Sunday, May 27, 2012

Wellcome Collection

“Painters have presented to us with some horrour the skeleton… but the state of a body, in the dissolution of the grave, no pencil can present to us. Between that excremental jelly that thy body is made of… and that jelly which thy body dissolves to…. There is not noisome, so putrid a thing in nature.” (Sermon XCV, John Donne)

When I was in London before the Easter I had a Friday afternoon to kill before meeting a dear friend. Another friend had recently recommended the Wellcome Collection to me, as one of London's premier quirkier and free museums. It's a hop, skip and jump from Euston station and St. Pancreas, an ideal location to kill some time. Here art and artefact meet the bizzare.

Again, this is where I bemoan the quality of my camera, but here are a few of the more SFW (safe for work) objects that caught my eye.

A pair of moccasins owned by Florence Nightingale, 19th century

Vanitas ceramic portrait head, 18th century

Silver vanitas statuettes, 18th century

Vanitas objects and portraits were popular in the 17th and 18th centuries. Their purpose was a symbolic one, the macabre imagery was to remind the owner of the transience of life and the deposition of the body after death. A gruesome warner to the beholder to mind what they do in this life, should they suffer in the next! John Donne wrote some grisly verse on the onset of death (See above).

A collection of artificial limbs, mostly 19th and early 20th century.
I love the spook element of these, how they are displayed upright and facing the visitor as if they are approaching powered by a supernatural will!

Grotesque paintings, a small part of a selection hung on the wall.

The lush glass display cases, wooden panelling and intimate layout of the exhibition space remind me of a Victorian connoisseur's private collection (which indeed it was at one point), walking around it was like being introduced into the inner sanctum. I'm sure not many respectable Victorian ladies would have been given the private tour after dinner parties!

Sir Henry Solomon Wellcome (1853-1936) was a pharmacist, entrepreneur, philanthropist and collector is the man behind the Wellcome Collection. An esoteric Victorian collector, the massive volume of objects held in his collection after his death included a lock of Napoleon's hair to Japanese turn-of-the-century sex aids. There is a heavy medical and instructive theme to the collection.

The shop and café were divine places to lounge afterward. Lots of beautiful hardback art books with Renaissance anatomical drawings and macabre imagery. Too large to fit in my hand luggage for the journey home. A postcard had to suffice (more within my price range, to be fair).

Ladies and gentlemen, the above illustrates one of the many reasons why I am a Victorianist. They were mighty eccentric folk!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Titanic Belfast, Belfast, N. Ireland

Front view, Titanic Belfast. CivicArts / Eric R. Kuhne & Associates & London Todd Architects, Belfast

Due to the large volumes of visitors they only let in groups of people every 20 minutes. You wait in the queue at the bottom of the escalators. It became obvious that most visitors went in groups, I was one of the few individual visitors. Its very much a day out for families, tourists, and schoolgroups. The building is buzzing with all the activity of the exhibition on the upper floors, and the Galley restaurant and shop on the ground floor. The ground floor itself is a bit of organised chaos, a bit confusing when you first enter the building.

'Boomtown Belfast'
The first stage of the exhibition, aims to set the scene, or context of the period in which the RMS Titanic set sail. It was a politically potent time in Northern Ireland (as the sandwich boards and banners reflect). These were the years before the Republic of Ireland attained its sovereignty from Britain.

Large screens display archive footage of the streets of Belfast, whilst silhouettes in period clothing walk vertically across the screen every now and them, coupled with the noise of the archive city to recreate the experience of the city. Personally I felt like it added another distraction to a room already filled with people and interactive exhibits.

We are given a run through of life in Belfast at the time, Belfast as "Linenopolis". Linen was a particularly strong industry in Northern Ireland throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, until the turn of the century. Belfast had a strong shipbuilding heritage, like Glasgow, Liverpool and Southampton. RMS Titanic was constructed in the iconic Harland and Wolff shipyard. Titanic Belfast is built on part of the site occupied by Harland and Wolff's shipyard.

Initially I enjoyed how the exhibits explored the social and economic background of Belfast and the Harland and Wolff workers, from the dockers to the office men. Unfortunately, I found in the absence of artefacts, a lot of interactive screens were cluttered around the gallery to make up for this lack of primary sources (a common theme throughout the exhibition itself). They were noisy, and for me, ultimately unengaging, I would have preferred to have looked at contemporary artefacts instead of playing around on a computer screen, or playing an interactive game.

