Bringing history to life in Leeds with the help of M&S

THE MARKS & Spencer Archive is bringing the company's 132-year history to life in the classroom, with the launch of a new virtual outreach programme for primary schools.

14th March 2012. Archivist Katherine Carter views a 1950's dress, just one of the items from the vast collection held in the new Michael Marks Building at the University of Leeds, which will house M&S full Company Archive collection of more than 70,000 items.

Pupils can learn about social history through interactive live video lessons with actors playing the M&S founder, Michael Marks, and his son, Simon Marks.

Three workshops, which are 45 minutes long and free, have been developed for English, history and IT lessons. They all draw on materials from the company archive, which is based at Leeds University.

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The ‘Meet Michael Marks’ session describes how the founder of the famous store brought a new way of shopping to the people of Yorkshire in 1884. In it he talks about what people liked to buy at that time.

It covers the dates and events in history between 1880 and 1904, including his journey from Belarus to the UK, how he set up the first Marks’ Penny Bazaar market stall and how the success of it led to him to meeting Thomas Spencer.

The ‘Meet Simon Marks’ workshop shows pupils the company’s journey from 1907 to 1962 through two World Wars to deliver new technology, fabrics and foods for customers.

There is also a ‘Time Travellers’ session which encourages pupils to become history detectives.

Primary pupils will be asked to travel through time to find out how the stores and products have changed over 132 years.

Caroline Bunce, education and outreach officer at the M&S Company Archive said: “We are delighted to be able to offer such a valuable resource to enhance children’s learning in schools across the country.

“M&S has a rich 132-year history covering two World Wars, six monarchs and unrecognisable changes in technology and fashion which really helps to shape pupils’ understanding of social history.

“The sessions also support the curriculum in helping youngsters develop skills such as historical enquiry and engaging in collaborative conversation.”