Midlands support pioneering project for co-operative heritage

A programme to protect the heritage of the co-operative movement has received support from Midlands Co-operative.

A programme to protect the heritage of the co-operative movement has received support from Midlands Co-operative.

It joins the Co-operative Group and Indian fertiliser co-operative, IFFCO, in backing the Co-operative Heritage Trust, which is managed by the Co-operative College, and aims to preserve and display the movement’s history.

The Trust is a registered charity, established in 2007 by the Group, Co-operatives UK and College to safeguard the movement’s heritage. It is also the custodian of the Rochdale Pioneers Museum and the National Co-operative Archive, which holds 200 years of co-operative records.

The New Pioneers scheme aims to have 28 major co-operative societies each committing a minimum donation of $250,000 towards the work of the Trust.

Funds will enable the progression in heritage activities that began with the £2.3 million ROCHDALE project. The initiative received £1.5 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund and additional funding from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, the John Paul Getty Junior Charitable Trust, the Pilsworth Environmental Company and the Barry Amiel and Norman Melburn Trust.

This has provided extensive conservation work and improvement in access to the Rochdale Pioneers Museum, along with conservation work in the National Co-operative Archive and outreach work.

Stephen Beresford, Head of Corporate Affairs at Midlands, recently visited the National Co-operative Archive and Museum to learn about the work of the Trust. He saw the the society’s collection in the archive is one of the largest and learned how the heritage team have preserved pieces of history.

Mr Beresford said: “It is good to know that the Midlands Co-operative’s archive collections are being so well looked after and that they are now easily accessible to researchers and members of the general public. The museum is a great resource and the new Learning Loft makes a valuable addition.”

He visited the museum the Co-operative Heritage Trust's Chair, Professor Stephen Yeo, which also had the Midlands Section Challenge Shield on display.

Martyn Cheatle, Chief Executive of Midlands, added: "The co-operative movement has a rich and valuable heritage which still offers so much that people can learn from today.  Midlands Co-operative not only has a large contribution to make in terms of preserving co-operative history for the future, but also in how it continues to contribute to the living history of the sector through its continuing success and engagement with communities and members.  We are pleased to be able to support the Co-operative Heritage Trust in the valuable work that it does. "

Professor Yeo commented: “Midlands Co-operative Society’s donation is another example of the co-operative movement’s support for the preservation of its heritage. Through this support, the Trust will be able to inspire new generations to become co-operators. Working with the growing network of New Pioneers, we are aiming to give the extraordinary actions of the original 28 Rochdale Pioneers a fitting and lasting legacy.”

• To find out more, visit: www.co-op.ac.uk or telephone 0161 819 3000.

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