Hannah Williamson

Hannah Williamson

Email: hannah.williamson3@stu.mmu.ac.uk

Thesis Title

Hindshaw and Historical Amnesia: the legacy of an educational museum


Manchester Metropolitan University


Dr Rachel Dickinson
Dr Emma Liggins
Dr Philip Sykas (Advisor)
Dr Ali Ronan (Mentor)

Research Summary

My research centres on the Horsfall Museum in Ancoats, Manchester, and on its Curator, Bertha Hindshaw (1881-1955). Thomas Horsfall (1841-1932) founded the Museum as the Manchester Art Museum in 1884, with the aim of putting into action the teachings of John Ruskin. It was educational, and its target audience was the working poor. From 1912 until 1947, the Museum was in the charge of Bertha Hindshaw (1883-1955). It closed in 1953.
Hindshaw’s work has been virtually forgotten, and yet she was at the cutting edge of museum education in the first half of the twentieth century. She founded an internationally-renowned children’s theatre in 1922, gave radio talks for the BBC’s Northern Service (1924-26), and was the first female president of the North West Federation of Museums in 1942. My research writes back into the historical record this inspiring woman and her networks.
This research is guided by my work as Curator of Fine Art at Manchester Art Gallery, which now holds the Horsfall Collection. Its metalwork, woodcarving, glass, paintings, models, prints and more are now integrated with the city’s art collection. Yet parts of the Horsfall Collection were disposed of after the Museum’s closure, perhaps considered not worth keeping as they were copies or photographs. This project will explore the Horsfall Museum and its Curator through its objects, both present and missing, unpicking the strands of gender- and class-based thought around the formation, use, and partial dissolution of its collection.

Research Interests

19th- and 20th-century educational museums,
John Ruskin,
female curators,
Manchester history,
unfashionable or peripheral art movements,
museum disposals and
missing art.


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