Rochdale Pioneers Museum
The Rochdale Pioneers Museum is housed in the building where the Rochdale Equitable Pioneers Society started trading on 21 December 1844. The museum is regarded as the birthplace of the modern co-operative movement.
The museum is a recreation of the original shop, containing its rudimentary furniture, scales, items that were sold at the store, etc. Moreover, the museum transmits the influence of the co-operative movement on issues such as women's rights, poverty, education, fair trade and social reform. The museum is owned by the Co-operative Heritage Trust, and managed by the Co-operative College.
The Rochdale Pioneers quickly became an inspiration for a wide part of the society, and the co-operative movement started to be known nationally and internationally. As a result, the Co-operative Union purchased the building at 31 Toad Lane in 1925, expressly to create a museum that enhanced the birthplace of co-operation. The museum opened for first time in 1931.
In the 1970s, the Museum was closed for some years because structural problems were found in the building but it was successfully restored. Besides, Rochdale Council redeveloped the remaining section of Toad Lane outside of the building, which had been a cul-de-sac since the 1960s, the new characteristics of the area were street cobbled, flanked by 19th-century gas lamps and unique Victorian post-box. The official reopening was in 1981 and this commemorative ceremony was attended by Princess Alexandra.
In 2000 the management of the Rochdale Pioneers Museum was transferred to the Co-operative College, and it became recognised as a registered museum in 2001.
The last few years, the museum has been refurbished in ways to make it more accessible to all. The improvements carried out in the museum include reinterpretation of the collection, an education space available for schools and social activities, digitalisation of the materials and a new website.
The museum exhibition
The museum provides an insight into the co-operative movement from its roots in Rochdale, to the circumstances that brought about the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers and to the subsequent social impact and growth of the domestic and international co-operative movement. The museum also wants to highlight importance of the personalities who have had a significant impact on the movement.
The main themes of the museum are:
- the development of the early co-operative movement
- the Rochdale Principles
- inspirational co-operators
- history of retail
- the growth of the movement, and its 20th-century social history
- international co-operation
- The Rochdale Pioneers (2012 film)