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Collection | Ideas worth collecting

PHM collects, cares for, and conserves an eclectic and colourful mix of historic and contemporary material telling the story of democracy in Britain.

Image of strike action objects in PHM’s collection, past and present.
Image of Left to right Hayley Cropper's red anorak, around 1998 & Michael Foot's Coat, 1981 (NMLH.2004.8) Images courtesy of People's History Museum
Image of Front & reverse of a cardboard placard. The text on the front reads There Is No Planet B and the reverse If You Don't Act Like Adults We Will
Image of Senior Conservator Kloe Rumsey with the 1908 Manchester suffragette banner in The Conservation Studio at People’s History Museum.
Image of Collections Officer Sam Jenkins with Peterloo cane from around 1819, in The Conservation Studio at People's History Museum, Manchester
Image of Thomas Paine’s desk, late 1700s. Image courtesy of People's History Museum.
Image of PHM Conservator Kloe Rumsey with Spitting Image puppet of John Prescott, from around 1992. Image courtesy of People's History Museum.

100 years since the first Labour government

22 January 2024 is the 100th anniversary of the first ever Labour government taking office.  To mark this historic moment, the museum team have selected a number of objects reflecting the stories and milestones of the last century.

100 years since the first Labour government

Ideas worth collecting

As the national museum of democracy, People’s History Museum (PHM) is the UK’s only museum entirely dedicated to sharing the stories of the revolutionaries, reformers, workers, voters and citizens who believed, then and now, in ideas worth fighting for; ideas such as equality, social justice, co-operation, and a fair world for all.

We do this by working alongside the communities whose stories the museum tells and through an eclectic and colourful, historic and contemporary collection that features banners, badges, posters, artwork, cartoons, placards, personal items and more, spanning four centuries of ideas worth fighting for.

If you believe in our work, and want to help us grow our collection, you can support us by becoming a Radical Friend and giving just £3 a month.

PHM’s collection includes:

  • Over 450 historic and contemporary banners including the largest and most important collection of trade union and political banners in the world and the world’s oldest trade union banner, the 1821 Tin Plate Workers Society banner.
  • Other trade union material including sashes and a vast collection of emblems from a wide range of organisations, such as the Miners’ Protection Society, the Order of Friendly Boilermakers, and the Women’s Co-operative Guild.
  • Over 4,000 political posters covering elections, including the Labour Party poster collection and issue campaigns such as peace and equality, including a hand drawn 1977 poster publicising a meeting about the Grunwick strike of 1976 to 1978.
  • Over 500 18th, 19th, and 20th century prints and satirical cartoons, including the collections of cartoonist Ken Sprague, and caricaturist and TV puppet show Spitting Image co-creator Peter Fluck.
  • Over 7,000 badges and tokens from the late 19th century to the present day, including two medals commemorating the Peterloo Massacre of 1819.
  • Over 250 ceramics including a plate commemorating the Dagenham Ford sewing machinists strike of 1968, the Equal Pay Act in 1970, and the recognition of the strikers’ work as skilled in 1984.
  • Personal items from key politicians and political activists, including Labour Party leader Michael Foot’s ‘donkey jacket’ and radical writer Thomas Paine’s desk.
  • The internationally significant Labour History Archive & Study Centre, housing collections of key political papers including the complete archives of two of the most important political parties in British history, the Labour Party and the Communist Party of Great Britain, as well as the personal papers of prominent figures within those two parties, such as Michael Foot, Judith Hart, Eric Heffer and Rajani Palme Dutt.  The two collections also include over 95,000 photographs, which provide a comprehensive overview of the growth of democracy in Britain.
  • Additional complementary collections include the archives of the Manchester branch of radical environmental advocacy group Earth First!, the London group of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners, the National Federation of Old Age Pensions Associations, and both the Nicaragua and Chile Solidarity Campaigns.
Find out more about PHM's collection

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Object handling © People’s History Museum

From the Levellers to the suffragettes, from Peterloo to Brexit, PHM’s collection spans four centuries of the development of democracy in Britain.

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Collection Spotlight

drawing of Collection Spotlight display case in Main Gallery One at People's History Museum.

This case in Main Gallery One showcases objects from the museum’s collection that are not on permanent display.  The case is changed regularly to share new acquisitions and explore ideas worth fighting for.

View the latest display

Donations and loans

Object handling at People’s History Museum

PHM’s collection is continually growing through object and archive donations and loans.

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Five object highlights

Michael Foot's coat, 1981 @ People's History Museum, discussed by Steven Fielding, Professor of Political History at the University of Nottingham

Steven Fielding, Professor of Political History at the University of Nottingham discusses five highlights from PHM’s collection for a series of films available on the museum’s YouTube channel.

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Ten treasures

Woman Looking Through a Microscope painting by Cliff Rowe, 1966 © People's History Museum

Discover ten treasures chosen by the PHM team that capture the ethos, spirit and importance of the museum’s collection.

Explore PHM's collection

15 on film

Filming the 1821 Tin Plate Workers Society banner in Main Gallery One © People's History Museum

Explore PHM’s collection through 15 short films made as part of the Citizens project, charting the history of liberty, protest, rebellion and reform.

Watch and listen
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