Discover more about the vibrant history of Brighton & Hove, and the surrounding county of Sussex, with our Local and Social History collections.

Badge marking 'Greater Brighton' celebrations, 1928
Badge marking ‘Greater Brighton’ celebrations, 1928

This collection contains a wealth of items which tell the story of the people, the politics and the culture of this diverse and beautiful area. They can be found on display at several of our museums, but have dedicated galleries in Brighton Museum and Hove Museum.

Brighton’s development as the UK’s premier seaside resort is represented by a significant collection of objects, records and personal testimonies relating to the tourist trade across the centuries. The collection not only tells the tale of Brighton’s rise to pre-eminence, but also marks the wider popularisation and democratisation of the British seaside.

Items include early souvenir wares and seaside ephemera, plus a substantial collection documenting the first great Victorian pleasure pier: Sir Samuel Brown’s 1823 Chain Pier.

One highlight is a fascinating collection of costume, portraits, books and curiosities relating to the pioneering Indian entrepreneur Sake Dean Mahomed, ‘Shampooing Surgeon’ to King George IV.

Wider aspects of the city’s social and economic history are represented by everyday Brighton-based objects acquired from local people and collectors through the ages. These range in scope and significance from a complete kitchen unit from Embassy Court (Wells Coates’s pioneering modernist seafront development), to the football shirt worn by Brighton & Hove Albion goal scorer Gary Stevens during the 1983 FA cup final.

The Local and Social History collection includes items dating from the 18th through to the 21st century including prints, photographs; pamphlets and maps. We also hold British domestic and agricultural tools and equipment dating from the 18th to the 20th centuries, and even a fire engine. It also includes the Sussex Collection of reference material, books, journals, newspapers, ephemera and documentary archives.

Our comprehensive local history collections are as diverse as they are extensive. Together, the objects and ephemera form a substantial record of the social, political and cultural development of Brighton, Hove and the surrounding region.

These collections are regularly used by academic researchers, university students, and school groups. They are also often used by individual researchers requesting access to items of personal significance.

Many items from the local history collections are now stored at The Keep.

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