Last Wednesday students from Keele’s Sociology undergraduate programme took a field trip to the People’s History Museum in Manchester. The museum boasts an incredibly large collection of historical artefacts – including some impressive protest and union banners – relating to the history of social movements in Britain.
From the chartists to the formation of trade unions, the feminist movements of the 19th century and the 20th century to the LGBTQ movements of the last 50 years, the museum has incorporated a large array of social struggles into a broad set of historical narrative(s) that told the story of our social progress (even if, as sociologists, we might argue that we’ve still got a long way to go!).
Our experience of the museum was aided by a tour which elaborated on the histories of some of the museum's key artefacts. The tour used the contextual details offered by these objects to render the last 200 years of social change into a coherent and digestible whole.
|Keele Sociology students on their the tour of the People's History Museum|
For the students the trip provided the opportunity to visualise and, as many of them said, “experience” histories which have had a profound impact upon contemporary British society. Above all, the trip was a way of broadening their learning experience, using the People’s History Museum as a further opportunity to contextualise topics they explore in their undergraduate programme within the many histories they have inherited.
As Sociology undergrad, Louise Whitehouse, put it ‘the subjects covered in the museum form part of some of the direct teaching on a few of my modules, such as the Orgreave battle, the readings I have done linked really well seeing the exhibits and I found I could understand why it is important to study social issues, seeing the changes people are able to enact when those without power organise and stand up for rights and the betterment of everyone.’
Similarly Scott Leach, a first year undergraduate, welcomed the opportunity to learn about ‘the paths people actually took to claim democracy and the impacts they had after that.’