Manuscripts and Special Collections

Inspiring Beauty

This exhibition ran between 15th January and 17th April 2016.

Inspiring Beauty: 80 Years of Making Up the Modern Woman was jointly curated by Richard Hornsey, Lecturer in Modern British History at The University of Nottingham, Boots Archives, and Manuscripts and Special Collections at The University of Nottingham.


The exhibition celebrates the history of Boots’ iconic No 7 brand. For the first time, original archive documents and museum objects have been brought together from Boots Archives, The University of Nottingham’s Manuscripts and Special Collections and The University of Nottingham’s Museum to show the wider social and cultural role of cosmetics from Roman times to the present day.



The exhibition celebrated the 80th anniversary of an iconic Nottingham-born beauty brand from its launch in 1935 to its development as an international beauty range. Originally created with the modern woman in mind, No7 developed over the years to address their changing beauty needs. Launched in an era soon to be transformed by the Second World War, it explored the social changes affecting women during the last eight decades, and the extent to which No7 responded to them. It charts the measures taken to counteract war-time shortages and the explosion of colour and choice in the 1960s to enable glamour-on-the-go. It showed how in more recent years the demands of women for purity and efficacy have helped to shape product development.

Inspiring Beauty won 'Best Innovative Exhibition' at the Nottinghamshire Heritage Awards 2016.

Listen again

Lakeside Arts Centre

Listen to audio recordings of the lunchtime talks given by external speakers that accompanied the exhibition.

Exhibition poster


Click on the image above to see a larger version of the poster

Exhibition themes

The exhibition boards which were displayed in the Weston Gallery are available to download:

The exhibition boards were roughly chronological, focussing on social and cultural attitudes to female beauty and cosmetics from pre-1935 to the early 21st century. They also looked at how No 7 both responded to consumer demands and how it helped shape these attitudes. 

Unfortunately it is not possible to display representations of original archive material which featured in the exhibition cases.

Guest curator Dr Richard Hornsey, Lecturer in Modern British History, filmed a short video about the social history of cosmetics to support his undergraduate teaching.

Visitor comments

Great exhibition-brings back lovely memories

Thank you, this exhibition is fascinating

Lovely to see the products that I used as a young woman in the 70s

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Manuscripts and Special Collections

Kings Meadow Campus
Lenton Lane
Nottingham, NG7 2NR

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