In any style, cursive text, also known as handwriting, script, longhand, or running text, is the joining of the character symbols of language in a flowing manner, generally for the purpose of making writing faster and more efficient. The technique has been in existence for thousands of years, and Romans were among the first to develop written script for business transactions and correspondence.

In the West, cursive writing has been taught in schools for hundreds of years. Until the widespread use of the telegraph, telephone and typewriter, it was primary way in which people communicated over distance. As typewriters, and later word processors, personal computers and text messaging came into common use, schools began to eliminate penmanship classes. This trend first began as early as the 1930s, and by the 1980s many children in North America received little training in the discipline. While penmanship studies haven’t completely disappeared, schoolchildren today spend more time mastering typing and computer skills than the neat, standardized cursive of their parents or grandparents.

Featuring a wide array of objects from the Museum London collection, this exhibition explores the history cursive writing, the tools required for the job, how children were taught to write, and why this dying skill continues to be important.