Picturing Politics – exploring the political poster in Britain

Exhibition, Manchester, 12 November 2011 — 17 June 2012

During 20th century elections, political posters wallpapered our streets, providing political parties an opportunity to ‘speak’ to the masses. Despite the onset of digital technology, posters still provided some of the resonant images of the 2010 election.

Displaying over 60 iconic examples, this exhibition explores the development of the poster and examine one of the key aspects of our democracy: how parties speak to the people and crucially, how this communication has changed. The exhibition showcases the museum’s unique poster collection which is the largest in the UK, including examples from all the major political parties.

Extensive research by exhibition curator and PhD student Chris Burgess enables the exhibition to illustrate for the first time how some of these significant posters developed from the original concept of the party leader to the final image. The exhibition displays the process of poster design, from initial idea, through preliminary artwork, to final product. The thematic displays demonstrate how the treatment of some subjects has changed dramatically over the period, for example, the depiction of women. Conversely it also highlights how other subjects remain constant, such as representations of the leader.

As well as enjoying the visual spectacle of these striking posters, visitors will be inspired to make up slogans and create their own posters or even feature in a poster themselves.

The research for this exhibition is part of an ongoing collaboration between the People’s History Museum and the University of Nottingham and is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.