The building work records that original Harland and Woolf gates were installed as part of Titanic Belfast's construction, I'm not entirely sure if these were them, as they are quite a focal point.

As I progressed further, a bizarre turn of events took place, unlike anything I've seen or expected from a museum. I joined a lengthly queue to wait on a Shipyard Ride. The ride was an audio and visual guide as it took you on a tour of a recreated shipyard, informing you how a ship was made, what sort of materials were used, how much manpower would have gone into the construction of the RMS Titanic. It was a bit of a novelty and I suppose if it had been composed as a standard "What was the Shipyard like?" exhibit it wouldn't have been as engaging. I really don't think that it added anything to the experience for me, I would rather have progressed through the exhibition at my own pace and not spent ten minutes queuing for ride that I couldn't just skip past. It was a novelty, but it is a concept that could potentially date very rapidly, five, or ten years down the line.

'The Launch' gallery was exciting - I loved the frosted glass that looks out upon the original launch site. I don't have any pictures sadly, but I thought this gallery was a lovely addition to the flow of the museum. It lent a brief moment of contemplation to the visitor as you progress through the museum.

Original White Star Line first class crockery, from RMS Titanic, originally made by The Royal Crown Derby Porcelain Company

'The Fit Out' gallery was the one I was most looking forward to, owing to my own interest in interiors. This gallery recreated three bedrooms, for first, second and third class passengers on the Titanic. These were contained behind glass, and included video projections of people in the costume of the period, according to class. One of the shortcomings of relying too heavily on interactive exhibits was glaringly in evidence here, at least two of the projections were not working while I was there. I think displaying the costumes of the time alongside the room refits would have been more effective, and significantly less hassle. I don't especially need to see a projection of someone in character brushing their hair to help me understand what someone does in their cabin.

This room had a small amount of artefacts, it also had a walkthrough of the styles used in the interiors, and particularly the dining rooms of the the Titanic, comparing it to other luxury liners of its time. Titanic's interiors were far superior to cruise liners of the period, particularly for second and third class passengers. Obviously, displaying genuine artefacts here is an issue, considering most of them are buried 4km below the Atlantic ocean. It was more how they were displayed that I had issue with, but overall, save for the room refits, I felt this gallery was laid out appropriately.

I was particularly piqued by this recognition of Ireland's Titanic town. Mary Mangan was one of 14 passengers from a small community in County Mayo, in the Republic of Ireland. Addergoole Parish (Lagardane) is so-called 'Ireland's Titanic town' as this community suffered the most loss of life in the tragedy, proportionate to its population. Eleven of the fourteen passengers from Addergoole died when RMS Titanic sank on her maiden voyage.

These personal vignettes give the passengers motives for being on the Titanic, some are more poignant than others, such as "Home to show off the ring".

The Maiden Voyage
This is where things started to get personal. For me, this was the most effective element of the whole exhibition. It features the personal stories of the passengers and crew, and their motives for sailing on RMS Titanic. Individual stories were highlighted according to where the passenger docked. On its maiden voyage RMS Titanic had four stop off points on its journey: Belfast, Southampton, Cherbourg and Cobh (then known as Queenstown).

Father Browne's iconic photographs were used to maintain the link between the previous exhibit as one went down the stairs to The Sinking gallery.

The whole architecture of the building itself was very angular, one could look over railings to the floors below, and the large domineering windows that looked out onto the harbour gave one the illusion of being on a deck.

Four more galleries followed after this which I will sum up briefly as I have no visual guides (I didn't take pictures to be honest). The Sinking is an interactive exhibit, with icy cold air conditioning recreating the atmosphere on the Atlantic on that faithful night, with morse code signals ringing in our ears. This seemed fairly effective as my fellow passengers, nay, visitors got quite emotional throughout the course of this. Interactive screens profiled individual passengers and rescue stories.

The heroism and horror of Titanic’s final hours are induced with atmospheric sound and lighting to create a subtle and moving evocation of the ship’s catastrophic and untimely demise.

The Aftermath - This exhibit details the trials that took place on both sides of Atlantic after the sinking of the Titanic. It also highlights the recommendations that influenced major changes in maritime regulations to enforce new safety measures, such as ensuring that more lifeboats were provided. Some of the American trial is reacted in a visual exhibit, something we have already established that Titanic Belfast is preoccupied with.

Myths and Legends brings together the many stories, media reports, legends and fantasies that have grown up around the Titanic story. Displays of Titanic memorabilia (from the tame to the tasteless: Titanic ice cube tray anyone?), clips from movies and musicals (Celine Dion on a 5 minute loop really) form the basis of this exhibit. It gives you an opportunity to giggle at the recognise iconography and myth that has grown up around the Titanic myth.

