AIM Pilgrim Trust Remedial Conservation Grant – Trowbridge Museum

Trowbridge Museum – AIM Pilgrim Trust Remedial Conservation Grant
AIM grant: £4,310
Restoration of two 1920s Flapper dresses

Trowbridge Museum opened to visitors in 1990 in a former woollen cloth mill. Showcasing rare textile industry machinery, we tell the story of woollen cloth production in the south west, together with the history of the area and its people over the last 1000 years. We are a small local authority museum with six members of staff and approximately 40 volunteers.

The aim of our project was to conserve and restore two beautiful 1920’s dresses from the museum’s collection and to shine a spotlight on women’s history, away from the well know industrial heritage of the town. Focusing on the more glamourous side to life in Trowbridge by exploring and sharing the stories of these two exquisitely beaded 1920’s ‘Flapper’ dresses and ultimately being able to display them.

The silk that these dresses have been made from had become fragile with age, and could not be lifted from their storage boxes without causing further damage. Restoration work was vital, to provide the dresses with support and stability so they can be displayed in the future.

Nikki Ritson the museum’s Collection and Exhibitions Officer said: “This grant has given us an opportunity to tell a story that we have not been able to before. Both dresses represent a huge movement in women’s history, not just in Trowbridge but nationally. The dresses symbolise the taste of freedom some women felt whilst the men were away fighting for the country during WW1. They stand for woman’s strength and resilience. They are their voice!

These dresses are also unlike most of our costume collection. They are adorned with thousands of beads and sequins and show more modern techniques of garment and pattern making, compared to the Victorian dresses we have always previously displayed.”

Specialist techniques were employed by Alison Lister and her team at the Textile Conservation Ltd. Studio in Bristol and have brought both garments back to life.

We have already felt the impact of receiving our grant. Social media posts reached 3561 reviews on our Facebook platform alone in just 6 posts, helping us promote the reopening of our museum in May and garnering interest from a much wider audience.

We also saw an increase in shares and likes on our socials during this fundraising campaign, helping us to further promote our re-opening and share our collections during the uncertain times of the pandemic.

Nikki Ritson Collection and Exhibition Officer, Trowbridge Museum 

Pictured: Pink beaded Flapper dress after conservation; Purple beaded Flapper dress after conservation.