“I wanted to tell the story of the Guardian as part of the story of Manchester” - New exhibition explores 200 years of the Guardian newspaper

Left, a photograph from the Guardian’s centenary celebrations. Right, a series of mastheads used by the Guardian between 1821–1977 [By permission of the University of Manchester Library. Copyright Guardian News and Media]

The University of Manchester has launched a new exhibition to celebrate 200 years of the Guardian newspaper.

The exhibition, which is being hosted by the John Rylands Research Institute and Library, is set to run until October 2021.

Titled Manchester’s Guardian: 200 years of the Guardian newspaper, the exhbition features archive material from throughout the newspapers history.

Dr Janette Martin, Modern History Archivist and exhibition curator, said: “The one thing I want people to take away is that it was founded in Manchester. There is a core of people who know that, but I think there is a lot of people who don’t realise where the paper originated”

First published in Manchester in 1821, the Guardian was originally titled the Manchester Guardian before changing its name in 1959.

In 1964, then editor Alastair Hetherington moved to London, and in the early 1970’s the newspaper followed suit, relocating all its production to the capital.

Today, the Guardian newspaper has an average print circulation of 109,243 and is part of the wider Guardian News & Media (GNM) group.

The House Journal - a monthly staff newsletter which reported births, marriages and sports results. It’s back page advertised dances, social events and the canteen menu to the Manchester Guardian’s staff. [By permission of the University of Manchester Library. Copyright Guardian News and Media]

The exhibition includes many objects from the Guardian’s Manchester archive, and also includes several items on loan from the Guardian News and Media Archive in London.

Dr Martin said: “We’ve got a bit of smashed up laptop that belonged to Edward Snowden, so that is a really contemporary story

“We picked it to link the past to the present, to show the willingness of the Guardian to break stories that are controversial, stories that could cause problems for the newspaper - not to shy away from difficult journalism”

Inside the John Rylands Library, where Manchester’s Guardian: 200 years of the Guardian newspaper is being hosted. Source: “The John Rylands Library Study Area” by michael_d_beckwith is marked with CC0 1.0

The exhibition is structured around eight sections that each explore a different theme or subject, for example Humanitarianism or Manchester and the World.

In addition to pieces of Edward Snowden’s Macbook, the exhibition features letters from the 1930’s which debate how to report on Adolf Hitler, and it also highlights the Guardian’s humanitarian work over the years.

Dr Martin said: “For me, I wanted to tell the story of the Guardian as part of the story of Manchester.”

The exhibition is part of a series of collaborations the Guardian has announced as part of its bicentennial celebrations.

Further to the exhibition, The John Rylands Research Institute and Library is set to host a series of special events and conversations in June.

Exploring topics of fake news, humanitarianism, and representation, these events will feature contributions from Manchester academics, Guardian writers, and experts on the Guardian’s history.

Gary Younge, ex Guardian Editor-at-large and Professor of Sociology at The University of Manchester, is set to take part in one of the events.

Dr Martin said: “There are going to be three short videos of me introducing an object from our collection, from the exhibition, and these will bookend the discussions”

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You can view the exhibition ‘Manchester’s Guardian: 200 years of the Guardian newspaper here

The exhibition is currently available to view online, with in person viewings due to start over summer 2021.




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