Wednesday, 20 May 2020

New Art Fund Grant for MoDiP

We are pleased to announce that in our role as convener of the Plastics SSN (PSSN), and jointly with the Dress and Textiles Specialists (DATS), we have been successful with our grant application for MoDiP for £14,500 towards Art Fund’s ‘Network grants’ scheme. The project runs from May 2020 to April 2022.

Detail from a dress made from a flocked but unspecified synthetic material. 
It is typical of the kind of objects the project will enable us to research.

The grant is for creating a resource that will share research, promote best practice, and build museum staff skills and confidence in a significant but neglected subject area: garments made from synthetic materials for example viscose, Terylene™ and Lycra™. Its purpose is to equip museum staff with the knowledge and confidence to engage the public with these collections. The partnership will combine expertise in traditional state-of-the-art curatorial care for garments with an understanding of the complex needs of this materials group.

The project has three components:
  • Sharing of recent research, knowledge and good practice relating to synthetic garments at four expert workshops at museums with complementary collections.
  • Co-development of a unique online toolkit based on information gathered at the workshops.  
  •  Two workshops for grassroots members of both networks to introduce the toolkit and provide evaluation.

The expert workshops will be small, focused and participatory. Each will take the same format with two 30 minute presentations, one by a guest speaker sharing specialist expertise and the other by the curator focused on issues raised by the host's collection. These will be followed by in depth discussions of at least 10 objects, sourced from the hosts’ and delegates' collections, in real or digital form, depending on their vulnerability. Discussion, led by each object's curator, will focus on care, preventive conservation, documentation and interpretation.

Detail of another dress made with unidentified synthetic material.

The toolkit will bring together a collection of 40 objects selected from those discussed, supplemented as necessary to provide a balanced representation of the subject from high fashion to sportswear.  Versions of the toolkit will be available both on the DATS website: https://www.dressandtextilespecialists.org.uk/ and on the PSSN microsite: https://www.modip.ac.uk/projects/plastics-ssn.

The grassroots workshops will provide supportive training environments for members of both networks. As well as providing a CPD opportunity, especially for those who prefer a more active method of engagement, the workshops will provide evaluation on the prototype toolkit.

The application was submitted just before the full impact of Covid-19 was completely apparent. Our original intention was to hold the workshops at four venues across the country at three-month intervals starting in the autumn. However with museums now closed for the foreseeable future this schedule may need to be revised. This project is centred on people getting together, looking closely at museum objects and discussing them face-to-face. It is hard to see quite how else we can make it work, however, as we are still six months away from when we hoped to hold the first workshop, maybe by then ‘a new normal’ will have been created which will make it feasible. 

Detail of a skirt made from 35% polyester and 65% polyurethane. 
It is unusual to know so much about the material. Research into the object may help us learn more about other less well documented objects in the collection.

We would like to thank the Art Fund. Their aim network grants  provide funding to support Subject Specialist Networks (SSNs) in sharing expertise across the museum sector, for the benefit of collections and audiences.  The process has been refreshingly straightforward with staff members on hand throughout the process to discuss the application and provide advice.  We would also like to take this opportunity to encourage anyone who is interested in being involved with the project to get in touch by emailing modip@aub.ac.uk.

Professor Susan Lambert, Chief Curator, MoDiP

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