Visit to the People’s History Museum, Manchester

Last week I took first year students on BA Contemporary Art History to the People’s History Museum in central Manchester. The intention of this was to show the students an alternative site for the display of different kinds of image that was not an art gallery. Within the permanent display of there museum there are multiple examples of images that fit into different categories: political satire, political propaganda, trade union banners and emblems, reportage, and so on. Most striking for me amongst this imagery were the trade union banners that involved the use of female allegorical figures, such as liberty and justice. It was interesting to see how these longstanding symbolic figures had been appropriated by the trade union movement to encapsulate their aspirations for a better society and an improvement of their lot. Looking at these images was particularly appropriate for the first year students as we had recently addressed the subject of symbolism and allegory in one for the sessions in their current unit ‘The uses of Images’. The People’s History Museum is a great context for the consideration of visual symbolism and to see how the approach of iconography might be applied to imagery outside the usual limits of art history.



Justice to the Toilers banner at the People’s History Museum, Manchester


About Art Theory and Practice

BA Contemporary Art History Manchester School of Art

One comment

  1. visualresourcescurator

    Before I came to work at MMU I was a curator at the People’s History Museum, working on a national survey of banners. More recently (2006, to be precise) I collaborated with the museum to produce a slide set and CD-ROM called ‘Raise the Banner’, which was published by the Visual Resources Centre. There are copies of these in the VRC, but I’ll also make available a PDF version which could be posted on Moodle.

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