People’s History Museum in running for Art Fund Prize

Article published: Thursday, February 10th 2011

Residents of Manchester and beyond have been called on to help the People’s History Museum win a prestigious award of £100,000 by pledging their vote in an online poll.

The People’s History Museum (PHM), which houses a vast collection of artifacts and exhibitions relating to the struggles, campaigns and lives of ordinary working people over 200 years, has been put on the long-list with nine other museums for the Art Fund Prize 2011 which rewards excellence and innovation. The nomination comes following a £12.5m redevelopment which saw the museum reopen its doors last year.

Director of the Museum Katy Archer said: “Being long listed for the 2011 Art Fund Prize is testimony to the success and achievements of the museum since reopening our new building in 2010. The transformation of the People’s History Museum is due to the team effort that went into the project from our staff, project team, contractors, funders, supporters and audiences. We are very pleased to be included on the long list and very proud of our museum. This announcement further inspires our ambition and plans for the museum’s future success and growth.”

Now the museum are asking members of the public to pledge their vote online. A shortlist of four museums is to be announced on May 19 and will be followed by prize-giving at the ‘Museum of the Year’ ceremony on June 15.

Offering the public a chance to “explore world changing events led by the working people of Britain”, the museum has won plaudits since its re-opening in 2010. Exhibitions cover popular movements throughout British history such as the trade union movement, the struggle for women’s rights and universal suffrage as well as charting the involvement of working people from across the United Kingdom who fought on the side of Republican forces in the Spanish Civil War.

The radical tradition of Manchester and the role the city played in the nascent suffrage movement – in particular the Peterloo massacre of 1814, when yeomanry fired upon crowds assembled at a rally – is given pride of place in the museum, which provides an alternative view of popular politics and how many changes were fought from the bottom up. It also houses the largest collection of trade union and political banners in the world which includes the oldest one still in existence, that of the Liverpool Tinplate Workers of 1821.

An election poster of the young Labour party from 1909

The prize money would provide PHM will a well-needed cash injection that could help the museum to continue running projects such as its educational programme at a time when public funding is scarce, Katy Archer told MULE. She expanded on what winning the prize would mean:

“While the money would be beneficial to the organisation the prize has a very broad reach in terms of publicity, which would help to boost visitor numbers and raise our profile with local partners and stakeholders.”

She went on to explain why she thinks people from the region should cast their vote for PHM:

“We are the only museum from Manchester and the North West which has been listed. The museum is a fantastic representation of working people’s history; in Manchester there is a real sense of this tradition so for people who want to champion an organisation which celebrates this we would ask them to vote for the People’s History Museum.”

Despite its popularity and critical success, the museum was targeted by the government for budget cuts last year. As part of the October Spending Review the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) imposed cuts of 15 per cent onto both PHM and the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI). This was compounded in November when both were completely cut out from DCMS funding – on the controversial ground that they are classified as ‘non-national’ museums. Critics of the decision pointed out that many of the museums in the government’s crosshair, such as the National Coal Mining Museum, were in traditional Labour strongholds and give platforms to working class history and the labour movement.

To see a full list of all of the museums which have been placed on the longlist for the Art Fund Prize, click here

To register your vote for the museum of your choice, click here

Michael Pooler

More: Culture, Exhibition, Manchester, News


  1. DONE. Good luck also in front so far :)

    Comment by kev on February 12, 2011 at 5:38 pm
  2. Pump House is an excellent museum for all ages. It is unique as it the only English one which replects lives of mainly the working clas and their organisations. It;’s diplays are imaginitive and educational

    Comment by Margaret manning on March 15, 2011 at 9:44 pm

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