People’s History Museum – Manchester, England - Atlas Obscura

People’s History Museum

One of Manchester’s museums has gathered and preserved British political paraphernalia covering over 200 years.  

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Many museums that discuss history will inevitably also mention politics. However, very few museums have a focus on politics quite like the People’s History Museum, which has amassed an extensive collection of politically-oriented historical items covering over 200 years of British history.

The origins of the museum and its collection started in the 1960s when a few activists, including people from the Trade Union Labour and Co-operative History Society, began gathering historical campaign materials. This material was then used to create the National Museum of Labour History in 1975 in Tower Hamlets, London.

In the late 1980s, the museum was forced to relocate, and the city of Manchester, which had a history of political activism, offered to support the museum. The museum eventually re-opened in 1990 in Manchester as The National Museum of Labour History, but it would rename itself again in 2002 as the People’s History Museum.

Eventually, the museum moved all its galleries and materials to a site adjacent to the River Irwell, including a historic pump house and a modern extension clad in Cor-Ten steel. Throughout this period, the museum collected additional historical political materials from various political parties, trade unions, and activist groups.

Today, the collection includes a broad range of posters, banners, political cartoons, and other items related to the history of politics in the United Kingdom. Some items include a desk used by Thomas Paine, several puppets from the satirical TV show Spitting Image, and several modern and historic silk banners used by various trade unions.

In addition to these items on display in the main galleries, the museum also has an exhibition space that has been used to highlight special topics such as elections, LGBTQ+ rights, and the struggles of refugees.

Despite being founded by left-leaning political groups, the People’s History Museum now covers both the right and left sides of the political spectrum. However, the museum will still discuss people’s struggles to fight for their rights in a fairer society.

Know Before You Go

The People’s History Museum is open from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm daily, except Tuesdays. Special care has been taken to make the museum as accessible as possible for all visitors. While the museum is free to visit, donations are appreciated.


The museum is located on the west side of Manchester City Centre where Bridge Street crosses the River Irwell. The site is easily reached on foot from other locations within the city center, and parking is available in several locations nearby. Regular bus services also travel through the city center to the museum or nearby areas.

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May 16, 2024

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