Lost property

Exploring the sustainability and circularity of lost objects.

Lost property photograph by Jason Leung.
Lost property photograph by Jason Leung.

This pilot project seeks to explore the lost property and potential connections to sustainability and notions of the circular economy.

Abstract concepts of absence, nothing and loss are becoming increasingly intriguing phenomena for sociologists interested in the everyday. However, whilst their theoretical connotations are being progressively discussed the empirical investigation into these phenomena remains absent.

This project seeks to translate the abstract notion of loss into an empirical and material focused study.

Aims and objectives

Our aims for this project are as follows:

  • To examine the anticipation of loss and how this affects objects differently.
  • To explore how lost objects are replaced and substituted, and to investigate what happens to objects which are lost and found.
  • To explore how lost property connects to broader issues of waste and sustainable resource use.
  • To contribute to debates on the sociology of every day, developing an agenda which explores people’s relationships to objects and the relevance of this for sustainable practice.

Research design

Using a qualitative approach the research design involves interviews with:

  • lost property offices;
  • households;
  • museums;
  • repair cafes/re-use networks.

This project is part of the Circular Economics Working Group.  It is led by Dr Helen Holmes, with Ulrike Ehgartner providing research support.


Lost property event

11am-4pm, 29 November 2018 at the Manchester Museum (3rd Floor)

Are you a serial loser of keys?  Do you always leave your umbrella on the train?  Perhaps you once lost something really important to you and have never forgotten about it? 

Whatever your lost property story - we want to hear it! 

Researcher Dr Helen Holmes from The University of Manchester is exploring what happens to all those things we accidentally leave behind.   

From the memories and sentiments we attach to everyday objects, to all the lost things which could be recycled and reused, this project seeks to understand what it means to lose things (and to find them!). 

Please come along to our first event and tell us your lost property story.