Hi There. Hope you have had a good week! I have been very busy with work and packing for a holiday in Nice & San Remo! This week I got to travel to Dan Winter’s cottage and visit the museum there. Dan Winter’s cottage is famous for being the birthplace of the Orange Order in 1795 and is still owned by a descendant of Dan Winter.
This blog post shall not concentrate on the Orange Order aspect of the cottage. However,it shall concentrate on the extensive collection of personal family items that are on show in the museum. The museum is not professionally run, so expect no fancy display cases. Instead it is run by the Winter’s family and everything is higgildy piggidly all over the place!
However, the way things are displayed within the museum tell the story of a family that has lived at the same site for centuries. It is a personal collection curated in such a fashion that it gives a real insight into the day to day lives of generations of Winter’s family. The Oxford dictionary explains the word ‘curate’ as:
”Select, organize and look after the items in (a collection
There is no mention of a curator or a museum, as in today’s ever changing museum world anyone can be a curator. The guardian has wrote about this subject here. So who is to say that a member of the family that the museum is based on can’t be a ‘curator’ of their family ‘collection?’
Personally, I found the most interesting items in the collection to be textile and children’s items. There were numerous displays of linen undergarments including underpants (and ‘Summer’ underpants, that the host at the museum said to try and guess why there was a whole in them!), corsets, hosiery and this beautiful 1920’s wedding dress! (Pictured above in the family photo.)
Silk, lace, linen and muslin wedding dress c 1928.
Selection of linen undergarments c 1890’s – 1940’s.
1920’s/1930’s under wear including the ‘Summer’ pants.
Child’s linen Christening dress c 1890’s – 1920’s.
I find that the history of a group of people or one person can be told through the garments they wore. It can tell you their social status, their wealth, their job from the very fabric the garment is made out if. You can discern a poorer person from the rougher, cheaper cuts of fabric on their clothes. Where as an Upper Class lady would have had the latest fashions in the most expensive fabrics available.
This is no where more true than in the Winter families collection of clothes it charts generations going from poverty to prosperity. It shows the changes in women’s fashion as their roles changed and even the fabrics themselves change as more and more people used man made fabrics.
The ‘history’ of a garment and how it is displayed within heritage and museum sites is something that I have always been interested in. I hope to address this interest in future museum/heritage site visits asking questions such as ‘Why is this dress displayed like this?, ‘Who was this person?’ and ‘What role did they play in society?’
The visit to Dan Winter’s cottage has got me thinking, (as long with my approach to future museum visits), as to how I can incorporate strands of stories in displays of textiles in my own museum practice. I shall endeavour to research the history of the garment’s owner to give the viewer a more complete history. If there is no information on the owner, I shall then tell the story from the era the garment is from. I have never felt this inspired from one museum visit before and long may the inspiration continue!
I leave you now with some more pictures from Dan Winter’s cottage!
Ladies fur stole and gloves c 1920’s – 1950’s.
Mr & Mrs Winter late 1920’s.
Small child’s bed c 1920’s – 1940’s.
Ration book for Winter family c WW2 (1939 – 1945).