Living with Machines exhibition

Living with Machines is a five-year collaborative research project. We aim to find new perspectives on the effects of the mechanisation on the lives of ordinary people in Britain during the ‘long nineteenth century’ (c.1780-1918), by developing computational and historical techniques and research questions for working with historical sources. This exhibition is one of our key outcomes.

Living with Machines: Human stories from the industrial age was a free exhibition at Leeds City Museum, exploring how machines and mechanisation changed life and work in Leeds and the surrounding regions.

A collaboration between the British Library and Leeds City Museum, the exhibition was co-curated by Mia Ridge and John McGoldrick.

Inspired by the Living with Machines research project, the exhibition unearthed new human stories behind material from Leeds Museums & Galleries, brought together with items on loan from the British Library, National Football Museum, National Railway Museum and more.

From machines to mass-produced clothing, grassroots women’s football to art, the exhibition paints a relatable picture of how rapid advances in technology changed life and work for everyone.

The exhibition ran from 29 July 2022 – 8 January 2023.


In addition to the wonderful activities for families organised by the Leeds Museums and Galleries learning team, we organised some events for specialist and general public audiences:

The role of AI in Creative and Cultural Industries by the British Library, AI Tech North, Leeds City Museum, Thursday, September 22, 5:30 PM, at Leeds City Museum. Free, but booking is essential.

Developing ethical and inclusive society and business in the age of AI, by the British Library, AI Tech North, Leeds City Museum. Thursday, September 29, 5:30 PM, at Leeds City Museum. Free, but booking is essential.

Study Day: Living with Machines, December 2, 2022

A unique opportunity to hear experts in the field illuminate key themes from the exhibition and learn how exhibition co-curators found stories and objects to represent research work in AI and digital history. This study day is online via Zoom so that you can attend from anywhere.

Full programme and tickets:

If you just want to try out something more hands on with textiles inspired by the exhibition, there’s also a Peg Loom Weaving Workshop, and not one but two Christmas Wreath Workshops. The first ever Museum Late at Leeds City Museum on November 24th revolves around the exhibition and includes a talk from co-curator John McGoldrick.

Credits and thanks

Exhibition co-curators

Mia Ridge and John McGoldrick

Exhibition content and steering groups

Esther Amis-Hughes, Izzy Bartley, Conrad Bodman, Alice Carter, Sam Connor, Rachael Dilley, Kate Fellows, Natalie Haigh, Yvonne Hardman, Vanessa Jones, Ash Khan, John McGoldrick, Tasha McNaught, Sara Merritt, Sarah Murray, Richard Peacock, Mia Ridge, Kitty Ross, Kenn Taylor, Elvie Thompson, Kalle Westerling, Lizzy Wilson, Helen Young

Additional support from British Library, Living with Machines and Leeds Museum and Galleries staff

Peter Burke, Lucy Evans, Roger Gavin, Emma Griffin, Jayesh Tailor


Robbie Brown, Rachael Dilley, Lucy Hinnie, Maja Maricevic, Sherin Mathew, Mia Ridge, Stella Wisdom


Edwin Woodhouse & Co Ltd, Sunny Bank Mills, Keele University Art Collection, The Lowry Collection, Salford, Musée de la Toile de Jouy, National Railway Museum, Nottingham City Museums, Sheffield Museums Trust and Liberty Steel Group

Graphic design

Hand Made Pixels

Additional thanks

Living with Machines team

This exhibition has been made possible as a result of the Government Indemnity Scheme. Leeds City Museum would like to thank HM Government for providing Government Indemnity and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and Arts Council England for arranging the indemnity.

This exhibition is part of the Living with Machines research project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) via UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) Strategic Priorities Fund. This multidisciplinary collaboration is delivered by The Alan Turing Institute, the British Library, University of Cambridge, University of East Anglia, University of Exeter, Kings College London and Queen Mary University of London.


Photos of the exhibition

Working loom demonstration

Exhibition view including a clothiers’ banner and screw threading machine


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