Volunteers have begun creating bespoke individual bodies for more than 40 of the museum’s uniforms.
It’s all part of our latest project, Textiles with Tales, which focuses on our extensive uniform collection and is combining needle and thread with digital web photography.
“The quality and significance of our uniform collection is well known within military and specialist circles; there’s less awareness in other sectors, but no reason for that to continue to be the case,” explains Director and Curator, Lynda Powell.
“We have more than 1000 items of uniform; it’s impossible to display them all, but they form a very important part of our archive. We were awarded Arts Council England’s Museum Resilience Funding at the end of last year and we’re using it over two years to improve the way we store, display and work with the uniforms in our care.
It’s allowing us more opportunities to bring them to a wider audience – opening up our collection to museum visitors, as well as individuals with specific interests.”
As well as the archiving and curatorial elements of the project, the funding is also helping the museum improve the way its uniforms are displayed in the galleries.
A team of volunteers answered what was, quite literally, a Call to Arms, and, following training from costume display expert Gesa Werner, have started to sew padding onto the base mannequin, and create made-to-measure arms and legs for each item of uniform.
They will also work in the museum’s costume store; labelling and packing items and helping with documentation and updating the relevant records in the archive.
Some of the uniforms are incredibly rare, such as a complete private soldier’s uniform worn during the Crimean War, and a highly embellished volunteer militiaman’s mess jacket from the mid 19th century.
“All the uniforms we currently have on show in the museum are being treated to a brand new bespoke figure,” explains Collections Assistant, Zoë Utley, pictured left in one of the museum’s archive stores.
“Not only does it create an even better display for museum visitors, but it also helps conserve the uniform, helping it keep its shape and ensuring it’s correctly supported.”
Later this year, the museum will begin the creation of an innovative online catalogue of key pieces from the collection.
The uniforms will be specially mounted then photographed through a precise 360 degree rotation. It means that even if these precious items are not on display in the museum itself, they are still accessible to anyone who wants to find out more about them.
Textiles with Tales.
The two year uniform project involves a range of activity…
• New storage system for archive uniforms
• Improved displays of uniforms on show in the museum galleries
• Specialist staff training
• Creation of an online catalogue of key pieces