One of the most compelling exhibits Visit & Explore the Wreck gave the visitor access to Dr. Ballard’s high-definition footage from the wreckage. Ballard and his team discovered the wreck of the Titanic in 1985, 4km below sea level. For me, absorbed as I was within the theatre that this footage was being played, the concept was a little marred by a clunky, scripted narrative by two actors who made subjective comments on selected items of debris around the ship (shoes, crockery, etc).

The final exhibit, the Ocean Exploration Centre was made up of... interactive exhibits! You can never have enough, or can you? While not directly linked to the Titanic the aim of this exhibit is to explore what makes up our oceans and aims to provide up to date information on marine biology and archaeology. There was some interesting information panels but ultimately it didn't hold much of my interest so I made a quick exit. I have no doubt that it would interest some people but for me it felt anticlimatic as an end to the "Titanic experience".

One of the Samson and Goliath shipbuilding cranes. These two twin cranes are still in use today and their imposing presence in the harbour around Titanic Belfast allude to the city's shipbuilding history.

Titanic Belfast is ambitious in its vision, I'm not certain if it hasn't isolated part of its market by being just too interactive, at the cost of a real human connection with the objects and the story. Everything is new and glossy, but what will happen when the initial crowds reduce in the coming years. It will be interesting to see how the surrounding Titanic Quarter develops as a cultural hub for Belfast and beyond.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

My volunteering past, present and future

It's Irish National Volunteering Week, May 14th - 20th. Reading the press coverage and hearing people talk about it prompted me to reflect on my own volunteering past.

1. The Charity Shop
As much as I'd love to give the impression of my teenage self being an individual committed to do-gooding, my first volunteering role was forced upon me, volunteering wasn't very sexy then. I was 16 and I was working towards my bronze President's Award. Swanky volunteering websites weren't around then to help guide me in searching for volunteering opportunities. This particular charity shop in my home town was fairly grim (it still is) and my friend and I were kept like orphans in the attic, deemed too naive to work on the shop floor we were regulated to sorting out size tags, donations and steaming a seemingly never ending pile of polyester suits.

Now why would I write about National Volunteering Week beginning with such a negative anecdote? Well, you take the good with the bad. My first experience wasn't the most enjoyable, I did my bit and forgot about volunteering for the next few years, exams came and went and I found myself in university, making new friends, enjoying the odd party, but I craved something more, and then I found UCD Greens...

UCD Greens and UL Greens with Brother Anthony, Glenstal Abbey, November 2009

2. The Conservation weekend
I began university in September 2007, but it wasn't until the following year that I became involved with the UCD Greens, my university's environmental society. In November of that year I went on the groups annual "Weekend in the Woods", at Glenstal Abbey, Co. Limerick. We spent a couple of nights in a self-catering old cottage on the estate. During the day we assisted Brother Anthony in clearing areas of weeds, overgrown trees and rubbish, thus allowing new foliage to grow and wildlife to flourish. It was a weekend of intense work, by night we enjoyed a home-cooked meal, eaten around a fire fuelled by wood cut with our bare hands and mulled over our physical and spiritual well being with the indomitable Brother Anthony, and a guitar if someone brought it! The next year, 2009, I was in charge of organizing the weekend, in collaboration with the UL Greens, and it was just as intense and as fulfilling as the year preceding it. I gained organizational, conservational and people skills as a result.

Getting to grips with hard work / The last supper at Glenstal

3. Invigilating
The summer after I finished my undergraduate degree, in that lull inbetween moving to Scotland for my postgraduate course, I found it difficult to find any summer work in my town. So I thought a valuable use of my time would be to find volunteering opportunities in my area. I wanted to find something that would compliment my interests and skills. The Model gallery had just reopened, so I took up an invigilating role there. It only required 4 hours a week of my time. This way I was able to become familiar with the day to day workings inside a gallery setting, having those 4 hours to reflect and to liaise with the visitors. I also took up a position (committing to 4 hours a week) at the Yeats Society, in a similar role, invigilating the permanent Yeats exhibition as well as welcoming and advising tourists. Neither of these roles were immensely demanding but they enabled me to exercise the knowledge I had attained throughout my degree and put it to practical use. I was in a position to attain new skills, in a cultural and heritage focused environment.

