Brotherton believed that access to museums should be available to the working classes, as this would help to draw them away from a 'life of vice and infamy', raise their status, and improve their intelligence. Each annual report to the council mentioned the success of the museum amongst the working classes, although curator John Plant also took time to reassure the council that the public had been well behaved. In 1852 he noted that there was ‘hardly an instance of wanton injury’ and in 1856 ‘the demeanour of the visitors [was] most praiseworthy’. Plant also stated that workmen and women ‘appear to have appreciated the privileges afforded them’.
In 1863 the museum opened an exhibition specially for working class people in distressed circumstances. Despite the target audience, the party (soiree) on the opening night, held by Mayor William Pearson Esq., was open to 500 magistrates, dignitaries, and exhibition contributors.