Collections at the Heart of Transforming The Silk Museum

In 2020 we were delighted to be awarded a £12,000 grant from AIM to help tackle our costume collection which, due to muddled storage, sparse documentation and a lack of collection knowledge.

The project explored new approaches to storage, management and interpretation of the 700 piece collection, to transform the visitor experience and strengthen financial resilience.
External Conservator Zoe Lanceley led the project, who started auditing both the collection and consolidating conservation equipment spread across the museum. With the help of 5 volunteers and 2 staff members Zoe, completed audits for over 270 garments in the collection.

Costumes stored in labelled garment bags on rail. Image includes AiM (Association of Independent Museums) logo.

Zoe’s expertise was vital in developing new hanging storage to replace cramped boxing. Her knowledge gave the team confidence to make a radical change – creating a new conservation and storage room.
We developed new ways of working throughout Covid, with volunteers sewing 50 padded hangers and garment bags in their living rooms. We liaised with specialists online, connecting with 6 institutions; gaining insights in best practice and commercialising collections. Those connections led to online talks, reaching international audiences and developing a new income stream.

When lockdown was lifted we worked with a local group of neurodiverse students from Project Inc to develop social media content. Their creativity developed into regular posts #TextileThursday, which have doubled our online engagement.

‘The project was a game changer; revolutionising how we work and think about the collection and in the process ensured garments are safe guarded for future generations. No longer is this collection hiding in stores, with digital content raising its profile, reaching wider and diverse audiences’ 

Curator Kathryn Warburton

For the first time in 5 years we are finally in the position to work with Textile and Fashion students on a large scale, where we are looking forward to a new partnership with MMU in 2022. The results have informed funding applications to continue this work, such as the Madeline Ginsburg Grant. It also fed into the Macclesfield Stripe project – awarded by the Textile Society, becoming our primary focus of programming in 2021. The biggest impact has been the team’s new appreciation of costume, putting it in the forefront of future development plans for the museum.

We aim to be opening up the conservation and storage room to visitors in late Spring. If you are interested in viewing our costume collection for research or visual inspiration, please get in touch with: [email protected]