Propaganda, Pride and Prejudice

Find out more about this three year research project with Manchester Metropolitan University

Background

The Market Garden of the Tropics - Malayan Pineapples, by Edgar Ainsworth, 1931Manchester City Galleries houses a unique collection of industrial art, collected during the 1930s. Within this collection is a significant group of posters, acquired to illustrate the role of artists in design, including 200 posters commissioned by the British Government's Empire Marketing Board (EMB) between 1926 and 1933.

The EMB's main functions were to research the production, trade and use of goods throughout the British Empire and to promote the idea of 'Buying Empire'.  Today the EMB is regarded as a rare example of peace time government propaganda.

As with any cultural material, however, their meaning has changed over time and the poster collection today is subject to quite different readings from those originally intended.  Propaganda, Pride and Prejudice is a three year research project in partnership with Manchester Metropolitan University that will research both the history of the posters and their relevance to a contemporary audience.

Propaganda, Pride and Prejudice: The Posters of the Empire Marketing Board

John Bull, Sons and Daughters - The Empire is Your Garden, by HS Williamson, 1927Year 1 (2007) will consider the history of why this collection is held by Manchester Art Gallery.  It will consider the context in which the gallery decided to acquire them, and their history within the gallery institution, looking at how they have been cared for and used over the past 70 years. 

It will also begin to question the posters' propagandist role in their time: their promotion of a sense of imperial pride and use of stereotypical images of people and places. The contemporary perspective on these issues will also be considered.

Year 2 (2008) will provide opportunities for a wide range of Manchester people to discuss what the posters mean to them.  Groups and individuals will be invited to give their memories and responses to the posters, their opinions about what they mean today and suggestions about how they might be used in the future.

Finally, in Year 3 (2009) the gallery will develop a suitable use for the posters.  This could include exhibition, display or online interpretation embracing the many different meanings that the posters have for different people.  It will also highlight the often contradictory aspects of propaganda, pride and prejudice that these posters reflect.

View the Empire Marketing Board poster collection online.