Local history collection

Portsmouth’s local and social history collection has been built up since 1945, based on the small number of items that survived the bombing of the museum in 1941. The collections now number well over 30,000 items and cover the city’s history from around 1650 to the present day.

Working life is well represented; a star collection is that of Hoads the wheelwrights. This is the entire contents of the workshop of the last working wheelwright in Portsmouth; it includes tools, wheels and carriage bodies. Tools from the last working iron foundry in Portsmouth are also held in the collection.

Both the Portsmouth police force and fire services have very strong collections, as do other aspects of the civic life of Portsmouth. This includes objects relating to the regulation of weights and measures and equipment and items from the borough psychiatric hospital.

Donating to the local history collection

We are actively acquiring items for this collection, particularly those with a strong Portsmouth connection or story.

If you have an item that you think may be of interest to add to the collection, please get in touch.  It will help us if you can tell us as much as you can about the item, including how you acquired it, any story behind it, and what condition it is in.  Please include photographs if you can.

Unfortunately we are unable to accept every item that we may be offered and regret we are unable to provide valuations for items.

Items that we do collect:

  • Items and documents linked to people’s personal lives in Portsmouth, such as clothing, some domestic objects and photographs to name just a few
  • Items related to the civic life of the city and important events
  • Items such as equipment, tools and machinery linked to people’s working lives in Portsmouth
  • Items related to Portsmouth’s wider connections including twinning
  • Images showing Portsmouth and how it has changed including paintings, prints, watercolours and drawings

Items that we do not collect:

  • Items where we already have several examples, this includes mangles, hoovers, pianos and some kinds of furniture
  • Items with no Portsmouth connection
  • Very large objects as these can be difficult to store and display

Item identification

You may have an item that you would like to know more about but not donate to the museum. We offer an identification and advice service but regret that we cannot give valuations. Sometimes this might mean leaving your item with us for a short time.

All metal detector finds should be reported to the Portable Antiquities Scheme: https://finds.org.uk.

You can find further information on our donations procedure page.