Museum Collection

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 106
  • Dates of Creation
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      approx. 5000 objects (plus 3,800+ objects identified in the archives)

Scope and Content

As at Jan 2009, The Women's Library held approximately 4,000 objects in the Museum Collection, with 3,840 additional objects identified in the archives.

The Women's Library Museum Collection objects are grouped in the following categories:

- Badges

- Banners

- Paintings

- Photographs

- Postcards

- Posters

- Textiles

- Objects and other ephemera e.g. souvenir material related to women's campaigning, ceramics used to promote or commemorate women's campaigning activities, artefacts associated with famous/prominent women.

The strength of the Museum Collection lies in the range of printed ephemera and artefacts that document suffrage campaign activities, in addition there is some material relating to later 20th century women's organisations and campaigning, such as feminist activity during the 1970s and 1980s. The Museum Collection complements the range of artefacts and ephemera held in The Women's Library archive and printed collections.

For further information about the scope of the banner, postcard, photograph and poster holdings see the introductions to (object numbers: twl.banner; twl.postcard; twl.poster).

The Museum Collection was catalogued by Charlotte Dew between 2001-2004 in a project funded by the AHRC (Arts & Humanities Research Council). As at 2006 the museum catalogues were being edited and made available online.

The postcards, photographs, badges and posters can be ordered for research through the usual Reading Room retrieval service. Access to the collections where catalogues are not yet available online can be arranged by contacting the Curator. Access to the banner collection is restricted due to the size and fragility of the items - surrogate images area available in the online catalogue.

Objects can be searched using the 'ObjectName' field. The main categories are named:

badge, banner, photograph, postcard, painting, poster, textile.

Additional object names include:

Album, Arm band , Ashtray, Bag, Blouse, Bookmark, Book token, Bottle, Braid, Bunting, Bunting flag, cake server, Calendar, Candleholder, Caricature, Cartoon, Chair back, Christmas card, Cigarette box, Clay pipe, Coaster, Coin, Comb, Cup, Design, Envelope, Flag, Flier, Fragment of aluminium, Game, Goblet, Gown, Greetings Card, Illustration, Jabot, Jacket, Key-ring, Magazine, Mallet, Map, Medal, Medallion, Membership Card, Memorial, Menu, Metal Cast, Mug, Needlecraft, Notebook, Offprint, Ornament, Packaging, Page, Patch, Pattern, Pen, Pin, Plaque, Plate, Print, Presentation volume, Programme, Record, Ribbon, Rosette, Sash, Saucer, Scarf, Seal, Shield, Ship's card, Sign, Silhouette, Spoon, Stamp, Sticker, Swizzle stick, T-Shirt, Tea Spoon, Tea Towel, Textile, Textile fragment, Ticket, Toy, Trousers, Unitard, Wallet, Wallpaper.

If you have any questions regarding the Museum Collection, please ask a member of the Reading Room staff, who will pass your enquiry on to the Curator, or e-mail:

Administrative / Biographical History

The history of the Museum Collection as a discrete collection within The Women's Library is less easy to trace than the Archive and Printed Collections. Fawcett Library members and related organisations often deposited objects with the Library, either as part of personal and organisational archives or as individual 'iconic' items. This ad-hoc collection continued after the transfer of the collections to the University in 1977. After 1977 steps were taken to develop the collection In 1980-1981 The Fawcett Society deposited additional objects, including banners. In 1984 the Mary Evans Picture Library became The Women's Library Commercial Picture Library partner. By the 1990s a contract Visual Materials Curator was appointed and it appears that the groupings by object type were made in this period as were some object descriptions. The first museum accessions register started in 1998. With the move to the new building in 2002 the importance of the objects was formally recognised by the inclusion of an Exhibition Hall in the building. Alongside the move to the new premises in 2002 The Women's Library agreed to meet the standards for Museum Registration, and later Museums' Accreditation. A three-year project, 2002-2005 documented the museum objects, with funding provided by the Arts & Humanities Research Council. Some 3,500 objects were described on the archive-museum catalogue CALM and rehoused as part of this project. Subsequent to this the majority of museum catalogue entries were edited and made available to the public via the online catalogue (by 2008). Similar work in enhancing catalogue entries for objects deposited as part of archives was also undertaken.


Arranged by subject, see above

Access Information

This collection is available for research. Readers are advised to contact The Women's Library in advance of their first visit. The majority of objects in the Museum Collection may be requested for research in the Reading Room. Due to their size and fragility banners can only be consulted by an appointment with the curator.

Other Finding Aids

The Women's Library Catalogue

Alternative Form Available

Images of many of these objects can be seen attached to The Women's Library online catalogue. The Women's Library uses Mary Evans Picture Library (MEPL) to provide images from its collections, see

Related Material

Historical Note: In 1980-1981 The Fawcett Society deposited objects with a number of museums (including the Fawcett Library). The Museum of London was given a number of banners by the Fawcett Society. MoL were also given a WSPU teapot; silk scarf; sash; equal pay pencil; framed photograph of Shaw; triangular bunting flag; 2 NUWSS shoulder bags; Lady's accelerator.