The Niland Gallery at The Model

4. Charity shop
In 2010 Mary Portas was making the charity shop sexy again. As a student, due to necessity, coupled with my own self interest, I had become more thrifty, spending more time browsing charity shops than Topshop. Oxfam had opened in my home town in 2009, so in the summer of 2010, having worked in customer service and retail before, I was curious as to what went on behind the scenes of a charity shop. Of course, I was eager to make use of one of the perks of charity shop work - getting first dibs on any donations that passed through my hands (within reason!). This was an active and engaging role, I worked two 4 hour shifts a week, with 2-3 other volunteers on each shift. Having become interested in vintage and charity shopping as a student I had a keen eye for styling. In this role I was given the freedom to express my creativity, I was put in charge of the window dressing on a number of occasions. This I particularly enjoyed, having studied an aesthetic subject for three years I was able to mix and match with whimsical abandon. My involvement with environmental groups throughout uni meant I was all the more conscious of consumer consumption and recycling, so my passion for a "reduce, reuse, recycle" frame of mind really shone through in my enthusiasm for the job, and aligned with the company's aims. I interacted with managements, fellow staff and customers in this role.

1. The GFT, / 2. GFT seats, (source)

5. The arthouse cinema
As a student and a film fiend, I found myself filling the September afternoons when I didn't have classes by walking into Glasgow City Centre to attend an afternoon matinee at the GFT (£3.50 a ticket!) The first film I watched in the majestic art deco inspired surroundings of Screen 1 was Metropolis. I was hooked. I would go online weekly to check the listings and through my browsing I found that they were looking for volunteer ushers. It was a perfect commitment, one shift a week, covering two films, and free access to films whenever I pleased outside that. I could expand my knowledge of film, see films I'd never have watched otherwise, meet like minded people and partake in something that was a habit of mine anyway (going to the pictures). It was a diverse, and engaging environment. I worked there for seven months and don't regret a moment of it. I was able to help out at press events, live Q&As and films festivals, something I wouldn't otherwise have had the chance to participate in.

Persian carpet design, the Stoddard-Templeton design archive

6. Working in an archive
A work placement module was offered as part of my postgrad course. It seemed like the sensible option, particularly for my career aspirations, as the field of arts & culture calls for a strong background and experience within the sector. It would improve my employability, and considering it was affiliated with the university I was attending it was a role that might not have been advertised or open to me otherwise. My placement was within the University of Glasgow archive services. The project I worked on was the Stoddard-Templeton design archive. My responsibilities resulted in my gaining valuable new skills such as object handling, identification and evaluation of archive material, object-based research and digitization of fragile material. Five months of cataloguing and repackaging carpet designs, also resulted in me conducting some research into the persian carpet designs in the archive, this culminated in my collating a blog post and an illustrated report on my research. The blog post was a general one, entitled 'The Persian Carpet in the West' whereas the illustrated report was more specific to the project, and the archive, 'Illustrated report on the influence of the Persian Art Exhibition (London, 1931) on Templeton’s design and carpets'. This project had to be condensed into a poster presentation that I gave to my peers, on an open afternoon where we discussed the outcomes of our individual work placements. The insight gained from sharing stories and shortcomings was fascinating. I think it is so important for volunteers to have meetings like this regularly as it gives them a chance to meet liked minded people and also offers a forum to give advice and to network.

Some advice- Much to my own benefit, I was expected to formulate both personal and professional objectives within the first couple of weeks of my placement. This is something I would stress to anyone taking on a voluntary position - make a list of objectives before you start, to determine what YOU want from taking on this unpaid responsibility. If within the first few weeks you haven't ticked off any of these, or added any to the list, perhaps it is time to reassess your motivations for being there, and find an alternative position. Your heart must be in it, otherwise neither you, or the organisation you are working for, will gain anything from your time.

This post could have been twice as long, I had to rein myself in, but volunteering is something I am very passionate about. At a time of so many cuts to government funding, community engagement and supporting the arts is more important than ever.

My strong background in volunteering helped me to gain my first internship at one of Ireland's leading regional galleries. Hopefully in the near future I will find a paid position to apply my skills and enthusiasm to!

Volunteer Ireland
Sligo Volunteer Centre
Voluntary Arts How helping others makes you happier AND healthier

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Ireland's Favourite Painting

Last month I blogged about Jack B. Yeats' Communicating with Prisoners and why it was significant to me (social history, feminism, etc).

Yours truly admiring the painting in question (this was definitely, maybe, posed)

Well there's less than a week left to cast your vote. The Model in Sligo is the only regional museum outside of Dublin to have a painting shortlisted. This is a major point, the gallery receives much less visitors, funding and publicity than Dublin based galleries. This would be such a major boost for the gallery, and Sligo.

