The HLF project team have been busy planning the opening World War One themed exhibition for the new West Yorkshire History Centre, due to open in late 2016. As part of this exhibition local textiles and fashion students have been designing and making garments inspired by our WW1 collections. 32 students from Wakefield College and Barnsley College have been to visit the archives in Wakefield and Leeds to develop ideas from the fascinating and poignant WW1 collections that we care for.
The students, many of whom had only limited knowledge about the war, spent time looking at, reading and handling original documents at the archive service to help them guide their design work, with many taking inspiration from war diaries, love letters and gifts such as embroidered hankies sent from the front line, trench maps and photos of women working on the land, in munitions factories, as members of the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps and as nurses in local hospitals. Students also looked at the Hainsworth collection (WYL2325 & WYL2139), which contains fantastic swatches of fabric used for military uniforms and the Schofields of Leeds collection (WYL1262/39) to gain an insight into fashion during the war period. Following their visit to the archive service, the groups went to Hainworths mill in Pudsey who have a long history of creating cloth for the military and were the inventors and sole producers of genuine khaki serge. Here they witnessed fabric manufacturing at a working mill before going on to explore the rich archive at Sunny Bank Mills in Farsley who also supplied Khaki fabric for military uniforms during the war. This research work has fed into creative sketchbooks, mood-boards and samples and has culminated in the students printing fabric and designing garments based on what they have seen. These will form an exciting part of the opening exhibition and will help us to interpret and explore archive collections in new ways for our audiences. Wakefield museum will be supporting the exhibition by curating some of the garments in their exhibition spaces in Wakefield One.