Social and working history

This collection reflects the historic trade and industry of the city, as well as the everyday lives of millions of Londoners.

The museum holds many thousands of physical objects related to the social and working history of London.

Social history

General domestic material is held in the collection such as:

  • the Ernest King collection of Edwardian penny toys
  • vehicles
  • food packaging
  • architectural and building fragments
  • street furniture
  • shop fronts
  • interior fittings from a variety of London buildings.

Working history

The museum's collection of tools and workshop material is one of the largest in the UK. Many trades are represented including:

  • clock and watchmaking
  • wheelwrights
  • glass-making
  • silk-weaving
  • braid-making
  • shoe-making and repairing
  • silversmiths
  • button making
  • printing
  • engraving
  • ballet shoe-making.

Many of the workshop groups include equipment, tools, fittings and archive material.

London’s offices, markets, and entertainment industries are also represented.

Printed ephemera and archives

This collection includes:

  • an internationally important holding of suffragette material, based on the archive of the Women's Social and Political Union
  • business archives from the Whitefriars Glassworks
  • papers related to Imre Kiralfy, Kibbo Kift, the Festival of Britain and London theatres
  • 19th century valentines and tinsel prints.

General material on London subjects includes:

  • a good collection of trade cards
  • material on pleasure gardens
  • fashion
  • eating and drinking
  • shops and shopping (including department stores)
  • local and national government and royalty.

Telecommunication is a particularly strong area of the collection with a range of telephone kiosks, telephones, telegraphic instruments and exchange equipment. The Museum is one of the partners of Connected Earth, founded by BT, and artefacts can be viewed online.