This week is Parliament Week. Across the country hundreds of events are going on, each highlighting the work Parliament does and the importance of participating in the democratic process. This years theme is Women in Democracy and I was involved at events at both Salford’s Working Class Movement Library (WCML) and Manchester’s People’s History Museum (PHM). I’m sure my colleagues at the People’s History Museum will write about the events there across at their blog, so I’m going to talk about the event held at the Working Class Movement Library.
Drop in at the Working Class Movement Library was in reality very simple, but non the worse for it. It provided the opportunity for people to come and explore the historic items in the library related to women’s political struggles. These included the newspaper of the Women’s Social Political Union Votes For Women (pictured above); the Labour party’s , The Labour Woman; the voice of the Co-Operatives’s Women’s Guild Women’s Outlook; and Annie Besant‘s The Link. The volumes were put out on the table and people came, read, had a cup of tea and stayed for as long as they liked.
The Unlocking Ideas project has already run a day like this; the first one focussed on the library’s Peterloo holdings. And so far, the events have gone well. Across both days over 40 people have attended. But what’s exciting is that people really do get the opportunity to engage with the original documents. I like giving tours and talks, and enjoy it when these turn into discussions, but I realise this is not how everyone wants to explore history.
By picking a specific subject, and narrowing down the selection so visitors don’t have to search through a catalogue when they don’t really know what they want to look at, I hope that people can simply come and read in peace. There’s always someone to answer questions and make a cup of tea, but otherwise anyone who comes is left to get on with it.
We’ll be running some more drop in sessions after the new year, so watch this space. If you have any ideas of topics you would like to see focussed on please do get in touch.