Archive Today

Archive Today

8th March – 26th April 2013
Open Monday – Friday 9.30-8.30pm
Saturday 9.30-3.30pm (term time only)
Easter holiday closed: 29 March – 14 April

archive francis martin 1974 1874-1974 1

Corridor vinyl texts: Maurice Mitchell, Asha Gonzales and Tina Meehan

Asha 2 Asha 1

Asha 3

‘A little thought and a little kindness are often worth more than a great deal of money’ -John Ruskin

‘Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful’ -William Morris.

Afshin 1

Fin Tina Afshin 2

‘The past is not dead. It is living in us and we will be alive in the future, which we are helping to make’ -William Morris.

Corridor & Galllery posters, journals & photographs: Working Mens College Archive

Gallery Cabinet: polystyrene cups, Maurice Mitchell; wood blocks, Asumpter Amber


‘Fine art is that in which the hand, the head, and the heart of man go together’ –William Morris

Gallery Vitrine: Ceramic tiles, Kiloran Benn O’Leary
Large triangle gallery text: Miquel Angel Alorcea
Both read

‘I do not want art for a few any more than education for a few, or freedom for a few’ William Morris.


Working Men’s College is pleased to present the work of artists from Art Foundation, reinterpreting ideas of founding fathers of the College, John Ruskin and William Morris. Using drawing, graphics, hand painted ceramic tiles, vinyl lettering, polystyrene cups, and wood printing blocks, to bring history to life. These commissioned installations decorate the ground floor corridor running through the heart of the college, alongside archive posters dating from 1854-1960’s, advertising adult education courses in vocational skills and art and design, along with hobby clubs, public lectures on politics of the day, and music, literature and theatre performances. The historic, early modern graphics and printmaking, alongside contemporary vinyl texts of 2013, complement each other and the architectural features of the building, including: high ceilinged corridors, rounded windows, and internal squared glass panels, embodying early modernist values, of simplicity and style for purpose.

Archive-Heath-hat art lady2 Archive-Heath and beryl B  1

Work continues next door in the Ruskin Gallery, along with archive photography showing activities and personalities of the college from 1850’s to 1970’s, including founders, governors, teachers, clubs, students, art classes, halls, studios and library, complete with intact architectural features and furniture. Queen Elizabeth and Edward Heath also feature as visitors to the college, along with protesters outside college and students in art class, sporting mini skirts and male long hair. The photographs are scanned from a very small selection of archive, the larger part now being housed at London Metropolitan University. There is also a selection of banners, contextualising and giving historical, information, which were produced, by a scholar from Cambridge University

archive queen 1

Part of the archive material, shows a pamphlet from the Francis Martin College, founded in 1874 to continue the original mission of the Working Women’s College when the latter opted to become co-educational. It was renamed Frances Martin College after her death in 1922 and merged with the Working Men’s College in 1966. It was radical and reforming, as it was committed to the skills training of young single women.
There is much that was radical in the establishing the Working Men’s College, which informs what it is today. A backdrop of the Industrial revolution with the emergence of a printing press, photography, travel, a public sphere of newspapers and coffee houses, a new industrialist middle class, documented by Habermas, and women campaigning for the right to own property, have the vote and an education.

archive postcard room 6

The architecture and archive of the college, tell the story of revolutionary and Avant-garde thinking of the Philanthropists, Pre-Raphaelites and Christian socialists, but central to Working Men’s College was the unique relationship of teaching and learning. As well as teaching subjects, that would empower and emancipate a working person to move freely in society and work, there were: group excursions, theatre productions, music recitals, slide shows, furnivalls and class teas, where teachers and founders of college, got to know each other. Teachers would invite students to their homes or keep their office open, to welcome students and encourage the idea of membership and fraternity. WMC also recognised the crucial importance of the arts in politics and life, to promote equality and well-being. These principles are upheld still at WMC today.

archive postcard room 1

To explore educating women and men for 150 years and International Women’s Day, the gallery has two paste tables, asking for students, staff and visitors knowledge of history and prominent women at Working Men’s College. Women and less formal characters are often left out of written and officially recorded history, so this history might be with people who use and know the college, live locally or passed on in oral, spoken histories.

This exhibition does not intend to give an accurate, complete or representative view of Working Men’s College archive and history, but rather seeks to utilise and remind us of the value of history and values of the college which are remarkable, very relevant and more important than ever today. As William Morris said:

The past is not dead. It is living in us and we will be alive in the future, which we are helping to make.

garden party 54

Contact curator at or leave a note in her pigeon hole, (ask reception where), if you want to leave contact details or have longer information or stories about Working Men’s College history and Women at Working Men’s College.

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