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Past exhibitions

Our exhibitions tell the story of our rich collections

Learn about our previous exhibitions and the variety of themes in our collection.

Past exhibitions 

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A Time for Revolutions: Making the Welfare State

Exhibition promotional poster

Curated by Indy Bhullar. Open 8 January to 13 April 2018.


In December 1942 the government published a report that was officially called Social Insurance and Allied Services, but which swiftly became known as 'The Beveridge Report' after its author Sir William Beveridge. As one press report from the time stated "if it is adopted by the Government and put into force it will revolutionise the whole life of the British people"

LSE Library marked the 75th anniversary of Beveridge's report with an exhibition that looked at the historical antecedents of that revolutionary moment, and examined how the welfare state emerged, developed and changed over time.

Sir William was Director of LSE from 1919 to 1937 and LSE Library holds his extensive and fascinating papers.

A piece from the exhibition.

On reflection

This exhibition meant a great deal to me to put on as the report was an important milestone and we were able to set it into a broader, historical context thanks to the Library's brilliant collections. Obviously Beveridge's contributions played a large role in how we thought about the exhibition but there were lots of other pieces which showed off our comprehensive social policy collections. The Beveridge Festival was also really timely and hosted many excellent events which brought out themes and ideas for how we might think of the future of the welfare state. Clearly it's a topic which has ongoing relevance especially when thinking about how we deal with increasing levels of wealth inequality.

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Visitor quotes

An interesting exhibition - a walk through time. Some long past. Yet time which feels ever so relevant to that which we have now. I am a child of the welfare state. I will always be indebted to Beveridge and i'm pleased that the LSE is putting these important documents on display to remind us that the welfare of the country will always be an issue of paramount importance - it must never be taken for granted, never undersold and never dismissed.
I feel proud to be part of an institution that curates and exhibits such important material pertaining to such important social issues. Thank you for sharing this material an an accessible and manageable way."

Journeys to Independence: India, Pakistan and Bangladesh

The poster for the Journeys to Independence exhibition

Curated by Daniel Payne. Open: 18 September to 15 December 2017.


This exhibition marked the 70th anniversary of the independence of India from British rule and the birth of West and East Pakistan. Later, East Pakistan would become Bangladesh. Partition divided British India along religious lines, leading to one of the largest and most violent mass migrations in human history.

The exhibition drew on the archives of LSE Library, giving a British perspective on the Indian subcontinent during the 20th century. It included material related to the Civil Disobedience Movement, British women campaigning in India for birth control, and the founding of Pakistan and Bangladesh. Also on display were archives demonstrating LSE’s historic relationship with the region, including LSE alumnus and champion of Dalit rights Dr. B. R. Ambedkar.

People looking at the exhibition material
People looking at the exhibition in the Library Gallery

On reflection

Curating the exhibition was a fantastic opportunity to explore some of our archives relating to South Asia, which offer a rich resource for researchers interested in this period. It was certainly not without its challenges - how do you tell the story of independence in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh in such a small space, using archives that were collected and produced only in Britain? I think this was somewhat addressed by being honest about this in the text of the exhibition, and encouraging visitors to think about this when viewing the exhibition. Over 9,000 people visited the exhibition and left positive comments in the guestbook - it was a great surprise that the Library had so many archives on this subject. The exhibition was curated in partnership with the LSE South Asia Centre, who ran many events and activities to mark the 70th anniversary.

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Visitor quotes

As an Indian at LSE, it's incredible that a non-British perspective is being presented. It makes me feel proud to go to LSE and be an Indian. The exhibition is genuinely incredible and it's a wonderful taster of the difficulties/issues faced in this time.
As a British Bangladeshi I found it emotional and heartwarming exploring this exhibition. Thanks for recognising us and the importance of our struggle LSE <3

A Wealth of Ideas: Economics and LSE 

Wealth of Ideas poster-min

Curated by Indy Bhullar. Open: 2 May to 8 September 2017.


