The exhibition Criminal Lives, 1780-1925: Punishing Old Bailey Convicts is based on research by historians at the University of Sheffield and partner universities that has traced the lives of British convicts from the 18th and 19th centuries. Produced by the Arts and Humanities Research Council Digital Panopticon project in partnership with the London Metropolitan Archives (LMA), the exhibition combines original Victorian photographs, documents and prints from the city’s archives with convict life stories uncovered by the Digital Panopticon project. It also includes items such as a Victorian policeman’s truncheon, a reproduction Millbank Prison uniform and convicts’ photographs drawn from collections in Britain and Australia.
The exhibition sheds light on the lives of convicts from the Gordon Riots in 1780 to the early 20th century, including prostitute and pickpocket Charlotte Walker; Ikey Solomons, the notorious receiver of stolen goods; and serial thief Thomas Limpus, who was transported to Africa, America and Australia. Bob Shoemaker, Professor of History at the University of Sheffield, said: “This exhibition brings together a fascinating set of records from the LMA’s collections and other archives to show how the reformatory prison became the chief form of punishment in our judicial system. By using convict life stories to explain the origins of the modern prison, we hope that ‘Criminal Lives’ will help viewers see punishment in a new light.”
Criminal Lives, 1780-1925: Punishing Old Bailey Convicts opens in December 2017 at the London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) and will be on display until 16 May 2018. For visitor information, see here.
The Digital Panopticon project’s website, which enables users to trace the lives of British convicts imprisoned or transported to Australia, features on a new second year module for history students at the University of Sheffield.