Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Textiles in Focus Day

Event Poster
On the 29th October, the Museum was - or so it felt - entirely taken over by textiles! Working collaboratively with Conservation staff and the Collections team, the Need/Make/Use team developed an event to showcase pieces from the textile collections and offer hands-on and behind-the-scenes opportunities for visitors. In particular, we set out to highlight textiles collected by Sheila Paine during her fieldwork throughout East and Central Asia. From 16th August 2016 through to 12th February 2017, you can see a special display on the first floor of the Museum entitled Stitch of a Symbol - Insights into the textile journeys of Sheila Paine. You can read a great article about Sheila Paine here.

Stitch of a Symbol gallery display
Going behind-the-scenes
Visitors were able to book a place on a special behind-the-scenes talk led by Curator and Joint Head of Collections, Julia Nicholson. Visitors were able to see close-up objects specially taken off of display and retrieved from the Museum's stores. 

Textiles in the research space © Pitt Rivers Museum
Curatorial Assistant, Nicholas Crowe, and Curator and Joint Head of Collections, Julia Nicholson, laying out objects in the research space ready for the tours. 

Visitors in the research space © Pitt Rivers Museum
Beautiful and intricate objects were laid out in the research space. Visitors were able to take photos, hear Julia talk about how the objects were acquired and learn a bit about their history. It was excellent to hear many of the visitors puzzling between themselves about how they thought garments were constructed and exactly how decorations were applied. Through opportunities such as this, we hope to facilitate visitors to get thinking about the intricacies of construction and about the individuals who made - and still make - such objects.

Floral brocaded ribbon (Slovakia 2008.117.5) © Pitt Rivers Museum
Mola (Panama, 1924.46.74) © Pitt Rivers Museum

Waistcoat and blouse (Slovakia, 2008.117.1-.2)
© Pitt Rivers Museum
Tapestry panel (Peru, 1952.7.69) © Pitt Rivers Museum

Huipil blouse (Guatemala 1990.46.1) © Pitt Rivers Museum
Visitors in the research space © Pitt Rivers Museum

Weaving demonstrations and object handling
The balcony space on the first floor was filled with textiles from our handling collections - visitors were able to pick up and look closely at all sorts of objects - contrasted in different ways - from around the world. One of the days highlights was Head of Conservation, Jeremy Uden, demonstrating weaving on an 8 shaft loom. Visitors of all ages seemed to find this intricate and time consuming work really interesting and asked many questions throughout the day! With help from VERVE volunteers, people could also have a go at weaving on a 4 shaft loom. 

Head of Conservation, Jeremy Uden, demonstrating
an 8 shaft loom. © Pitt Rivers Museum
Visitor using a 4 shaft loom © Pitt Rivers Museum

Volunteers and visitors have a go at 4 shaft loom weaving using patterns designed by Jeremy Uden, Head of Conservation. 

Colourful handling objects © Pitt Rivers Museum

Handling objects - Huipil blouses from Guatemala ( and and a backstop loom likely to be from South America ( 

Handling object - toy doll in traditional Uzbek dress
( © Pitt Rivers Museum 

Coffee and cross stitch  
To finish off their visit, we invited people to join VERVE staff and volunteers for a coffee and to have a go at cross stitch in our seminar room. Each cross stitch design had been specially created by VERVE volunteers and reflected patterns found on the women's hats in the Sheila Paine collection. People could take away patterns and the work they had begun to continue cross stitching in their own time. Some visitors said that this was the first time they had cross stitched since childhood and that they now felt inspired to keep going with the craft. Others had never tried cross stitching before and learnt a new skill whilst also connecting with the collections in a new way. 

Designs based on 2008.116.22 - a panel made for a
women's skull cap © Pitt Rivers Museum
Cross stitching © Pitt Rivers Museum
Finished cross stitch © Pitt Rivers Museum
A new convert to cross stitching shows off her completed design! 

All in all, Textiles in Focus Day was a real success, offering more than 400 visitors the chance to closely examine the textiles in the collections and get some insight into the people who still make and use such items today. 

Keep an eye on our what's on pages for information about other events like this one ... in 2017 we are offering monthly hands-on workshops (such as prehistoric knife making!) that provide the chance to explore the making methods behind objects in the collections. 

Jozie Kettle
VERVE Programming and Communications Officer

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