Leamington Spa Museum
The Arts Society Heritage Volunteers have been working at the Museum since 2004, and, of the six original volunteers, two are still regular members. In recognition of their dedication and commitment, the Area Heritage Volunteer Representative, David Brass, awarded the Group a Gold Star Certificate, following on from their West Midlands Museum Volunteer Award, which they won last year. David presented the award to the Group in October, when the Chairman, Elizabeth Hunter, was also present.
Over the years the Group has carried out numerous tasks. These have included work on the textile, ethnographic and social history collections and more recently, mounting the samplers. They are now revisiting a task they first began in 2004, which is the checking and repacking of the costumes in the Textile Collection.
In order to carry out this work to appropriate conservation standards, training sessions are regularly held and, in November, a session has been organised on packing, handling, and condition checking, with a particular focus on textiles. These sessions are very helpful to all volunteers and improve their knowledge and keep their skills update
Projects completed this Year
Mothers’ Union Banner – St Peter’s Church, Barford
Since January this year, two of our most experienced and talented needlewomen, Diana Adams and Annette Hughes, have been working on the repair and conservation of the Mothers’ Union banner for St. Peter’s Church, Barford. The work included replacing and reworking areas where the threads had rotted beyond repair.
After 79 hours of painstaking work, the banner was completed in July and a Service of Re-dedication was held at the Church in September. The Arts Society Volunteers and Heritage Co-ordinator were invited to join members of the Mothers’ Union and the congregation, when the banner was paraded for everyone to see. Diana and Annette were presented with bouquets containing flowers of blue and white, the colours of the Mothers’ Union.
It was a special occasion because the Mothers’ Union members were delighted to have their banner repaired. One of them mentioned that the last time they had paraded it, they had felt like the poor relation because of the state it was in, but now they could parade it proudly.
The Lord Leycester Hospital – William Morris Wall hangings
In March the Society was approached by the new Master of the Lord Leycester Hospital in Warwick, Heidi Meyer, for help in conserving six William Morris Wall hangings currently in the 13th Chapel. The Chapel was damp and the plaster was flaking off onto the hangings. The Master was anxious that they would disintegrate further if no action was taken.
A meeting was held with Victoria Allan, Textile Conservationist, who examined the hangings and recommended that they were surface cleaned and packed for conservation storage, with a view to re-examining them at a later date.
Three of our Volunteers, Janet Ainley, Ruth Barton and Anne Hayward set to work under the guidance of Victoria, and, over the course of three weeks, the hangings were cleaned and safely stored. It is hoped that it will be possible to display some, or all, of the hangings at a future date.
All Saints’ Parish Church, Leamington Spa
The Volunteers have now been working at the Church for over a year. During that time they have carried out repairs and conservation work to the Church’s wonderful collection of ecclesiastical embroidery, ranging in size from small collection purses to large altar frontals.
Because many of the items are still used, they are vulnerable to further damage and our Textile Conservationist has recently given the group a training session on the use of specially dyed netting which covers the areas most at risk. This process will take some weeks to complete.
In the meantime, we have taken some items from the church and they are now on display in the Leamington Museum in the ‘Spotlight’ position. The items include a cope, an altar frontal and a burse and stole. It is hoped to hold a larger Embroidery Exhibition at the church in 2018.
The work will occupy the group for a considerable amount of time and if you would like help or to see the volunteers at work, do visit the church on a Wednesday morning after 10.30am when the church and café are open – but not on an Arts Society Royal Leamington Spa lecture day.
The Herbert Museum and Art Gallery
The Group has been working on a variety of projects, some ongoing and some new, the older ones including making bespoke padded coat hangers for dresses and coats in the Costume collection and repair of items in the ‘hands on’ collection. As a continuation of their work in the Natural History section, they have been block mounting birds. The decision had been made to take all the exhibits out of their boxes and have them free standing on shelves. To ensure a minimum of dust they had previously made curtains for each shelf. Apparently, their knowledge of birds has been greatly enhanced by this – but they are not sure that they will remember it!
The newest venture of the Group is to make items to support the pre school Museum Experience Group. This is a project that aims to introduce young children to the familiarity of being in a museum whilst providing valuable sensory learning experience. Stories and poems form the basis of this programme and to this end they have made a large Hungry Caterpillar – from the story of the same name – together with food with which to feed him. First reports claim that he is hugely popular.
At present the Group is working on a grey sensory blanket with an array of pockets. Each pocket is made from a different fabric and has a different fastener that the children can explore. The pockets will contain interesting items for them to discover.
A future project that is being contemplated is for the Transport Museum. They require a portable wheel to represent the size of a penny farthing bicycle together with a model leg! They will be used to demonstrate to children how high the bicycle is. These need to be foldable and fit in a backpack. The Group is still trying to get their heads around the practicalities of this!
They comment that "At a time when funding is constantly being cut for museums, we hope we are providing a useful and supportive service for their friendly, hardworking staff", which I am sure they are.