Living with Machines: human stories from the industrial age


29 July 2022 - 08 January 2023

Venue Leeds City Museum

Tags Adult, Exhibitions, Family, School holiday, Young People,

Revisit the industrial revolution at Leeds City Museum.

What can Dickens, Lowry and Leeds factory workers teach us about the rich and powerful, work-life balance and holidays on a budget? You might be surprised.

Co-curated by Leeds City Museum and the British Library, this exhibition will reveal the surprising parallels between the Industrial Revolution and today’s world of ‘big tech’. Discover the origins of football leagues, fast fashion and the 9-to-5 working day and what they can tell us about surviving and thriving in a fast-moving city.

You’ll discover a sometimes-surprising variety of machines – from sewing machines and dobby looms, to potato peelers and tricycles. Follow the changes these contraptions brought through the atmospheric art of L S Lowry, a first edition of Elizabeth Gaskill’s North and South and Charles Dicken’s handwritten notes on his novel Hard Times.

Step into an era of upheaval that shook the foundations of life as we knew it – even how we told the time.

This exhibition builds on the British Library’s work with Leeds Museums and Galleries and other local partners and communities to develop a growing programme of cultural events and learning activities in the city.

Event Highlights

Leeds Digital Festival

The role of AI in Creative Industries

22 September, 5.30 – 7.30pm

Developing ethical and inclusive society and business in the age of AI

29 September, 5.30 – 7.30pm

Museum Late

6 October, 6 – 10pm – £5pp

Come along to experience the museum after hours and get involved in weaving demonstrations and informal workshops.

Lunchtime Curator Tour 

10 November, 12 – 12.45pm, FREE

Discover the inspiration behind the exhibition and hear stories of the objects on display from Leeds Museums & Galleries curator of Industrial History.

Curator Tour with BSL Interpreter 

10 November, 2 – 3pm, FREE

Book to join our free BSL tour of Living with Machines with the curator of Industrial History and discover stories behind the objects. Book via email at [email protected].


This exhibition is inspired by the new and unexpected stories being uncovered by the AI-powered Living with Machines research project. The Living with Machines research programme is 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 and partner universities. Find out more on the Living with Machines project website.

The Alan Turing Institute logo and the Arts and Humanities Research Council logo

If you’ve visited Living with Machines at Leeds City Museum, we’d love to hear what you thought of it!  We’re working with Bluegrass Research to gather feedback – it would be a short telephone call and you would receive a £10 Amazon e-voucher for your time.  If you think you could help please leave you contact details by clicking on the link here.

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