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Our Collection


The museum holds one of the largest collections of historic trade union and political banners in the world and is the UK’s leading authority on the conservation and study of banners

Textile Conservation Studio Viewing Area

There are over 400 banners in the collection including probably the world’s oldest trade union banner, that of the Liverpool Tinplate Workers of 1821.

Liverpool Tinplate Workers Society banner, 1821 © People's History MuseumThe banners range in size from under one metre squared to over four metres squared and are made using a variety of techniques including paint, print and embroidery.  They fit into two distinct groups; some being specially commissioned by unions or societies and produced commercially, while others are handmade and produced quickly.  Those specially commissioned were often expensive, made for longevity and treasured by their organisation as symbols of pride within the community.  Others are very much handmade, rapidly assembled for a protest or rally, from whatever materials were close to hand.  These banners are often very evocative and reflect the strength of feeling behind the message being portrayed.

On average the museum exhibits 25 banners on open display in the galleries; hopefully enabling our visitors to appreciate the scale and detail of the banners and imagine how they would have looked when they were being used.  These banners are changed annually to preserve them, which also allows us to display more from our large collection.  Changing the banners is a time consuming process because they are such large and fragile objects.

Visitors to the museum have the opportunity to see into the Textile Conservation Studio from the viewing area in Main Gallery Two and see our specialist conservators at work preserving delicate textiles and banners.

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