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Gallery Oldham has been collecting artworks and objects since 1883 and is still collecting today.

The current collections include:

  • over 12,000 social and industrial history items
  • more than 2,000 works of art
  • about 1,000 items of decorative art
  • more than 80,000 natural history specimens
  • over 4,000 geological specimens
  • about 3,000 archaeological artefacts
  • 15,000 photographs
  • a large number of books, pamphlets and documents
  • a dedicated natural history library

All of these items belong to the people of Oldham, who are free to come and view their collections. Gallery Oldham’s job is to make sure these items are stored safely and that they are accessible.

If you would like to view specific items in the collections, please make an appointment with us before you visit.

In our Oldham Stories gallery, where we bring together objects from our Natural History, Social History and Art Collections to look again at Oldham past and present.

Fine Art Collection

Our Fine Art collection consists of over 550 oil paintings, ranging from pre-Raphaelite and late Victorian artists to post-war painting including Pop and Abstract art.

Of particular interest is the Charles Lees Collection of oil paintings, watercolours, drawings and engravings, presented to the town in 1888. With special thanks to Art UK, all of our oil paintings can now be viewed online with a selection of replica prints also available to purchase.

Contact for the art collection
Tel: 0161 770 4650
Email: rebecca.hill@oldham.gov.uk

Natural History

Oldham has amazing collections of natural history specimens comprising plants, animals and geology. These specimens originate not just from the area around Oldham but also from much further afield.

Many of the collections are associated with the membership of the Oldham Microscopical  and Natural History Society and Field Club which was founded in 1864 and other with local naturalists and collectors.

Whenever possible these collections are used in exhibitions and additionally form a fantastic resource for education sessions.

The natural history store is regularly open to the public featuring in behind-the-scenes tours and the natural history collection is freely available to view by appointment.

This is just a small selection of specimens from our collections:

Contact for the natural history collection:
Patricia Francis,
Tel: 0161 770 4863
Email: patricia.francis@oldham.gov.uk

Social History

This collection is of enormous value as material evidence of the history of Oldham and its people. Almost without exception, each item in the collection was made in Oldham or owned by one of its residents.

It contains items which are unique to Oldham as well as objects of more general interest which reflect the history of the town and its communities.

The collection includes domestic and household items, along with material from local industries.

There are also large specific collections such as archaeology from Castleshaw Roman Fort or an important selection of samplers and other textiles.

As well as historic items we are always keen to collect modern objects that reflect life in Oldham today.

Oldham Rugby League collections

In 2019 we were delighted to accept a generous donation from the Oldham League Heritage Trust. This fantastic collection of rugby league programmes, photographs and other objects was catalogued with funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. You can explore these collections in depth on this separate website.

Contact for the Social History collection:
Karen Heatley,
Tel: 0161 770 4653
Email: karen.heatley@oldham.gov.uk

Search our Collections

Want to find out more about the objects and paintings in our care? You can search the collections held at Gallery Oldham and at Oldham Local Studies & Archives.

The online catalogue contains descriptions relating to the heritage collections held by the Gallery.

This includes archives, books, maps, artefacts, art, photographs and many other types of material held by us.

Search the online catalogue

(Advance notice is required to access part of our collections held off site.)