A new exhibition that takes a fascinating and moving trip back to Oldham in 1918,featuring a previously unknown letter between prominent suffragettes is opening
Peace and Plenty? Oldham and the First World War’ examines what life was like for those living in Oldham during the ‘Great War’, including the harrowing losses they suffered, the achievements of the town, the adaptions made to meet the needs of the war and the legacy it has left behind.
Curated by Senior Lecturer in History Terry Wyke at MMU, alongside Prof Alan Fowler, a retired lecturer from the Department of History, the exhibition features a previously unknown letter written by local suffragette Annie Kenney to her sister Nell upon her release from Strangeways Prison in Manchester, where she was imprisoned with Christabel Pankhurst.
This is the first time the letter has gone on display after laying unknown for more than a century in the British Columbia Archives at the Royal British Columbia Museum, in Victoria, Canada.
Terry said: “Every object on display in the exhibition at Gallery Oldham tells a fascinating and poignant story. A taster of the type of objects featured include souvenirs sent by a German-born man to his family in Oldham from an internment camp on the Isle of Man as well as James Purdy’s fascinating painting, which captures the unveiling of the Oldham War Memorial in 1923.
“We have also produced an accompanying booklet exploring the experiences of Oldhamers during, and in the aftermath of, the First World War.”
The exhibition was supported by a grant of almost £7,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The grant enabled conservation work to be carried out on several items from Gallery Oldham’s own collections, including a range of Rolls of Honour from local buildings recording the sacrifices made by local communities. Conservation work has also restored delicate items such as a souvenir paper tissue issued to celebrate Oldham’s ‘Tank Week’ in 1918.
Sean Baggaley, Senior Exhibitions and Collections Co-ordinator, said: “One hundred years later this act of remembering still feels important and I am grateful to Alan Fowler and Terry Wyke for bringing so much of this work back to life.
“I hope that the ‘Peace and Plenty?’ exhibition gives modern visitors some sense of the Oldham that was permanently reshaped by the First World War.”
‘Peace and Plenty? Oldham and the First World War’ runs until Saturday, January 12, 2019.