1940 & items from Thomas Bangbala collection © Labour History Archive & Study Centre at People's History Museum

From ‘unskilled’ to ‘essential’: histories of migrant workers in PHM’s collection

From June, another story from PHM’s Researcher Dr Shirin Hirsch makes the top five most read blogs of 2020; here Shirin took a closer look at the history of migrant workers documented in the museum’s collection.  At PHM we are currently rethinking how we see this global British history through our programme theme exploring migration, which includes our Community Programme Team planning a series of ‘interventions’ into our main gallery spaces, expected later in the year.

Left to right: Samuel Bamford painting, date unknown, courtesy of Rochdale Arts & Heritage and Bamford at Home in Moston, 1869, photographed by William Hindshaw, courtesy of Manchester Central Library

Samuel Bamford: My Peterloo Hero

On 16 August we once again commemorated the anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre, and for this story we invited Robert Poole, Historian and Professor of History at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), to guest blog about Samuel Bamford, radical reformer and writer who was present at Peterloo.  This was a treat of a read from the author of Peterloo: the English Uprising (2019), co-author of the graphic novel Peterloo: Witnesses to a Massacre (2019), and consultant historian to the 2019 Peterloo bicentenary commemorations in Manchester.

Left to right: The Belle alliance or the Female Reformers of Blackburn!!! print, 1819 © People's History Museum & Mrs Mabbot's dress © Manchester Art Gallery Bridgeman Images

The women of Peterloo

Continuing with Peterloo, a guest blog (which may have popped into your inbox by surprise yesterday!) written back in 2019 to celebrate International Women’s Day, made the top five for the second year running.  This story was penned by our former colleague and the National Trust’s Programme Curator of National Public Programmes, Helen Antrobus.  From the women who marched at Peterloo, to the female Chartists; those involved with the women’s suffrage movement, to the first female MPs, Helen shared with us her specialist insight into the women at Peterloo.  You can read our full collection of Peterloo related blog posts and look out for stories about two early Peterloo treasures within the museum’s collection.

Left to right: The New Voter poster, 1929 & Michael Foot's coat, 1981 © People's History Museum
Steven Fielding highlights five objects in a series of films for PHM

And finally and unsurprisingly in a year of closures, a post from the past highlighting objects on display at the museum proved extremely popular.  For this story we invited Steven Fielding, Professor of Political History at the University of Nottingham to discuss his top five object highlights from the People’s History Museum’s collection for a series of object highlight films.

In addition to this blog exploring PHM’s collections online, public events previously taking place at the museum have found a life on the museum’s website, including those focused on PHM’s headline theme for 2020-2021; exploring migration.  Discover Ideas Worth Exploring at home and online, for a range of activities you can participate in remotely.

People’s History Museum is a unique cultural organisation.  It is the only museum in the country that explores the past, present, and future of British democracy, championing ideas worth fighting for such as votes for all, equality, co-operation, social justice, and a fair world for all.  PHM has launched a crowdfunder aimed at raising £25,000 to help secure the future and ensure the survival of the national museum of democracy following the pressures that it has faced as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic.


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