Economics and discussions over its definition, purpose and influence are woven into the fabric of LSE.

LSE's reputation as a global leader in economics teaching and research has been built upon many decades of work, taking in many differences of approach and opinion. Renowned figures from the School's story such as Lionel Robbins, Friedrich Hayek and Sir Anthony Atkinson have all moulded ideas that have had an impact not only within the realms of academia but also at a wider societal level.

A Wealth of Ideas drew upon LSE Library’s holdings of rare books and archives and revealed the contributions made by some of those who played a role in shaping these debates.

A poster from the exhibition
An item from the exhibition

On reflection

'A Wealth of Ideas' gave us a chance to explore one of the central facets to the School's teaching and research. I think economics can come across as a subject which is slightly baffling to many of those unfamiliar with its myriad concepts, so the aim was to make some of the items we have in our collection tell their own stories which were hopefully clear and concise and I think we achieved that.

It was great working with so many people from the Economics and Economic History departments as well as our research departments like STICERD. They provided a lot of help and friendly support without which the exhibition and the associated events couldn't have happened and were worth their weights in gold.

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What Goes Around Comes Around, from a talk given by Jim Thomas at LSE on Thursday 3 August 2017 with Professor Mary Morgan as Chair: 

The Creation of the Newlyn-Phillips Machine, from a talk given at LSE on Wednesday 28th June by Professor Mary Morgan with Jim Thomas as Chair.

Listen to Indy Bhullar talk about the exhibition in this short podcast

Visitor quote

[My favourite object was] Number 21. Bretton Woods Diary. Can't believe I've just been reading it. Such an important part of our history. Thank you for the exhibition and for presenting these documents.

Glad to be Gay: the struggle for legal equality

Glad to be Gay exhibition poster

Curated by Gillian Murphy. Open: 9 January to 7 April 2017.


This exhibition drew on the unique Hall-Carpenter Archives and the Women’s Library collection to mark the 50th anniversary of a pivotal piece of legislation: the 1967 Sexual Offences Act. Before that, homosexuality was a criminal offence. With the passing of the Sexual Offences Act, homosexuality in private was decriminalised, but genuine parity still was not achieved. The struggle for legal equality continued and has only made progress by the sustained efforts of committed activists. This exhibition followed the LGBT story from the ‘hidden’ years when homosexuality was a taboo subject, to the passing of the Sexual Offences Act in 1967, from gay liberation in the 1970s to legal equality for gay people in the 2000s.

Gay Liberation Front members performing street theatre
Gay Liberation Front street theatre, early 1970s

On reflection

This was the first exhibition mounted in our Library Gallery to cover a current, contentious subject. Overall, visitor comments indicated that the carefully-chosen material and narrative reached out to people. It was regrettable that there was some homophobia around the exhibition, but in the words of one who commented on this in the visitors' book ‘that is why this exhibition is so important’. We worked very hard to ensure that our public events of lectures, archive visits and afternoon talks linked directly with the theme of the exhibition and we hope to build on this success.

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For more information see our LGBT collection guide.

For images from the collection see our Glad to be Gay Flickr album

Catch up with our exhibition event podcasts

Listen to Gillian Murphy talk about the exhibition in this short podcast.

Visitor quote 

As a gay student at LSE this exhibition means I know I am as welcome here as anyone else. And that matters more than it should


Charles Booth’s London: Mapping Lives in Victorian London

Charles Booth exhibition poster

Curated by Indy Bhullar. Open 17 September to 17 December 2016


Charles Booth’s Inquiry Into the Life and Labour of the People in London was published in 1903 after 16 years of intense research and it remains one of the most ambitious and wide-ranging sociological surveys ever completed.

The poverty maps, which were pioneering in their use colours to detail the street-by-street levels of wealth and poverty of the city, are the most famous outputs from the work. To mark the centenary of Booth’s death, LSE Library for the very first time displayed a selection of materials from the extensive archive holdings of Booth’s survey, that told the remarkable story of its inception, delivery and influence.

