Clothworkers’: First Week

After half a decade in the making, this week the Department of Furniture, Textiles & Fashion welcomed its first public appointments at the Clothworkers’ Centre. A mixture of students, scholars and workers from the heritage industry have viewed, amongst them, Ethiopian Imperial robes, 1930s underwear, 19th century embroidered samplers and the Tailor of Gloucester waistcoat. Toward the weekend, we have more samplers and some pattern books, so taken altogether, this has been a positive and eclectic opening week. Even better for us is that feedback from our visitors has been very positive so far, and we have an inbox full of e-mails from enthusiasts eager to come and study our collection over the next few months.

FTF Assistant Curator Lizzie overseeing an appointment

FTF Assistant Curator Lizzie overseeing an underwear appointment © Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Myself and my fellow FTF Assistant Curators, Lizzie Bisley and Kristian Volsing, as well as Curator (with a capital C) Cassie Davies-Strodder, have already noticed a tectonic alteration to our working patterns. We’ve spent a great deal of time over the last few days away from our desks accessing the new storage to take out requested objects. As it is so time-consuming to take out objects for appointments, they need to be brought out several days in advance and stored in cupboards in the study room itself. The doors of these cupboards were formerly the portals of textile storage units at South Kensington, and whose life started at the Natural History Museum probably more than a century ago, have been refurbished and secured. Happily, the risk of cranial injury from opening them has been very much reduced.

a view of the new cupboards with hanging objects

Cassie and Suzanne putting objects to bed

Cassie and Suzanne putting objects away in the new cupboards © Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Visitors are able, nay encouraged, to make use of our dedicated library, which contains diverse volumes to cover the breadth of textile and fashion history. The view of the library shelves in the photograph below is slightly misleading, however, since Suzanne Smith, also formerly of the Natural History Museum, and who is now manager of the Clothworkers’ Centre, does not appear at the invigilation desk. This will obviously not be the case for appointments, as without her the Centre would still be devoid of objects and, I daresay, a far less enjoyable place to work.

the library and staff desk

the library and staff desk © Victoria & Albert Museum, London

It should be reiterated now that the Clothworkers’ Centre is finally open, that this is a historic moment for the V&A, and for the collection to which it has been entrusted. No museum in the world can offer such free access to its collections as we are now able to do so, and to crown it all, the preservation of that collection has been more-or-less guaranteed for generations to come. It’s been a long, long road of wrapping, packing, strapping and sighing, but at last, happily, wonderfully and matchlessly, we are finally there.

Well done everyone! (especially the following (alphabetically)): Richard Ashbridge, Anne Bancroft, Glenn Benson, Kate Bethune, Alex Birts, Lizzie Bisley, Lauren Bowes, Clare Browne, Chloë Brunton-Dunn, Andrew Campbell, Moya Carey,Neil CarletonRosie Chamberlin, Nick Chester, Wayne Chisnall, Sue Clark, Matthew Clarke, Katy Conover,Lizzie Cooper, Isabella Coraça, Helen Cresswell, Oriole Cullen, Cassie Davies-Strodder, Jesse Deans,Camilla DeWinton, Rob Dowling, Edwina Ehrman, Phil Evans, Steve Firth, Paul Frattaroli, Chris Gingell, Jim Goddard, Rebecca Goldie, Eve Goodman, Jo Hackett, Fraser Hamilton, Rosemary Hammond, Brittany Harbidge, Dawn Hoskin, Roisin Inglesby, Allen Irvine, Fergus Jenkins, Vikki Jessop, Esther Ketskemety, Michelle Kirk, Jenny Lister, Jane Lucas, Steph Main, Kirsty McCay, Roger Murray, Ed Naujokas, Susan North, Helen Persson, Ray Powell, Charlotte Prichard, Sue Prichard, Tahiya Qureshi, Uthra Rajgopal, Jane Rutherston, Louise Rytter, Becca Sadtler, Suhashini Sinha, Suzanne Smith, Ajaz Sulleyman, June Suter, Liz Tregenza, Kristian Volsing, John Walker, Mandy Ward and Jenny Westwood. They’re all brilliant, lovely (and very employable) people.

The Clothworkers’ Centre for the Study and Conservation of Textiles and Fashion is now open for appointments. Please follow this link for more information.

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