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Past exhibitions

We tell the stories of our collections through exhibitions showcasing our treasures

Here you can learn more about each past exhibition and also access a variety of related resources to help you find out more about the collections we have at LSE Library.

We run a regular programme of events, exhibitions, workshops and outreach activities. 

The past exhibitions are arranged here by the year they opened.

Get in touch with the team if you'd like to learn more or contact the curator of each exhibition direcly from the listing.

 

2019 

Giving Peace a Chance

peace exhibition poster

Curated by Daniel Payne. Open 14 January – 17 April 2019.

Introduction

How was world peace sought in the 20th century? On the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the League of Nations, this exhibition explored some of the collections of LSE Library and the Women’s Library at LSE that help answer that question. It included international organisations such as the League of Nations established as part of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War and whose principle mission was to maintain peace.

The exhibition was curated in partnership with Professor David Stevenson (LSE International History), who explored the foundation of the League of Nations, the Abyssinian Crisis and the Peace Ballot, the League of Nations at Work, and finally the foundation of the United Nations (UN). In addition to the League of Nations and UN, Katrina Gass and Helen Kay, current members of the Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom (WILPF) told the history of this organisation, founded in 1915 to make known the causes of war and work for permanent peace.

A photograph of the exhibition in place
A photograph of some of the display and the video wall.

On reflection

LSE Library has so many great collections on peace in the 20th century; from the work of international governmental organisations such as the League of Nations, to activists such as Pat Arrowsmith, one of the founding members of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and a huge amount of material from the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp. The exhibition is a small space and so it was quite difficult to squeeze in these diverse collections of people and organisations working towards peace, but it did show off some of the amazing peace collections we have here at LSE, which are open to all. So much was left out, so I’m sure there will be another peace-themed exhibition at some point in the future. Having Professor David Stevenson (LSE International History) to curate and explore the rich history of the League of Nations and the United Nations was a fantastic partnership, and our events programme was a great opportunity for visitors to learn more about some of the collections on display. We also had current members of WILPF Helen Kay and Katrina Gass put together a fantastic slideshow of the history of WILPF, and also gave a talk on the history of their organisation.  Over 8,500 visitors came to view the exhibition and some interacted with our feedback wall where we asked visitors the question “War is still happening. Why?”

Related content

Visitors' quotes 

A wonderful exhibition about a vital part of our history (and future!”) My parents marched at Aldermaston in the 1950s and I have many of the badges featured here myself. Thank you 
Lovely exhibition – loved the history ending in the success of Greenham 
All very interesting, especially the peace ballot – an extraordinary achievement!

2018 

What Does Brexit Mean to You?

brexit exhibition poster

Curated by Daniel Payne. Open 17 September – 14 December 2018. 

Introduction

In June 2016 the electorate were asked “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?” with 17.4 million voting “Leave” and 16.1 million voting “Remain”. By March 2017, Prime Minister Theresa May triggered Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union.

“What does Brexit mean to you?” explored some of the Library’s collections on the history of the UK in and out of the EU through seven guest curators from the LSE community. These included a postgraduate student on the Federal Union, a visiting researcher on freedom of movement in the referendum, a project to engage young people in the Brexit negotiations, and the founder of UKIP and the Anti-Federalist League.

The Brexit wall - a wall of post-it notes where people written responses to the question about what Brexit means to them.
Some of the notes that people left on the wall in response to the exhibition.

On reflection

LSE Library has a great range of collections related to the history of the UK joining and subsequently voting to leave the EU. With Brexit continuing to form a significant part of the public debate, in Michaelmas term 2018 we decided to show off some of these fascinating collections and run a related events programme that gave the LSE community and members of the public a chance to engage with the theme of Brexit, using our archives as inspiration. Over 10,700 visitors came, and we ran many popular events such as a roundtable discussion on the referendum, and a talk from Alexandra Bulat on their research using the Library’s archive of referendum leaflets. Visitors really got stuck in with our feedback wall, with over 1,000 responses to the question “What does Brexit mean to you”? 

Related content

  • Read some of the responses that visitors gave to the question “What does Brexit mean to you”? 
  • Student newspaper “The Beaver” came to review the exhibition. Read the review
  • Exhibition curator Daniel Payne talks through 5 of his favourite items in the exhibition for LSE Review of Books. Read the blog post
  • One of the guest curators of the exhibition was Professor Alan Sked, one of the founders of UKIP. Read more about his archive, available at LSE Library. 

At Last! Votes for Women

Votes for women exhibition poster

Curated by Dr Gillian Murphy. Open 23 April – 31 August 2018. 

Introduction 

This exhibition marked the centenary of the Representation of the People Act when some women and all men were granted the right to vote. It focused on the campaign methods of the three main suffrage groups: the Women's Social and Political Union, the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies and the Women’s Freedom League. Concentrating on the last (and often bitter) years of the long campaign for women’s suffrage, it included prison diaries, leaflets and letters detailing tactics, such as 'rushing' the House of Commons, and material showed how the campaign continued to the final years of the First World War. With the unveiling of the statue of Millicent Garrett Fawcett in Parliament Square in 2018, the archives on display gave an insight into her tactful diplomacy and drive to get at least a limited franchise in 1918, and the muted celebration of the vote, when the war was still in progress. 

A picture of the exhibition in place including the big screen
The exhibition on display

On reflection 

In curating this exhibition, I wanted to show that the women’s suffrage movement was more than just the suffragettes, which is what people expect and are more familiar with. It was a great opportunity to display all the beautiful artefacts representing the breadth and colour of the suffrage collection of the Women’s Library, which covers many of the suffrage groups. I was keen to highlight personal stories, such as the tension between Millicent Garrett Fawcett and her sister Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, and display items from the archives of relatively-unknown suffragettes such as Eunice Guthrie Murray and Katie Gliddon. This idea was continued in the video wall through portraits and quotations of various suffrage campaigners. 

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Visitors’ quotes 

A really well-co-ordinated set of historical documents and very clear narrative. My children and I really enjoyed reading the letters of Millicent Fawcett. It brings this important message and period of history to life for all of us. Thank you. 
Wonderful exhibition – so good to see NUWSS, WSPU and WFL represented with their colours, and to discover / confirm that the NUWSS did have sashes!  

A Time for Revolutions: the making of the Welfare State

Exhibition promotional poster

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

Introduction

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.

Living_London__George_R_Simms__1901
An item 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."

2017

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.

Introduction

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.

Related content

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.

Introduction

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.

Related content

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 Dr Gillian Murphy. Open: 9 January to 7 April 2017.

Introduction

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.

Related content

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

2016 

Charles Booth's London: mapping Victorian lives

Charles Booth exhibition poster

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

Introduction

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.

Related content

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 Dr 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 image

Curated by Dr 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. 

 2015

Foundations: LSE and the science of society

Foundations exhibition banner

Curated by Dr 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. 

Campaigning: causes and connections

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.