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People, pride and progress

National Railway Museum to launch lottery-funded research project to record history of LGBTQ+ railway workers.

The National Railway Museum has received almost £100k from The National Lottery Heritage Fund to launch a new collecting project to record the voices of railway workers from the LGBTQ+ community for the first time. 

Called People, Pride and Progress, the project will create up to 70 oral history interviews with people from the rail industry to document their experiences and to fill a gap in railway knowledge before it is lost. 

The rail industry has changed from an often-hostile environment for LGBTQ+ employees in the 19th and much of the 20th centuries to a much more diverse and accepting industry, but as a result of historic prejudice, information is not readily available, and few personal records exist.

The project has been launched with the support and cooperation of the rail industry including Network Rail’s LGBT+ organisation Archway. It aims to increase understanding of LGBTQ+ issues, develop a greater understanding of the community’s contribution to the railways and to tell more diverse and inclusive stories. 

Beginning this month the project is expected to run until November 2025. Interviews will be added to the museum’s permanent collection and updates and results will be shared with the public throughout the project. 

Alison Kay, Archives Manager at the National Railway Museum, said:

'The huge shift in attitudes in society and the rail industry over the last 50 years is significant. These changes have not been recorded and risk being lost unless these voices and stories are recorded now. Our work will be guided by the LGBTQ+ community and the rail industry and will enhance the national collection and our understanding of railway history.'

The project will recruit 30 younger LGBTQ+ volunteers currently working in the rail industry. Volunteers will be given professional training to enable them to conduct interviews with LGBTQ+ rail employees who had different experiences in the past. The lottery funding will also enable the museum to appoint a dedicated oral history archivist to manage the project. 

Interviews and progress will be shared throughout the project and once complete, the interviews will be available for people to access at all five museums in the Science Museum Group including the National Railway Museum in York and the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester. It will be the Group’s first digital archive to be available in this way. 

Helen Featherstone, Director, England, North at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said:

'We are delighted to support the National Railway Museum with this transformative project to record the heritage of LGBTQ+ people in the railway industry. This grant, made possible by the National Lottery players, ensures that the voices and memories of the community can be heard for generations to come.'

People, Pride and Progress has been developed with the rail industry and follows more than three months of initial research with community groups, rail industry contacts, museum professionals, leading academics and experts in oral history. 

In addition to funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, the project has also received support from the Friends of the National Railway Museum and ASLEF LGBT+ Representative Committee. 

For more information, visit the museum website: www.railwaymuseum.org.uk.  

Ends

For more information please contact Simon Baylis or Josh Chapman on 01904 929 515 or email simon.baylis@railwaymuseum.org.uk / joshua.chapman@railwaymuseum.org.uk

About the National Railway Museum  

The National Railway Museum in York has the largest collection of railway objects in the world and prior to the pandemic, attracted more than 750,000 visitors per year. 

The collection includes more than 1,000 oral histories from railway workers as well as more than 260 rail vehicles, and thousands of other items including coins, medals, railway uniform, artwork and photographs. 

The National Railway Museum forms part of the Science Museum Group, along with the Science Museum in London, the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester, the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford and Locomotion in Shildon. 

One of the Science Museum Group’s core values is being open for all and telling inclusive stories by adding to the collection rather than subtracting from it. More detail on this approach can be found in this blog by Executive Lead for Collections Services and Science and Industry Museum Director, Sally MacDonald: www.sciencemuseumgroup.org.uk/blog/our-commitment-to-inclusive-storytelling/ 

About The National Lottery Heritage Fund

Using money raised by The National Lottery, we inspire, lead and resource the UK’s heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, now and in the future.

www.heritagefund.org.uk 

Follow @HeritageFundUK on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #NationalLotteryHeritageFund

Since The National Lottery began in 1994, National Lottery players have raised over £43 billion for projects and more than 635,000 grants have been awarded across the UK. More than £30 million raised each week goes to good causes across the UK.