our heritage

Our Heritage

The Co-operative College operates the internationally recognised National Co-operative Archive and the Rochdale Pioneers Museum on behalf of the Co-operative Heritage Trust.

Our mission is to make people aware of the origins, development and contemporary relevance of co-operation, both within and beyond the co-operative movement, by collecting, safeguarding and making accessible artefacts and documentation for lifelong learning and research.

The ROCHDALE Project

The ROCHDALE project, which is the subject of a major bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund, will enable the Co-operative Heritage Trust to move from safeguarding and preserving co-operative heritage to using it to inspire a wider public about the extraordinary history and development of the worldwide co-operative movement, its heritage and contemporary relevance.

This will transform the collections of the Rochdale Pioneers Museum and National Co-operative Archive through:

  • Preservation and ensuring their long term care.
  • Increasing access by widening the audience and overcoming barriers.
  • The development of new interpretive displays and educational materials and building relationships with the education sector.
  • Developing the staffing capacity of Museum and Archive.

Further information is given in the Business Plan:


and leaflet:
The latest drawings of the proposed developments to the Rochdale Pioneers Museum are in the Architectural Plans:

The development of this project has been made possible by a Project Planning Grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

If you would like to discuss these development plans, please contact Gillian Lonergan, Head of Archive and Learning Resources by email or telephone 0161 246 2925.

National Co-operative Archive
In 2007 the National Co-operative Archive was awarded Designated Collection status by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, recognising the significance of the collections to our national heritage. The Archive contains books, journals, documents, manuscripts, film, photographs and oral history collections relating to the co-operative movement.

Archive collections include the Robert Owen Correspondence Collection, comprising approximately 3,000 letters from and to the ‘Father of Co-operation’. Other collections include the records of national co-operative organisations and of a representative selection of local and regional co-operative societies.

  • Want to know more about an old co-op building?
  • Have a relative who worked for a co-operative society?
  • Want to find out more about your local history?
  • Have an interest in nineteenth century education?
  • Want to find about your grandparents’ leisure activities and holidays?
  • Interested in old packaging and adverts?
  • Are you a teacher looking for resources on women’s rights, the world wars, food etc?
  • Are you looking for film footage or photographs?
  • Want to know what else the co-operative movement has been involved in?

The list is endless …

Visit the National Co-operative Archive.

Rochdale Pioneers Museum
The Museum, widely regarded as ‘the birthplace of co-operation’, receives visitors from all around the globe. The Museum Wardens offer guided tours giving the story of the Rochdale Pioneers and their influence on the development of the global co-operative movement, which now involves 800,000,000 people around the world.

  • Find out how we used to shop.
  • Find out about the social reformers who influenced the Pioneers.
  • Find out how the co-operative movement developed.
  • Share your co-op memories.
  • Bring your school or group.

Visit the Rochdale Pioneers Museum.

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