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A History of the World: what the experts say

Ten items from the collections of Manchester's museums have been selected for the BBC's 'A History of the World'. But what makes them special? We asked the museums to tell us why:

Oliver Philpott's compass, Imperial War Museum North

Oliver Philpot's compass

'Imperial War Museum North conveys how war has shaped the lives of people from 1914 to the present day and Oliver Philpot's extraordinary compass carries a human story that deserves a place in A History of the World. It is an extraordinary example of the courage and ingenuity of people in war time.'

- Jim Forrester, Director of Imperial War Museum North

Stalybridge Police cutlasses, Tameside Museums & Galleries

Stalybridge Police cutlasses

'The Stalybridge police cutlasses are important symbol of the political struggles which surrounded the development and growth of the industrial towns of the North West. Although these cutlasses were bought to suppress social unrest they are viewed by the people of Stalybridge as a tangible demonstration of their ancestor's fight improved working conditions and the right to vote.'

- Emma Varnam, Tameside Museums and Galleries Service

Fur forming machine, Stockport Museum of Hatting

Fur Forming Machine

'1900 was the heyday of the hat: you were not properly dressed without one. The fur former made the basis of a felt hat. This machine allowed hatters to create a microclimate to form their fur into a hat shape. It's engineering genius.'

- Hannah Williamson, Stockport Museum of Hatting

Peterloo handkerchief, People's History Museum

Peterloo Massacre handkerchief

'The handkerchief commemorates a key moment in British democracy - the Peterloo Massacre in 1819. It shows the attack on a group of reformers demanding the right to vote by the military that left 18 dead and over 400 injured. Hundreds of these handkerchiefs were produced after the massacre and would have been carried by radical supporters to spread the reform message.'

- Dr Nick Mansfield, People's History Museum

Crompton's cotton threads, Manchester Art Gallery

Cotton threads, possibly from Samuel Crompton's spinning mule

'These threads were described as the "Finest ever spun upon the mule" in 1844 and were sent by letter to Samuel Crompton, grandson of the great inventor, to mark a key technological improvement to the mule. This helped Manchester develop its fast expanding cotton manufacturing base and emerge as the world's first industrial city.'

- Ronan Brindley, Manchester Art Gallery

Roman altar, Manchester Museum

Roman altar

'The altar was set up by Aelius Victor who was very likely to have been a German who was recruited into the Roman army and posted to the Roman fort of Mamucium (Manchester). The Roman fort and civilian settlement seems to have been quite a cosmopolitan community anticipating the multicultural Manchester community of today.'

- Bryan Sitch, Manchester Museum

Model of a man selling textiles, Whitworth Art Gallery

Model of a man selling textiles

'We chose the model of a man selling textiles as it illustrates such a significant part of the story of the North West. The cotton industry in Manchester was closely connected to the cotton fields of the Americas and so, in turn, to the slavery that underpinned that industry. The model serves as a reminder of how the industrial growth and wealth of the North West was built on the labour of slaves in the New World.

- Angela Conley, Whitworth Art Gallery

Liverpool Road Station sundial

'The Liverpool Road Station sundial symbolises MOSI's historic site, Liverpool Road Station, which is the world's oldest passenger railway station and has the world's first railway warehouse. The Liverpool and Manchester Railway inspired the growth of the global railway network.'

- Pauline Webb, Museum of Science & Industry (MOSI)

James Joule's paddlewheel and calorimeter

'Manchester has been a centre of scientific excellence for 200 years. James Joule was a world-leading scientist whose calorimeter and paddlewheel experiments greatly advanced understanding of the nature of energy.'

- Pauline Webb, Collections Manager, MOSI

Ferranti Mark 1 Computer Logic door

'Made in Moston, the Ferranti Mark I computer installed at the University of Manchester in February 1951 was the world's first commercially produced computer.'

- Pauline Webb, Collections Manager, MOSI


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