Rooms of our Own

Rooms of Our Own is a National Lottery Heritage Funded project delivered by the Pankhurst Trust in partnership with Manchester Histories. The aim was to uncover and preserve the Pankhurst Centre’s organisation archive from the 1970s to 2014

Photograph showing the women hired to work on the construction site of the Pankhurst Centre
Pankhurst Centre at early stages of Construction
Visit to the construction site with Dr Stella Butler and Barbara Castle

Rooms of Our Own was a project designed to better organise, care for, and share the organisational archive of the Pankhurst Centre. A building which was once the home of Emmeline Pankhurst and the first meeting of the Suffragettes. In the 1970s It was left derelict and was saved from demolition by a group of Feminist women who campaigned and fundraised to have it turned in to a home for women’s equality in the 1980s.

Over an 18 month period, supported by a team of Pankhurst staff, freelance professionals and Manchester Histories, the Pankhurst Trust trained and supervised volunteers to sort through, reorganise, re-box and newly catalogue over a thousand items.

Volunteers were also trained to collect oral history interviews with ‘veterans’ – women involved in the creation and management of the Pankhurst Centre over the years. The oral history recordings and the newly catalogued and sorted archive was then transferred to Archives+ in Manchester Central Library to be preserved for decades to come.

Brill project! Really important, especially for working class young adults / people who wouldn’t normally have access to this type of training and opportunity

Project Volunteer

Early career Young Creatives aged between 18-25 years old were supported to make new artwork inspired by the archive. The Is the Fight Over? film was created by interviewing over 170 people to gather their responses to the question – is the fight for gender equality over? This was inspired by the 400 club in which 400 people were each asked to contribute £100 to raise funds to repay a loan that helped pay for the building work on the centre.

The Young Creatives also helped shape and deliver summer schools for 16-18 year olds. The summer schools explored the archive and the history of the Pankhurst Centre through activities in screen printing, textile design and stop motion animation.

Working on Is the Fight Over film allowed us to start new conversations about the Pankhurst and gender equality. This changed how I thought about heritage projects. Though we still explored the Pankhurst Centre’s history, we were able to start thinking about the future of the centre.

Young Creative

The project culminated in an exhibition in the Manchester Histories Hub in Manchester Central Library. There was a selection of the archive in the inbuilt display cases, the film and excerpts of the oral history interviews were also on display. The Young Creatives created an illustrated timeline to better explain the complex history of the Pankhurst Centre which was printed on to eco-friendly free standing display boards.

The Pankhurst Centre’s organisational archive is now deposited in Archives+ at Manchester Central Library. If you would like to access the archive you can do so by visiting the Library’s Search Room. You will need to first book an appointment and let them know it’s the Pankhurst Centre’s archive you would like to look at. They request one working days notice. For more information on this service visit the Manchester City Council website here.

Close up of exhibition panels including a cabinet with a Pankhurst Centre t-shirt and scarf

513 people participated in workshops and open days

Close up of the archive

1,000+ items organised and catalogued in to an archive

A group of visitors looking at the exhibition panels

310 volunteer hours spent on archive care

Woman listening to oral history as part of the exhibition

8 new oral histories with full transcripts created