Lace Unravelled
Shane Waltener, Score for Newstead Abbey, 2018 (commissioned for Lace Unveiled exhibition, part of Lace Unravelled). Image: Freddy Griffiths

Shane Waltener, Score for Newstead Abbey, 2018 (commissioned for Lace Unveiled exhibition, part of Lace Unravelled). Image: Freddy Griffiths

“The exhibition was captured by V21 Artspace to produce a 3D Virtual Exhibition Walkthrough, widening the reach beyond the physical visitor and offering an innovative way to engage people with lace and lace-making. “

Nottingham City Museums and Galleries (NCMG) holds a collection of Lace and Lace Machinery. In 2016, they devised a development programme to improve knowledge of the collection and to make it more accessible for a range of audiences. We supported the project through the Designation Development Fund (DDF).

The project brought together specialists, including academic partners and individuals from the lace industry, to improve understanding of the collection.

A central part of this project was working with people who were not from a museum or research background. The funding enabled an 18-month period of engagement with individuals connected to the industry.

Lace Pattern Book, collection of Nottingham City Museums and Galleries. Image: Freddy Griffiths

Lace Pattern Book, collection of Nottingham City Museums and Galleries. Image: Freddy Griffiths

NCMG interviewed 29 people who had worked, or currently worked, in the lace industry as part of the "industry mentorship" part of the programme. They hosted two roadshows to reach a wider pool of people and used collection items to provide the catalyst for conversations.

This specialist working knowledge was a key element missing from existing curatorial knowledge. It was an important factor in understanding the industrial context of the collection.

The interviews were digitally recorded and transcribed and they will also be linked to the collections database. This will enrich the collection by preserving an extra layer of information to improve understanding and inform future interpretation and research.

“Our understanding of our Designated collection was greatly enhanced by Lace Unravelled, and we have been able to take a big leap forwards in terms of the collection’s profile amongst audiences and stakeholders. It was fantastic to meet so many industry specialists, artists and academics who were generous with their time, with donations to the collection and wonderful commissions.”

-Deborah Dean, Principal Curator

Lace Mechanics Ltd, Nottingham City Museums and Galleries, Nottingham Industrial Museum. Image: Ann Inscker

Lace Mechanics Ltd, Nottingham City Museums and Galleries, Nottingham Industrial Museum. Image: Ann Inscker

A major highlight of the project was bringing to life the Coopers Landing Bar machine. The machine had been in the collection since 1965, and it is now again in working order and set to become a permanent attraction at Nottingham’s Industrial Museum. The machine will bring sound and animation to an otherwise static gallery space. Visitors can now see and hear the machinery in action and it will play an important role in helping people understand the manufacturing process. You can find out more about the machine and see it in action in this video.

The project supported professional photography of 250 items which helped to limit unnecessary handling by providing access to high-quality images. A selection of other key items were also conserved including sixteen sample books that had previously been too delicate to handle.

The project was effective in raising awareness of the collection. Local radio stations picked up on good news stories, which increased general visibility. Research findings were shared widely and records were published through the museum website, social media and online videos. Findings were shared at a dedicated two-day symposium which featured international speakers, with contributions from France and Australia. It was hosted across sites where the collection is held, including:

  • Wollaton Hall

  • Nottingham Castle

  • Newstead Abbey.

Shane Waltener, Score for Newstead Abbey, 2018 (commissioned for Lace Unveiled exhibition, part of Lace Unravelled). Image: Freddy Griffiths

Shane Waltener, Score for Newstead Abbey, 2018 (commissioned for Lace Unveiled exhibition, part of Lace Unravelled). Image: Freddy Griffiths

The event featured an accompanying exhibition, “Lace Unveiled” with work by artists from Nottingham, Brighton, London and Portugal. The exhibition was captured by V21 Artspace to produce a 3D Virtual Exhibition Walkthrough, widening the reach beyond the physical visitor and offering an innovative way to engage people with lace and lace-making. 

Take a look at the 3D Virtual Exhibition >

Four films were also commissioned to consider various perspectives on lace. The films were made to use in many ways, including in the galleries, online and on social media. These films broaden the range of engagement with the collection, and as such, they are an important tool to inspire new pathways to research.

Watch the films >

Joe Clark