Day 1 in Manchester: The People’s History Museum, the Poor Man’s Guardian, and the John Rylands Library

I’m in Manchester to continue my research into how varied media can be used to facilitate and build community. My original thought, to work with The Guardian, which was founded in Manchester in 1821, still seems like a viable avenue for study.

But today, at the suggestion of a friend, I visited the People’s History Museum, and found a story that needs telling.

The People’s History Museum focuses on the history of protest, the growth of socialism, and the movements toward equal rights that have deep roots and history here in Manchester. The exhibits feature banners and other protest materials, an overview of protest movements in Manchester within national and global contexts, and a special focus on the 1819 Peterloo Massacre, an event during which peaceful protest was broken up in bloody fashion.

The 200th anniversary of Peterloo is this year, and numerous sites around Manchester are preparing exhibits surrounding the events. As I’m here to look at media history here, I’m excited that I’ve apparently–and accidentally–chosen an excellent time to come to Manchester.

As I went through the Museum, one thing stood out to me–a coffin stuffed with copies of a workers’ newspaper called the Poor Man’s Guardian. My interest piqued, I took myself down to the front information desk to discover the museum has a complete archive of the publication, which ran from 1831-1836 and directly engaged with protest against the law that restricted press content–passed in response to the Peterloo Massacre.

I spent hours digging through that archive, before fatigue sent in and I left for the day. This is the story I’ve found that needs telling to a broader audience, and I’m already crafting the first draft. I’m really excited.

Next, I stopped at the nearby John Rylands library to see its printing press, Gutenberg publications, and the oldest known shred of the New Testament (in Greek on papyrus). It’s well worth the trip for the bibliophile, and I found some great examples of type for use in my visual principles of mass media course.

It was a busy day, but I look forward to heading back this week to continue gathering my research data.

Tomorrow, though, I’m taking a bit of a break and heading to Liverpool. It’s time to see about the Beatles experience.

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