Booth's papers were also inscribed into UNESCO's UK Memory of the World register in 2016.

Booth exhibition shot
A view of the exhibition in place with items and video wall

On reflection

Charles Booth's work was very much a product of its time but speaks to issues we face today. Whether this is the development of cities as habitats for people, the impact of economic inequality, the nature of precarious employment or various other policy concerns there are echoes of Booth's work which we can hear today. The materials might have come from one dusty archive collection but it is one of our richest and gave the Library a chance to showcase items that hopefully gave people a chance to reflect on what impact the survey had and how we are still dealing with some of the concerns raised.

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Visitor quote

Thank you LSE for organising such an interesting exhibition, charting the important work of Charles Booth which ultimately led to the establishment of the welfare state today. He shone a light on the depth of poverty which existed in London and set in motion a movement which would ultimately lead to the principles of modern society in Britain​

Endless Endeavours: from the 1866 Women’s Suffrage Petition to the Fawcett Society

Endless Endeavours exhibition banner

Curated by Gillian Murphy. Open 23 April to 27 August 2016

This exhibition used the Library’s unique collections to mark the 150th anniversary of a petition to Parliament which was signed by 1,499 women calling for women’s suffrage. The exhibition celebrates the achievements of those early suffragists and the organisation which became the Fawcett Society. Although this petition was unsuccessful, the Fawcett Society regards this moment as its foundation and the start of an organised campaign for the vote. On display was an original pamphlet of the 1866 petition which was sent to weekly newspapers in July of that year. It is one of two known copies in the country. A beautiful suffrage banner and hanging inspired by the petition were also on show. We also displayed, for the first time, a newly-discovered brooch, encrusted in green, red and white jewels – colours of the suffragists. It was presented to Millicent Garrett Fawcett by the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies in 1913. 

Women, Peace and Equality

Women, Peace and Equality banner imageCurated by Gillian Murphy. Open 9 January to 9 April 2016.

This exhibition drew on its collections to explore the theme of war, women and peace. It coincided with the launch of the new teaching programme at the Centre for Women, Peace and Security at LSE. The exhibition considered how women have tried to prevent war and promote peace. It also showed how women have raised awareness about those who have suffered in war and how they have alleviated the distress of war through humanitarian relief work. The exhibition also looked at key international events from 1975 which have led to the subject of women, peace and security entering the international agenda. On display were original photographs and documents from the Boer War in 1901, Eglantyne Jebb and Save the Children, Edith Summerskill’s visit to Spanish Civil War refugees, photographs from the first women’s international peace congress in 1915 which led to the formation of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and UN posters and letters. 

Foundations: LSE and the Science of Society

Foundations exhibition bannerCurated by Gillian Murphy. Open 19 September to 19 December 2015 This exhibition drew on material from across the Library’s collections to illustrate how its founding vision was realised, developed and implemented by some key inspirational personalities from the early years of LSE. The exhibition aimed to inspire students by showing how LSE academics have taken that founding vision “to make a difference” and put it into practice. On display were original archive items: field photographs of Bronislaw Malinowski, the founder of social anthropology; a notebook of Michael Oakeshott, a charismatic teacher, and Karl Popper’s letter about his student, Imre Lakatos, who revolutionised the philosophy of mathematics. 

A new Exhibition Space for LSE Library

Campaigning: Causes and Connections exhibition poster

Open May to August 2015

The Library Gallery’s inaugural exhibition, “Campaigning: Causes and Connections”, focussed on the subject of protest, and explored the connections between the Library’s collections, including campaigns for the vote, peace and gay and women’s equality. An array of unique items were on display, from posters created at the Greenham Common occupation camp to badges supporting the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, as well as a rare “Votes for Women” silk scarf and handwritten correspondences between Emmeline Pankhurst and Keir Hardie.LSE Library has opened Foundations: LSE and the Science of Society, the latest exhibition to be featured in its Exhibition Space.