Pankhurst Centre

The Pankhurst Centre.

Creating a rebellious exhibition for women’s activism

The ‘At Home with the Pankhurst Family’ exhibition opened at The Pankhurst Centre in 2021, sponsored by the AIM Biffa Award as part of its History Makers Scheme.

Pankhurst Centre
The exhibition tells the story of the Pankhurst family who formed the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) from their home at 63 Nelson Street, Manchester to fight for the right for women to vote. We wanted to create an exhibition that was empowering and challenging for visitors, while being engaging and attractive to younger audiences.
“The place has power. It’s difficult for the hairs on your arm not stand up.”
Gail Heath, CEO of the Pankhurst Centre

Since re-opening, visits by men have risen by

50%

The visual language needed to be rebellious, youthful and match the energy of the women who fought for the vote then, and those who continue to represent the organisation today.

We created the illusion of a classic Edwardian home, but nothing is as it seems. We aimed to shock visitors using unconventional methods to add a rebellious twist to this domestic home.

Pankhurst Centre
“A radical interpretation of a domestic place.”
Dr Ruth Colton, Heritage Manager
Pankhurst Centre
“For visitors, what awaits is an inspiring and moving experience that shared a unique insight into the lives of the family.”
Dr Ruth Colton, Heritage Manager

Visitors can get to know some of the most iconic women in ‘herstory’, learning about the household dynamic, the women’s individual hopes and dreams and how that drove them to become a family of activists.

We playfully reinterpret Emmeline’s desk to show how she balanced her many roles, as a mother, a working woman and an activist. Domestic objects sit on the desk for visitors to explore her relationship with her family, work and her place in society.

There are two sides to every story, so we created an immersive AV show that throws visitors into the middle of the debate between the Suffragettes and the opposition, as they argue whether women should have the vote and what an ‘acceptable’ form of activism should be.

“A thoughtful and engaging exhibition. This is a most important historical site; well done for ensuring its continued presence.”
Museum visitor
Pankhurst Centre

In the room where it all happened – the first meeting of the WSPU in 1903 – we wanted to enhance this already ‘spine-tinglingly’ authentic room by introducing a meeting table littered with letters and photos that showcase exactly why this domestic home became a hub for the Votes for Women movement. Around this table the sound of women chattering and discussing their next move can be heard.

We wanted to emphasise just how ordinary these women were who came together to fight for their rights. Domestic items appear as part of the set of a room, until it is revealed that these were used during protest in a range of different ways.

Pankhurst Centre
Pankhurst Centre
Pankhurst Centre

To celebrate the journey from the iconic women of the movement to those who continue it today, we also designed a striking mural that illuminates through the doors of 63 Nelson Street. This distinctive branding continues onto the banners that line the street outside.

As proud Northerners, we brought Manchester to the heart of this story. The exhibition highlights just how influential the city is in influencing the Pankhurst family and the political landscape of Britain.

We know exhibitions can make a difference, and this is a subject which still has relevance today. The storytelling across the exhibition aims to empower and challenge visitors to consider how far women’s rights has come, how much further it has to go and what we can do to achieve that.

“An inspirational reminder of the power, determination and strength we hold. We just need to remember it’s within us all!”
Museum visitor
Pankhurst Centre
Pankhurst Centre
Pankhurst Centre

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