National award for exhibition that opens up museum’s archives

The Museum of Gloucester has won a national award after opening up its costume collection to reveal over 100 items not previously on display to the public.

The exhibition called Buttons, Badges and Blazers featured among its items, the school uniform of a member of chart toppers EMF, the robes of the first female city councillor in England, a Gloucester Prison warden uniform, as well as midwife and scout uniforms.

It ran from last October to January this year, and was given a Collections Trust Award, which recognises best practice in museum collections management.

Funded by Arts Council England, the exhibition used its varied collection of uniforms to tell stories from Gloucester’s past; about the people who lived and worked in the city from the 16th to the 20th century. It also reflected on social changes, gender roles, politics, and wealth.

Among the items curators found in the archive, was a school uniform and cub scout uniform belonging to songwriter Ian Dench of local band EMF whose 1991 song ‘Unbelievable’, went to number 3 in the UK charts and number 1 in the US.

The t shirt he wore in the music video filmed at Gloucester Guildhall is currently on display at the Museum.

Other key pieces included two iconic Gloucester Rugby caps restored thanks to a Museum Development South West ‘On Display’ grant.

Buttons, Badges and Blazers also showcased the city's ties to the late Janet Arnold, a renowned British costume historian whose work was regarded as essential reading for historical costume experts and fashion designers.

The exhibition was also part of the museum’s project to move 25,000 objects stored at the Folk of Gloucester to new storage. And along with opening up the costume collection to the public, it allowed records to be enhanced by adding information from some of the donors to bring the items to life.  

Cllr Caroline Courtney, Cabinet member for Culture and Leisure at Gloucester City Council, said: "We’re delighted to have won this award that recognises the hard work that has gone on behind the scenes to make this exhibition a success. We have an important role in sharing the fascinating history of this city and the stories of those who have lived and worked here, which can help us reflect on our own lives and what Gloucester means to us today."

Sarah Brown, Deputy Director at Collections Trust, said: “The Collections Trust Award highlights the often-unsung achievements of those who manage the collections that lie at the heart of all museums. As the first collections management project undertaken by the museum in four years the judges were impressed with the upskilling and improved confidence it gave to all the staff and volunteers involved. Congratulations again.

Phil Gibby, Arts Council England South West Area Director, said: “This award is well deserved for the Museum of Gloucester, a vital space for culture in the heart of the city – an Arts Council Priority Place. Thanks to their team’s thoughtful care and display of historic objects, local audiences and visitors can engage meaningfully with the past, present, and future. This is exactly what our Unlocking Collections initiative sets out to do – none of which would be possible without the generous support of National Lottery players.”

If you wish to find out more information about the project, please visit Collections Trust