Nottingham expert puts museum collection under the spotlight

The stories behind objects in People’s History Museum’s vast collection have been given a fresh perspective and relevance for contemporary audiences. A series of short films have been created to enable people to explore and access the stories behind some of the key pieces that tell of the nation’s democratic history.

The films have been made thanks to a collaboration between People’s History Museum, Steven Fielding, Professor of Political History at the University of Nottingham and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) who funded the work.

Professor Steven Fielding has used his political insight on the selection of five objects that he believes best illustrate some of the central themes and historic moments explored in the museum’s collection.

A film has been created for each of the items, examining the object’s importance to current times, with links made back to archives held at the museum. The pieces featured are:

  • A Conservative Party poster produced in time for the 1924 general election highlighting how propaganda, patriotism and a fear of Russia was employed to defeat the Labour government to highlight how, thanks to Brexit, the politics of patriotism is back with a vengeance.
  • A paradoxically sexist Labour Party poster for the 1929 general election - the first election in which all women could vote for the first time thanks to the Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act of 1928.
  • Two Labour and Conservative Party posters taken from the 1950 and 1951 general elections addressing how each approached post war housing problems to highlight the current housing crisis.
  • A poster produced by the Labour Party Young Socialists in 1974 publicising a demonstration by the party’s youth wing organised to oppose growing racist hostility to non-white Commonwealth immigrants, to highlight the anti-immigration rhetoric that was seen in some of the Vote Leave campaign in the 2016 Brexit Referendum.
  • The coat worn by the Labour Party leader Michael Foot at the National Service of Remembrance, held at The Cenotaph in Whitehall, London, on Remembrance Sunday, 1981 to illustrate fake news and the way we see our political leaders, who have a long history of distortion by the media.

Steven Fielding, Professor of Political History at the University of Nottingham, says, “Britain’s democratic history is an unfinished story and it is one in in which we can all play a part. Looking at moments in history can help us better understand the present. Focusing on a few significant items from People’s History Museum’s extensive collection has been a captivating way to provide a physical link between the history of democracy in Britain and contemporary political issues affecting us today.”

Jenny Mabbott, Head of Collections at People’s History Museum, says “This project makes our collection wonderfully accessible and Professor Fielding’s insightful commentary really brings it to life, demonstrating the connections and enduring significance each piece represents.”

The films will be launched to the public on Friday 7 December 2018 and can be accessed on the museum’s website and YouTube channel. Visitors to People’s History Museum will find the pieces for themselves in the museum’s main galleries, where they will also see how they form part of the overall journey of democracy and ideas worth fighting for.

People’s History Museum is open seven days a week from 10.00am to 5.00pm, Radical Lates are on the second Thursday each month, open until 8.00pm. The museum is free to enter with a suggested donation of 5. To find out about visiting the museum, its archives and for more information visit www.phm.org.uk.

See all five films on PHM’s YouTube channel.

  • Housing posters from the 1950 and 1951 general elections
  • Fight Against Racialism poster, 1974
  • The New Voter poster, 1929
  • Michael Foot’s coat, 1981
  • Vote Unionist poster, about 1924

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