You can vote here (you can vote as often as you like, restricted to once a day), and read about the other shortlisted works, until 2pm GMT next Monday.

Show your support for rural galleries!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sassoon and the Salon

Shot by David Bailey, 1965
Vidal Sassoon, 1928 – 2012

I had only been thinking of Vidal Sassoon the day previous to his passing, I was well in need of a haircut and I was daydreaming that one day I would be brave enough to adopt one of his cropped styles. I watched the documentary on his life last winter, How One Man Changed the World With a Pair of Scissors, when it was broadcast on BBC.

Sassoon's "wash-and-wear" philosophy with his geometric, "Bauhaus-inspired" precision cuts, perfected at his London salon, liberated a new generation of women from the time consuming perms and updos that had previously been the vogue. The attraction of his styles for women was that they were modern and low maintenance. That's a philosophy I'm well on board with!

Sassoon giving Quant the famous five point cut in his salon
Quant remembers Sassoon: "Vidal Sassoon revolutionised the way women thought about their hair. Before Vidal, they just had a ‘hairdo’. Then Vidal invented cut and style. He was a visionary. He didn’t do perms and sets. He saw that, like architecture — for which he had a passion — hair could be cut into bold, unfussy, structured shapes."

Sassoon's aesthetic was inspired by Bauhaus-style architecture that was springing up in London and the UK throughout the 1950s and 1960s. He seen that the fabric of the cities themselves were changing and while British interiors were transitioning, he introduced the pioneering style into his salons as well. Modern architecture rejected ornament, embraced the machine aesthetic (the interior particularly) and form was to follow function. Sassoon's style characterised this, he succeeded in curating the art of every day life through his expertly crafted and executed styles for the average woman.

Bauhaus school, 1925-27, Dessau, Walter Gropius.

Robin Hood Gardens social housing complex, 1968-72), East London, Alison and Peter Smithson. (Photo © Chris Guy via archdaily)

Grace Coddington modeling the five point cut.
Sassoon used these images to advertise his cuts in his salons.

In accordance with Sassoon's aesthetic, his revolution was not restricted to women's hair alone, but the stage in which Sassoon himself played the lead role, the salon itself. He is responsible for the salon environment as we know it now. He favoured contemporary sleek furniture, the windows of his salons looked in on the customers and his staff at work, creating an modern, open setting, where ideas took shape and experiments were played out on a vibrant set.

Exterior of the New Bond St. salon in the 1960s, this photo really shows off the sleek, modernist exterior and how it creates a sharp contrast to the surrounding buildings.

Master of all he surveys: Sassoon in his 171 New Bond Street salon in the mid 1960s.

VS New Bond Street salon in the mid-1970s (Photo © RIBA, excuse the watermark!)

Vidal was the rockstar of the hair world. His salons were new, sexy and modern - all chrome and mirrors, bustling with fashionable young people.

Stills from Repulsion, 1965

Art meets life. Roman Polanski chose to set a scene from Repulsion with Catherine Deneuve using Sassoon's busy London salon as the set for the film's beauty salon.
In some of these shots you can just about spot some of the iconic images of VS cuts, including the infamous image of Nancy Kwan's asymmetrical bob.

(You can find the whole film on youtube.)

See more:
Wallpaper magazine: Vidal Sassoon's ode to architecture

Master Cutter: An Interview with Vidal Sassoon (W Magazine)

How To Get Your Salon Interior Right, British Journal of Hairdressing, interesting in comparing Sassoon's influence on salon interiors.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Sheelin Antique Irish Lace Museum & Shop, Co. Fermanagh

With the encouragement of a couple of blogging friends, I've decided to focus more on the things that I am passionate about, such as day tripping to museums/galleries/heritage sites.

I am particularly interested in visiting regional museums, places that are less likely to see a large influx of visitors, or to receive as much governmental funding. I am interested in seeing the impact this has on the museum itself - in terms of displays, the didactics (text panels & labelling), the information available to visitors, its perceived audience and its online presence (which is the beating heart of all the major cultural institutions we know).

A few weeks ago, a weekend visit from a dear friend prompted a visit to the village of Bellanaleck on the outskirts of Enniskillen, just under an hour away by car from Sligo.

The Sheelin Antique Irish Lace Museum and Shop is housed cosily within a beautiful thatched cottage, with tearooms adjacent, owned by the same family.

