The origins of the museum lie in the 1960s when a group of pioneer activists began to collect labour history material at a time when the museum world was largely uninterested. They believed strongly in the importance of collecting and preserving items belonging to working people. They opened the National Museum of Labour History in London in 1975.
In the 1980s, with the museum’s future threatened by a lack of funding, the collection was rescued by Manchester City Council and the Greater Manchester authorities, with the help of the TUC. Local champions who believed in the importance of the collection fought for the museum to come to Manchester and the museum reopened on Princess Street in 1990 in the building where the first meeting of the TUC took place over one hundred years earlier.
Interest in the museum continued to grow and the collection continued to expand. The museum needed larger premises and a second site was opened at the Pump House in 1994 with public galleries, exhibition spaces, learning programmes and events for an interested and engaged audience.
There was still more to do and the museum had an ambitious plan to expand even further, to bring all museum activities, operations and staff onto one site and to create a landmark building to fully reflect the unique and special story it told of the development of democracy in Britain.
The museum successfully secured an investment of £12.5 million from local, regional and national partners to achieve this vision. In 2010 the museum re-launched itself again with a restored Pump House and a new modern four storey extension, attached to the original building by a glass walkway and clad in a striking, rusty exterior of Corten steel.
Since 2010 the museum has attracted national and international press coverage, is embedded as a key cultural attraction in Greater Manchester, has achieved annual visitor numbers of over 100,000 and welcomes an audience of both local residents and national and international visitors.
The People’s History Museum is a charity and is a company limited by guarantee with a maximum of 20 trustees. It is independent and has no political affiliation.
The museum is Accredited by Arts Council England. In 1998 it was awarded Designated status by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), which recognises the museum as having pre-eminent collections of national importance.
Registered charity number: 295260
Registered in England as the National Museum of Labour History, number: 2041438
One of only two national museums in Manchester city centre
The first public building in Britain to be built with an extraordinary Corten metal shell
Contains 1,384 square metres of exhibition space
Displays almost 1,500 historic objects
Displays the largest number of trade union and other banner in the world
Allows visitors to see behind the scenes into Britain’s only conservation studio dedicated to the preservation of banners
Houses a unique archive containing the collections of the Labour Party, the Communist Party of Great Britain and much more
Offers an inspiring Learning Programme for all ages, from pre-school to adult learners
Has a dedicated Community Gallery open to individuals and groups to display their own exhibitions
Holds an exciting programme of public events throughout the year including tours, talks and performances
Attracts over 100,000 visitors a year
Continues to attract a higher proportion of foreign visitors than any other museum in the city
Has high quality spaces available to hire for meetings and events including the stunning Coal Store Conference Room and magnificent Engine Hall
Has a gift shop selling a unique range of books, homeware and souvenirs based on the museum’s outstanding collections
Houses The Left Bank cafe bar, with the sunniest riverside terrace in the city!
Celebrates the stories of the radical thinkers whose big ideas have shaped our society, and invites you to Join the Radicals