A service of Birmingham City Council

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Your History

’Birmingham – A City in the Making’ will explore the history of Birmingham and its people. Four galleries will focus on the development of the city from its earliest beginnings to 1945. A fifth gallery will explore the character and identity of Birmingham and its people today, and their living memories of the city’s more recent past.

Selection of 18th century pearl buttons made in Birmingham


People have been living in the Birmingham area for hundreds of thousands of years, and the character of the city has always been shaped by migration.  This gallery will introduce the richness and importance of Birmingham’s history before the Industrial Revolution using a wide variety of objects, and the stories of individuals who made their home here.

A Stranger’s Guide to Birmingham 1700 to 1830

This gallery explores a period of spectacular and chaotic growth in Birmingham, in both industry and population. Using the concept of a traveller’s ‘Rough Guide’ to Birmingham, it will invite you to put yourself in the place of an 18th century newcomer and discover what the town has to offer including opportunities for employment, worship, trade and entertainment.

Birmingham from the Dome of St Philip's Church 1821 by Samuel Lines Snr

Forward: The Struggle for Reform 1830 to 1914

Birmingham begins to play a major role in national politics, and expands to become an industrial giant, exporting goods around the world. Birmingham’s industrial heritage will be celebrated in a spectacular recreation of a Victorian trade exhibition. Then, visitors will move on to explore some of the social and moral problems which accompanied industrial success, and the ways in which individuals and the City Council began to tackle them.

The Expanding City 1914 to 1945

This gallery will be guided by the voices and experiences of Birmingham people. Suburban Birmingham will explore the ambitious development of the city’s suburbs through the stories of those who moved from the congested inner city ‘slums’. Birmingham at War will tell some of the extraordinary stories of Birmingham men and women during both World Wars. The display will look at Birmingham’s industrial significance to the national war effort and the role Birmingham’s Black and minority ethnic communities played during World War Two.

Your Birmingham

Each person living or working in Birmingham has a unique story to tell. Your Birmingham will use objects and personal stories collected from local people to explore what is special about Birmingham today. How and why have people come to live here, and what are their personal memories of Birmingham's history since 1945? What do the people of Birmingham feel about the city today, and what are their hopes for the future? We will work with the local community to create this gallery - and as Birmingham’s landscape and character change over time, so will the display

Handsworth Self Portrait, African Caribbean group, 1979

© Derek Bishton, John Reardon and Brian Homer