An old suitcase filled with letters and photographs has inspired a new exhibition showcasing what life was like for children in Manchester in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Growing Up in Manchester opens on 1 July 2022 at Central Library Manchester and is a collaboration between University of Birmingham historian Dr Michala Hulme, the people of Manchester and students from the University of Birmingham.

The exhibition was inspired by an old suitcase at an auction containing the personal letters and photographs of former Manchester schoolteacher, Ellen Retallack (1855-1958), purchased at auction by Dr Hulme, Lecturer in Public History in the Department of History at University of Birmingham. Many other photographs in the exhibition are unique as they are donations from the public and have never been displayed before. The exhibition will tell the story of Ellen through her photographs and letters, including correspondence from the journalist and former editor of the Manchester Guardian, C.P. Scott and his children.

Dr Hulme said, “I was really excited when I bought this suitcase at auction, but I never expected to find such a rich depth of Manchester’s social history contained within the correspondence and photographs inside it.

“The contents of the suitcase revealed some amazing stories of women in Manchester in the late Victorian to early Edwardian period – it was a true treasure trove of Manchester’s history. I am very pleased to be sharing these fascinating stories with the public at this exhibition, working in collaboration with Manchester Libraries and with University of Birmingham History students to bring them to life.”


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