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Yarmouth exhibits in historic collection

PUBLISHED: 10:17 29 September 2009 | UPDATED: 15:10 03 July 2010

It has been closed to the public for two years, but now the city's fine costume and textile collection has reopened.

Based in the historic Carrow House, off King Street, Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service's Costume and Textile Study Centre had to be shut while major repairs were carried out to its roof.

It has been closed to the public for two years, but now the city's fine costume and textile collection has reopened.

Based in the historic Carrow House, off King Street, Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service's Costume and Textile Study Centre had to be shut while major repairs were carried out to its roof.

With the vast majority of its items tucked away in boxes, it cannot really be called a museum; however it is now once again accessible to the public by appointment.

And the vast majority of the 25,000 items in the collection have been painstakingly frozen during the two years, as a precaution against bugs.

One of the gem's in the collection at Carrow House is this intriguing sampler, made by Lorina Bulwer around 1900.

Lorina made the 12ft by 1ft sampler while resident in the female lunatic ward of Great Yarmouth workhouse.

It takes the form of one long, often confusing rant, which has no punctuation, and is entirely in upper case with each work carefully hand-stitched onto a patchwork of fabrics.

Ruth Burwood, senior access curator for Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service, said: “The building had to close because the roof needed repairing and some of the widow frames and woodwork needing mending.

“We knew we had to pack up the collections to protect them while the building work happened so we thought we would take the opportunity to really get to grips with the collection.

“We audited it and we took the opportunity to freeze the collection, which was precautionary really. We didn't have an infestation by like all museums at the moment we are finding the traditional museum pest, carpet beetle, is now a threat all year round as we don't have the hard frosts to kill them off any more.”

Each item had to be carefully packed in acid-free paper and squashed tight to ensure no air pockets which would cause condensation.

Mrs Burwood said: “We are visited by re-enactors, museums and historic houses looking to recreate costumes, as well as historians and people interested in costumes and textiles.

“But you don't have to be doing academic research to come here, we are open to the public.

“We do it by appointment because the collection is so large it gives us a chance to dig out what people are interested in seeing.”

The costume centre, which will have open days and events starting again in January, can be contacted on 01603 223870.

PANEL:

The costume and textiles collection comprises 25,000 items.

The earliest items date from the 15th century up until the present day.

Most of the clothing is “every day”, non-designer items which tell as social history, although the collection does have a beautiful navy blue Christian Dior cocktail dress from 1958.

There are 700 pairs of shoes.

There is an ecclesiastical collection, which includes a large range of nuns' habits.

The centre is renowned for its collection of shawls, of which there are more than 700. Of the enormous quantity of European shawls manufactured during the 19th century, many of the finest were made in Norwich and the collection has 150 shawls which are identifiable examples of Norwich shawls.


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