You gain entry to the museum through the shop, which itself sells a range of beautiful antique Irish and European lace, as well as vintage wedding gowns and accessories. My only purchase was a 50p postcard! It really is a charming entrance, and heightens the anticipation as you enter further inside, to find the museum at the rear of the shop.

View of museum displays (with a cameo by yours truly!)

Irish crochet jacket, lace jacket - the displays were a mix of hand worked lace and machine lace - but the information panels didn't specify the differences, which we would have liked to have known, so we made some amateur guesses ourselves.*

This dress was donated by a member of the McGuinness family (the name escapes me now), with hand-painted floral detail and possibly swarovski crystals adorning the skirt. Some of the detail looks to have been added by hand but I can't be sure.

The detail adorns every element of the dresses on display. Imagine the effect once of these gowns trailing across the floor at a grand ball would have made. It really is beautifully laid out, it gives the visitor a sense of intimacy as opposed to the sterile atmosphere typically found in museums. Being a regional museum, with a smaller audience, and an adjoining shop selling antique lace, they have an advantage over larger museums whom would have a larger volume of people and therefore would need to be more protective of their fragile and valuable exhibits. I felt quite privileged as I walked around, almost as if I was a trusted confidante walking around the substantial wardrobe of a nineteenth-century socialite.

I loved how the dresses were presented on these mannequins, displaying them to their full effect. I however, would have liked to have known the provenance of these dresses. The only information given was on a number of discrete text panels, which explained the different types of Irish lace (Carrickmacross lace, Limerick lace, Irish crochet, Youghal lace, etc).

The sight of so many dresses, flounces and fans set us into a state of girly excitement, so we took some pictures to give an impression of the romantic aesthetic effect of the museum and shop.

Carrickmacross lace piece, with peacock detail. Dated 1910. The majority of the pieces in the museum date from the 1890s - 1910s, a highly productive period in Irish lacemaking.

I only wish that I had taken a notebook with me to note the different styles of my favourite dresses on display and I could have been more specific in this post, but if you're in this part of the world you may be tempted to come!
Also on display is a beautiful Youghal needlelace flounce, with harps and music note detailing, formally owned by the family of the late princess, Lady Diana Spencer. This type of "Irishy" design was very common for the period, usually commissioned by rich Ladies as a tangible display of their philanthropic interests (such as the Irish cause/helping the Irish poor).

The shop is a literal boudoir, a bride-to-be's dream, and more.

Beautiful window displays

Trinkets and charms on sale

Ornate hankerchiefs of Limerick and Carrickmacross lace.

After feasting our eyes on the aesthetic delights that the small museum and shop offered, we decided to treat ourselves to some afternoon tea in the Sheelin Tea Rooms next door. I'm sure the convenience offered by the benefits both the shop and the museum. I enjoyed a victoria sponge, whilst my friend and father had the apple tart. The staffed seemed rushed off their feet, the small tea room was about two thirds full on this Saturday afternoon.

Entry to the museum is £2.50 per person, which in my eyes is perfectly reasonable, considering you are making a small contribution to the continuation of this wonderful gem in the Fermanagh countryside. The museum opens from April through to October. I was pleasantly surprised that the guestbook had signatures from all over the world.

Some background history...

The revival of Irish lace and the cottage industries
The cottage industries in Ireland were the projects of philanthropists. Their aim was to provide “relief work” for the rural peasantry, supplying workers with a regular income for their family, and an occupation. For these lady philanthropists the notion of revitalising the countryside held a more personal motivation, it carried a powerful humanitarian and patriotic appeal. In these areas the basic production standards were in place for the creation of textiles but they were in need of updating in terms of style and quality, in order to market them to the fashion conscious urban consumer. Designs for lace

Queen Victoria was a fervent patron of Irish lace, and encouraged the ladies within her court to purchase and wear Irish lace. The purchase of national products had become a fashionable cause during the latter part of the century. The drive to buy British was a large boost to the regeneration of cottage industries. A significant part of the attraction included the revival of what was perceived as “national patterns” (harps, shamrocks, etc).

*I have since been in touch with Rosemary Cathcart who informs me that all the antique lace in the museum is hand worked and there is no machine made lace amongst the collection. (8/6/2012)

Read more:
Cottage Industries: Arts and Crafts in Donegal, 1880-1920
Cottage Industries In Scotland And Ireland
Art and the National Dream: Search for Vernacular Expression in Turn-of-the-century Design
British and Irish Home Arts and Industries 1880-1914: Marketing Craft, Making Fashion