Dress to Impress

A rewarding and involving week since our last posting from South Somerset District Council’s Community Heritage Access Centre, (CHAC), near Yeovil.

Highlights included a donation which featured ‘secret’ instructions for the Yeovil Home Guard of what to do in the event of a German invasion during World War Two and planning an afternoon for our volunteers to attend a Dress and Textile Specialists (DATS) Visit to The Alfred Gillett Trust and Clarks Shoe Museum in Street, Somerset on Wednesday 27th April 2016.

Staff also provided an illustrated talk to the local University of the Third Age (U3A) Group at the Johnson Suite, Octagon Theatre on Tuesday 19th April 2016. This was particularly interesting as the organisers requested the same talk that we had provided to another Yeovil-based Group around a year earlier. A quick search of emails (possibly saved for too long!) revealed this earlier talk was on ‘CHAC – role  and background.’

With this in mind, we took along a selection of handling objects, including gloving tools,  a bright pink dress and Yeovil School Blazer. These were used to illustrate the distinction  between ‘main’ and ‘handling’ collections and how decisions have to be made to place an item in these groups. The pink dress was part of a local dancer’s items, but without a specific Yeovil or South Somerset connection, was placed in the handling items to convey a sense of a ‘period in time.’

The Yeovil School Blazer was an even simpler choice. Clearly, there is a direct Yeovil connection, especially with the “Parsons and Shute, Yeovil” shop label in the collar. However, we had two of the same blazer and put the one in slightly worse condition in the handling collection to use for talks.

The actual objects also helped to structure our talk along with a ‘mystery’ object, an example of environmental monitoring readings of temperature and relative humidity and a blunder pest trap – checked and emptied before passing around!

As always we started by asking if everyone was from Yeovil and this did turn out to be the case, but more specifically, some said they had lived in Yeovil 10 years; some 25 years and some all their lives – including one lady who had relatives with connections to Aplin & Barrett St Ivel Cheese, Newton Road, Yeovil  and Clothier Giles Gloving, Park Street, Yeovil – needless to say we had a chat afterwards!

The impressive pink dress and light ‘over’ garment which belonged to a Somerset-based dancer, which makes a great visual illustration for talks and always creates interest and generates discussion. We believe this is possibly silk due to the ‘dry clean only’ label inside and possibly dates from the mid-1960s.

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