I have spent several months volunteering at the Warner Textile Archive; cleaning up the records of the Marianne Straub items in preparation for an exhibition at Braintree Museum. Having recently finished university, I wanted to gain more experience in museum and archive studies which I touched on during my Textiles Design degree. I wanted to use this opportunity to work towards a museum-based career.
My main role at the archive has been that of a detective. The Straub database was incomplete and based on older paper records, so sorting through every archive box containing her work was necessary. My visual textiles literacy was stretched and improved by working out which designs matched photos, earlier prototype designs and pieces in other boxes. This helped me to understand which records were missing and which pieces were mislabelled. Throughout this process I gained a level of understanding and expertise in Straub and her work, eventually being able to identify pieces which had been “lost” and not previously labelled as hers. Working so closely with the designs of one artist has been an incredibly interesting experience, and from a textiles design point of view I have found it fascinating to handle so many varied examples of hand and power weaving. As well as cataloguing, I also had the chance to carry out conservation cleaning, which allowed me to see how different items are stored and cared for.
Being part of the effort to clean up and improve archive records ahead of the move onto a new cataloguing system has been a great experience. I feel that I’ve done some valuable work in helping to make the Warner Textile Archive a better and more accessible educational resource. As well as this, I have aided in the improvement in quality of information and records on Marianne Straub, an important female designer whose work was key in shaping the textiles landscape in mid-century Europe.
I have recently begun a role in Visitor Experience for the Science Museum Group, and volunteering at the Warner Textile Archive has been the perfect stepping-stone to reach this point. I have greatly enjoyed my time at the Warner Textile Archive and look forward to seeing the Marianne Straub and Denise Hoyle exhibition at Braintree Museum.