Emily Lashford, Museum Work Experience Grant Winner 2022

By Emily Lashford

MWEG 2022 recipient Emily Lashford shares her experiences working at Macclesfield Silk Museum auditing the menswear collection and updating documentation of objects.

During the Summer of 2022, I completed a two month placement at the Macclesfield Silk Museum supported by the Costume Society’s Museum Work Experience Grant.
The placement focused on the museum’s unexplored menswear collection. Prior to the project, my primary interest had been womenswear so this was an exciting opportunity to delve into a new aspect of dress and textiles, further expanding my knowledge. My role built upon previous skills gained while volunteering, to audit, condition report and research the collection.

A careful and detailed process of documenting and updating the Modes records of nearly 150 objects led to some fascinating connections between items in the collection. As a result, I was able to assemble complete outfits of local individuals illustrating their stories and influence on the town throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. This culminated in an online exhibition exploring the lives of a number of these men.

As well as an online exhibition, I was given the opportunity to select and display costume for a case in the museum. Building on costume mounting training I undertook at the museum previously, I adapted a female mannequin to fit the male Pierrot costume of Arthur Hackney. I am really pleased with how the display looks, considering the problems we had to solve with the unusual shapes of the costume.

The exhibition, display and weekly social media posts documenting my placement and the menswear project have improved my ability to condense and communicate my research into compelling narratives to engage the public.

Thank you to the Costume Society for supporting my placement, allowing us to reveal the stories within the menswear collection.

The online menswear exhibition that Emily worked explores some of the lives revealed through costumes in the collection. From figures of authority to entertainers, the collection reveals a diverse range of stories. The menswear collection at Macclesfield Silk Museum spans from the 18th century to the 21st century revealing a huge range of ways in which men dressed and expressed their identities over time. The exhibition showcases four outfits belonging to men connected to Macclesfield. Through their clothing we will be sharing the stories of factory owner John Henry Neave; policeman Henry Sheasby; Sir Philip Lancaster Brocklehurst, and entertainer Arthur Hackney.

Bryony Renshaw, the curatorial project officer who supervised Emily's placement adds "At the start of the summer of 2022, the Silk Museum’s menswear collection was poorly documented. Many objects did not have records on the Modes database, with their only record being original index cards with outdated location information. This made it very difficult to know what was in the collection and where it was. Consequently menswear was rarely displayed. All this has now changed through work funded by the Costume Society’s Work Experience Grant.

The grant paid for Emily Lashford, a volunteer who had previously worked with the museum’s womenswear collection, to condition check, photograph and record the locations of 145 garments and accessories from the Silk Museum’s menswear collection. Her work revealed that the menswear collection is dominated by complete outfits of named individuals. Through contacting local societies and archives Emily was able to enrich our records through discovering photos and further information about the lives of these individuals.

The culmination of the project was the display of Emily’s favourite outfit; a Pierrot costume worn by local cabinet maker, Arthur Hackney, in the 1930s. This was mounted by Emily and was the first full menswear costume to be on display in the museum for at least a decade. In order to share more of the illuminating research conducted by Emily than was possible on site, Emily also developed an online exhibition showcasing the human stories that were previously hidden in the menswear collection.

Emily’s evident interest in the collection and determination to solve historical mysteries has meant that the museum is now not only able to find items of menswear to display, but also tell richer stories about the people who owned them. The legacy of the project has been immediately felt, with an increased use of the menswear collection in displays. Through Emily’s work in improving the documentation of the menswear collection it was possible to identify and find in store a waistcoat to be displayed as part of a Local LGBTQ+ History display. This would not have been possible previously. It is only thanks to Emily’s hard work, made possible by the generosity of the Costume Society, that we are now able to make use of this previously overlooked part of the Silk Museum’s collection."

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