Want to find out what it’s like to work in the Pankhurst ‘Rooms Of Our Own’ project archive? Volunteer Sophie gives us a little insight.
Upstairs at the Pankhurst Centre, there’s a room that’s absolutely full of boxes upon boxes – and that’s where I spend my Thursdays, helping to catalogue and preserve materials for a new archive about the Centre’s history. It might seem a bit unorganised to an untrained eye, but to the Rooms of Our Own team, its organised chaos!
As mentioned, our task as volunteers has been to sift through all the materials that have been kept by the Centre over its decades, decide what is appropriate to go into the archive, and ensure it is all in the best condition possible. In doing so, we have come across such a wide range of interesting materials! As a final-year history student at the University of Manchester, I’ve even managed to find magazines, articles, and postcards to cite in my dissertation. Being able to interact so closely with such materials, and see how the feminist movement in Manchester has grown over the decades is such an incredible experience; in the week that our Students’ Union held its annual Reclaim the Night March, I found an article in a Manchester-based women’s newsletter talking about the Reclaim the Night March that had been held when the movement began. It is a real privilege to be able to read such things and see how far the women of Manchester have come.
Other materials I’ve come across in the archives include copies of Spare Rib dating back to its inception, conference papers on women’s healthcare, anarchist newsletters, resources on feminist figures, poetry by Sylvia Pankhurst, and photographs of all the many events put on at the Pankhurst Centre over the years. Being in the archives has taught me so much more about the history of feminism in not only Manchester, but across the globe, than I ever thought possible – I’ve enjoyed every second of it so far and can’t wait to see the completed archive!