Aimee Palmer, Museum Work Experience Grant Winner 2019

Aimee has now completed her two month part-time placement within the Costume and Textiles ???? at the Ulster Folk Museum (National Museums NI) and in her second month has been able to put some of her new skills into practice and to see how the collection fits into the bigger picture.

Aimee has just completed a blog on 1920s hats, based on the museum’s collection and on her own family experience. In writing the blog she made use of all of the museum’s resources, from objects to photographic and film archives. This will be published soon on the NMNI website (with Aimee’s bio info and credited with The Costume Society logo). This is the first in a number of such blogs, each one exploring a particular aspect of the collection of 20th century dress at the UFM. As a Costume Society Ambassador now Aimee will be able to draw on the museum’s collections for inspiration for future blogs and reviews. Aimee has also had an opportunity over the last four weeks of her placement to see the bigger picture of curatorial work, including public engagement, and the facilitation of public access to collections.

On 10th December Aimee accompanied me to a public lecture and workshop by Rebecca Devaney, at the University of Ulster in Belfast. Rebecca, who is Irish, trained in embroidery for fashion at Ecole Lesage in Paris, and she now works for fashion houses such as Chanel, Dior, LMVH, and Alexander McQueen amongst others. The museum has a number of beaded 1920s dresses and so it was very beneficial for Aimee (and myself) to get a good understanding of how a contemporary embroiderer today uses traditional techniques for high end couture garments. Having more knowledge about the techniques used in the construction and embellishment of beaded and embroidered garments will be especially useful for the cataloguing of the historic dress collection at UFM. It was good to be able to take advantage of this opportunity for a bit of training and personal development, so important in any workplace. Aimee will have an opportunity next year to work on the museums’ collection of ‘flapper’ dresses – this will dovetail nicely with her work so far on 1920s hats. During her time on placement at UFM Aimee has worked steadily and productively, often continuing with research and writing at home in her own time. I have been very impressed with her work ethic, her creativity and her willingness to engage and work with both colleagues in the museum and with members of the public.

The museum’s costume and textiles collections are frequently accessed by students and designers for research. One of these recent access visits to the store was made by Alison Lowry, a noted glass artist (see most recent issue of Crafts Magazine). Alison wished to see costume for reference in relation to a proposed glass installation planned for next year at Downpatrick Museum.
Aimee assisted me with preparations for this visit and with several others during her time at the museum. Accessing collections in store for the public, movement control etc. is an important part of curatorial work and I’m glad Aimee was able to learn about this at first hand.

Alison Lowry, glass artist, studies costume in the store at UFM.
In conclusion, during her time at the museum Aimee has acquired training in and practical application of the following skills:
• Cataloguing of objects, both newly accessioned and backlog.
• Labelling and packing of objects for storage.
• Creating, and updating documentation for the museum’s MIMSY database.
• Record photography for documentation.
• Using sound and image archives for research and publication.
• Writing blog material for publication on the web.
• How to use a wide range of research material, to support collections documentation and publication.
• How to facilitate public access to collections in store.
• How to display costume in an open air museum exhibit setting.

Aimee has packed a lot into the last couple of months and her work has produced good, tangible outcomes for both herself and the museum. On a personal level I can say that Aimee has proved to be by far the best of all the placements/interns hosted by the textiles department in my (considerable) time at the museum. I am delighted to say that Aimee has very generously offered to continue her association with the museum by volunteering from January 2020, one day a week – an offer I have been very quick to accept! I’m looking forward to working with her in future and seeing more of the dress collection appearing online and in print as a result.
I would like to thank the Costume Society UK for making this placement possible. Aimee has proved to be a very worthy recipient and I hope that her newly acquired museum skills will play a part in whatever career path she chooses in future.

Valerie Wilson
Curator of Costume and Textiles
Ulster Folk and Transport Museum
National Museums NI

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