Paradigm No. 9 (December, 1992)

The Leeds Museum of the History of Education

Elizabeth Foster,
Museum of the History of Education,
University of Leeds,
Woodhouse Lane,
Leeds LS2 9JT


The Leeds University Museum of the History of Education (an institutional member of the Museums' Association) was established in the 1950s, largely due to the efforts of its first Curator, the late W. E. Tate. Its collections have been much expanded since its beginnings, although it remains, by the standards of public museums, a small collection. Its importance lies in its uniqueness and its potential rather than its present size, for it contains the first collection quite of its kind in the country. It has as its twofold aim the documentation and illustration of the history of education in England, and the promotion of research and publication in the history of education.

One of the strengths of the Museum lies in its valuable collection of textbooks and children's exercise books. The textbook collection covers the period from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries, but is strongest for the nineteenth century. It is arranged, as far as possible, according to the main curricular subjects. Mathematics, modern languages, history, geography, Latin and English language and literature, are all well represented.

Most of the exercise books in the collection, with the exception of some valuable eighteenth-century copy books, are of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Again they are arranged as far as possible by school subjects, the best represented being English and mathematics. The collection of nineteenth-century mathematics exercise books is particularly impressive.

As well as written material the Museum possesses a large and interesting collection of science teaching apparatus, dating from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. There is a valuable collection of samplers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, exemplifying the manual expertise and diligence of girls as young as eight, as well as other examples of children's needlework. Also on display are examples of work of students training to become domestic science teachers, of the period of the First World War. There is, too, a small collection of children's drawings dating from the late nineteenth century. The collections of educational advertisements, and of administrative documents, illustrate many aspects of education in the past.

Apart from its function of documenting and illustrating the history of education in England, the Museum has in recent years developed as a centre for the promotion of research. The University of Leeds has a special interest in the study of the history and administration of education and has a number of higher-degree students working in this field. An attempt is, therefore, being made to build up a small library of published and unpublished material on the history of education (in particular a collection of histories of individual schools) and the Curators welcome the presentation of offprints of articles, copies of unpublished papers, and school histories. Some of the archival material concerning education in the West Riding of Yorkshire is also housed here.

The Journal of Educational Administration and History is published in connection with the Museum and under its auspices. This has appeared twice a year since 1968 and circulates in many countries.

Paradigm Catalogue Textbook Colloquium