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Introduction to our Collection

Introduction to our Collection

The People’s History Museum collection is the largest collection of political material in Britain, spanning working people’s demand for a better world to organisations that represented them.  Befitting the national museum of democracy, objects related to the fight for the vote make up a core of the collection.  These range from the early 19th century radical demands for the vote, through to the suffragettes, to the lowering of the age limit from 21 to 18 in 1969.  PHM is an internationally significant political archive and includes the complete holdings of the Labour Party and Communist Party of Great Britain.  Conservative Party and early Liberal Party material is strongly represented as are other organisations including the Department for Work and Pensions, the Trades Union Congress and The Co-operative Group.

The objects are hugely varied.  The PHM collection of trade union and political banners is the largest and most important of its type in the world.  Other trade union material includes sashes and a vast collection of emblems from a wide range of organisations.  There is a collection of over 2,000 political posters covering elections and issue campaigns such as peace and equality.  Satire forms a strong part of our holdings, with over 300 18th, 19th and 20th century political cartoons.  There are 7,000 badges and tokens from the late 19th century to the present day.  PHM also holds over 95,000 photographic images covering labour history, the Labour Party and more general political history.

Much of the collection was produced by the organised labour movement in Britain as part of the fights for electoral and social reform, trade unionism, the development and changes within the welfare movement, advances in the lives of working people and specific campaigns and political issues reaching up to the present day.  PHM actively collects contemporary material relating to current political issues, key campaigns and demonstrations, as well as historical material in line with our collecting policy.