Our groups of volunteers are working on various projects in local galleries, museums and churches. Volunteers do not need to have previous experience in these areas as appropriate training will be given when the project commences.
Leamington Spa Art Gallery and Museum
The group of volunteers at Leamington Art Gallery is now in its twelfth year and was delighted to be presented with a special award for their work over this time by the West Midlands Museum Volunteer Awards, which was presented at a ceremony at the Hippodrome Theatre in Birmingham. The awards were designed to recognise and reward the valuable work and significant contribution made by volunteers to the museum sector. The citation said that the award was given "for the breadth of work undertaken and the commitment required". It also mentioned the variety of skills provided by different volunteers. Their ongoing work reflects this diversity of talents.
Work continues on the parasols, some in excellent condition, but others very delicate and needing to be stored with great care. It was necessary to construct special boxes using Corriflute, which is a very adaptable material resembling corrugated card but more durable. Plastic nuts were used to secure one section to another. As most of the parasols are made of silk, the lid had to be the exact size to give a snug fit. It is essential to do this as old silk is very vulnerable to attack from insects.
The group has also been making garment covers and covered padded coat hangers for the costume collection, when they use calico. Before this can be used it has to be prewashed at a very high temperature to shrink it and get rid of any dressing.
Future projects will include work on quilts from the African Caribbean Society, plus newly acquired dresses from the costumes collection. The Art Gallery is seeking specialist advice on handling the quilts before beginning this work.
All Saints’ Parish Church, Leamington Spa
This year we have started a new project at All Saints’ Parish Church, Leamington Spa. The work involves the repair and conservation of ecclesiastical embroidery, ranging in size from small collection purses to large altar frontals.
A group of eight needlewomen, some extremely skilled and some not so skilled, embarked on a two day training course in August and since then they have met weekly to start the mammoth task in front of them.
So far they have repaired and cleaned a number of small collection purses and have completed work on a chasuble, modeled in the photo by the Vicar. They are now working on various items including veils, burses and banners.
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.