The weather outside was dreadful but inside Kennet Valley Hall there was a festive atmosphere.
This was the first Christmas meeting of our new Textile Group and after a convivial lunch (despite having to bring our own) we were then introduced to the surprise speaker, Ros Liddington, Archivist at Wilton House (an English country house near Salisbury, which has been the country seat of the Earls of Pembroke for over 400 years).
Ros’s talk was entitled “Lost in the Cloud” and the premise of her talk was that we are encouraged to do everything on-line and to ditch the physical. What do you do if you have lots of things. Of stuff. Can the Cloud and your stuff co-exist.
Ros had been a history teacher for many years and working with Wilton House had collected many artefacts and costumes for use in schools, plus lots of fabrics and costumes during 20 years involvement with the Salisbury Playhouse. Coming from a family of makers, she also inherited items from relatives (including her mother’s entire workroom) and all this “stuff” she suspects is her daughters’ worst nightmare. She admitted to having somewhere between 1500 to 2,000 sewing patterns alone.
Ros had brought some of her “stuff” to show us and it was an eclectic mix of items. We heard of how these items had come into her possession as well as the back stories of the people who had once owned them. Some were poignant, some were amusing but all were interesting.
Among these were ……a 1930’s toaster, which actually turns the bread over, a book of lace patterns from the 1600’s, knitting patterns and books from the 1930-40’s, an item we thought were sugar tongs but turned out to be hair curling tongs. etc.
We heard of Molly Maidment who, on D Day, plugged her hairdryer into the light socket (as one did in those days) and caused a total electric outage throughout the area.
There was a pretty skirt with a hem of pulled thread work belonging to a Miss G. Flowers, a shop girl in Salisbury. Later on member Maureen Bull mentioned to Ros that her daughter in law’s Grandmother was called Gladys Flowers and lived in Salisbury so wondered of the skirt had belonged to her – something Maureen is going to research further.
One of the most interesting items was a tiny Japanese camera (which still contained a film) taken by her Aunt to Korea in 1954 when she was there for reasons she could not talk about due to the Official Secrets Act.
Ros talked about many items and the people and places connected to them. I was so interested my initial note taking was abandoned.
Ros then split us up into four Groups – Management, Fund Raisers, Tour Guides and an IT Department who were organising an Exhibition. From a selection of gloves each Group were to choose one and give it a back story for display in the Exhibitions. Each group then relayed their story and interestingly every one was poignant rather then joyful !!
I don’t think Ros has a final conclusion about what should happen to her stuff, any more than the rest of us have !! The question still remain and Ros suggested some of these items could become antiquities of the future. She asked whose responsibility is it to keep and maintain them for future generations to see and learn from ?
Finally, Ros told us that in 2013 the British Library formed a strategy to use digital storage but this was abandoned in 2016. Technology progresses so fast that today’s state of the art technology will be out of date and unusable in ten years’ time. She suggested that perhaps the Cheshire Salt Mine which, with its natural atmosphere creating the perfect environment, already contains miles of physical “stuff”, is the answer. She mused “what if we could all have a Family Box in the Salt Mine – what would you save in yours ?”
Our first Christmas meeting was a wonderful occasion for us all to put aside the pressures surrounding the pandemic and Christmas preparations and just enjoy being together.
Report thanks to Vernice C
Photos thanks to Vernice C
For further details about Ros Liddington, Archivist at Wilton House, Salisbury: https://www.wiltonhouse.co.uk/education/