The latest Courtauld National Partners collaboration with Greenfield Valley Heritage Park and their fantastic team of volunteers is now open to the public at Flint Library.
The Voices of Courtaulds exhibition is based on the memories and photographs of Courtauld employees from the five Flintshire factory sites. Courtaulds had three factory sites in Flint: Aber Works, Deeside Mills and Castle Works, and two rayon production facilities at Greenfield named Number 1 and 2. At its height, the Courtauld company employed over 10,000 people in Flintshire.
Voices of Courtaulds explores the stories of the generations of families that worked there, including displays about the clubs, societies and sporting events, the different types of jobs and training, and the importance of Rayon. Over 120 former employees and local residents contributed their stories to the exhibition through drop-in Story Shops held in Flint and Holywell.
In September, the exhibition will move to a new exhibition space at Greenfield Valley Heritage Park to join a bigger display about Courtaulds in Flintshire, which will include audio recordings of former employees, resource packs for schools and an online catalogue of artefacts collected during the project.
National Museums NI has released a Northern Ireland-wide call-out to former employees of Courtaulds Ltd. factories once based in Carrickfergus, Markethill, Irvinestown, Limavady, Cookstown and Plumbridge, to get in touch. It plans to collect memories and memorabilia as well as first-hand accounts from past employees of the textiles manufacturer.
As part of the Courtauld National Partners Programme, National Museums NI is working with a network of volunteers to encourage the public to come forward and share their accounts. The plan is to collect and record the available information and create a celebration of Courtaulds Ltd. and the impact it had here in Northern Ireland.
Former employees can share their experiences and stories by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved.
Last week, we were thrilled to host Anna Liesching, Curator of Art at Ulster Museum, to discuss future partnerships between the Courtauld and National Museums Northern Ireland, and to take a look at some of the many activities currently happening in and around the gallery.
The week was packed with research and in depth meetings with curators, registrars, public programmes, and the research forum team, to plan our Autumn 2020 exhibition – details to be announced soon! – but we still found time to explore, including looking at some of the highlights of our works on paper collection during a visit to the store rooms and joining one of the MA classes of the Courtauld Institute to find out about the ongoing conservation work to Botticelli’s Holy Trinity at the National Gallery (find out more about the project here: https://courtauld.ac.uk/botticelli-holy-trinity-conservation).
We have lots more planned for our partnership in Northern Ireland, as well as the exhibition later this year we will be collaborating with NMNI to engage volunteers and schools in exploring the heritage of fashion and textiles in their area. Keep an eye on our news page to find out more.
Our partnership exhibition with Braintree Museum has got off to a tremendous start and last week welcomed over 200 half-term visitors to take part in activities related to the Courtauld family.
The exhibition Courtaulds: Origin, Innovation, Family looks at the history of the Courtauld family and their textile company from the founding of the first mill in 1816. Visitors can explore artefacts that illuminate the Courtauld family’s history – including a suffragette poster designed by Catherine Courtauld, from the Women’s Library, London; the remains from Augustin Courtauld’s Arctic flag from the Scott Polar Institute, alongside loans from the Courtauld Family’s Private Collection.
A highlight of the exhibition is a display of four prints by Paul Gauguin on loan from the Courtauld Gallery. The rare woodblock prints, from the Noa Noa series, were purchased by Samuel Courtauld in 1924, and depict imaginary scenes influenced by Gauguin’s time in Tahiti. By the end of the 1920s Courtauld held the most important collection of works by Gauguin in Britain, including 10 prints, five paintings and one sculpture.
There is also an opportunity to hear the memories of former employees of the Courtauld factories recorded by a fantastic group of local volunteers, alongside examples of the fabrics and clothes they produced, and archive material relating to the company.
The exhibition is open until 30th May 2020 and special events, such as curator’s tours, talks and hands-on crafts, will run regularly. Find out more on Braintree Museum’s website: https://www.braintreemuseum.co.uk/
Guest Blog by Thanh Sinden – Inclusion and Engagement Specialist
Over the summer of 2019 I brought together 10 young people to produce a short film about former employees and their working memories at Courtaulds factories in Coventry. The film project focussed on supporting the young people to gain media and interviewing skills and knowledge such as optimum environment settings, lights, sounds and camera settings as well as how to approach and draw out the best interviews from interviewees. Making people feel comfortable and the type of questions that would get a good story, being sensitive and ethical about recording people’s oral history. The project had to take place on a short and tight timescale due to filming schedules and availabilities of the volunteers. ‘I particularly enjoyed the social element to this project, from getting to know the team members and working together, to meeting the interviewees and know their varied and interesting stories.’
The young people felt proud and a great sense of achievement having no prior experience of doing this type of projects before. ‘I definitely feel more connected to the local population and their history and learned more about the community than I would’ve from merely reading.’
Looking ahead at future projects I would like to support the further engagement, development of skills and interest of the young people and widen participation to more young people in Coventry. It would be great for future projects to enable more people to connect with a creative and heritage project like the Courtaulds film project. Creating more opportunities to work with a great team of people at the Herbert to support the building of skills, knowledge and develop confidence and enjoyment of Coventry’s history with young people.
‘Last but not least, helping on a project that contributes to the local social and historic heritage was very satisfying and sparked my interest in joining similar projects in the future.’