Social History

The Social History collection contains about 40,000 items, nearly all of which are linked to Bristol and the surrounding area.

The collection comprises objects relating to community and domestic life, personal effects, working life and clothing. Items from the collection can be seen on display at M Shed and Blaise Museum, and by appointment.

The domestic collection represents a unique resource for the study of home life. It includes one of the UK’s largest collections of cooking utensils, a strong collection of children’s toys including dolls and dolls houses, and a collection of musical instruments.

Community life objects include Friendly Society brasses from the Bristol area, Guild and Trade Union banners, weights and measures, civic regalia and around 1,000 postcards which relate to Bristol. There is also material relating to the Bristol Blitz, including civil defence uniforms and equipment, photographs and archives.

There are around 6,000 items of clothing in the collection, dating from the early-1700s to the present day. Everyday wear of the 1900s is a particular strength, and there are about 300 items of clothing which are linked to Bristol.

Working life objects include a collection of craft tools from the wood, leather and metalworking trades. An interesting part of the collection is a group of about 1,400 trade cards which relate to Bristol businesses during the 1700s and 1800s.

There is also a large collection of chocolate boxes and tins from chocolate firm Fry’s, and bottles from local dairies and breweries. The collection also includes the entire contents of three Bristol shops – a haberdasher’s, a chemist’s and a shoe repair shop.

Browse the Social History collection