The Gloves Network

Lead Research Organisation: Bath Spa University
Department Name: School of Design

Abstract

The proposed network will take an interdisciplinary approach to bring together interested parties from academia, museums and manufacturing, with expert knowledge of the production, collections, conservation and display of English leather gloves. The sharing and exchanging of information by those who have ownership and access to the collections of gloves, associated material and knowledge of the history of glove making over at least 400 years, is key to exploring how best to preserve and promote the legacy of glove design, manufacture and marketing in England. Gloves can be linked to the livelihoods of tanners, makers, designers and those in different areas of society who wore them. The network will open up the possibility for future valuable research across the academic community, third sector (museums and heritage), the commercial private sector (glove and accessory industry) and education sector (students of design and cultural heritage) with dissemination of the findings through a website and blog as well as a conference paper and journal article. Historical contexts and theoretical frameworks will enable museum professionals and private collectors to better situate their collections. Artisan leather glove making was a skilled and significant industry in England that has now declined to the point where there is little production remaining utilising the artisan skills that have hardly changed since earliest times. This heritage must be preserved for future generations or the rich cultural history of gloves may soon be lost.

Six independent organisations hold collections of gloves, machinery and tools, designs and patterns, product development research, marketing materials and archive materials. They demonstrate the heritage of English glove design and manufacturing being of national significance and worthy of international interest. The Victoria and Albert Museum, the Worshipful Company of Glovers, Museums Worcestershire, the National Leather Collection, the Fashion Museum Bath and Dents have all been collecting gloves and glove making paraphernalia for decades. The collections are held independently and exist in relative isolation with little previous interaction between their curators to explore information about their contents, identify potential connections nor to exchange knowledge and share future plans. These fragmented collections when considered in entirety can provide an overview of English glove making and the stories of those who wore them.

Through this proposed Network there is potential for these collectors to make connections and explore links between these resources to promote a stronger understanding of the significance, breadth and heritage of the English glove industry. The following areas will be explored by the Network:
- Current content and status of the individual collections, potential links, sharing of information
- Histories, social and cultural and relationship to history of fashion
- Design, manufacturing and materials
- Approaches to maintenance and conservation
- Access to the collections and strategies for future understanding of their national significance

Planned Impact

There are three key areas where this network can lead to significant impact:

- Museums - supporting strategies for collection management and approaches to conservation of glove collections
Six independent organisations hold collections of gloves, machinery and tools, designs and patterns, product development research, marketing materials and archive materials. They demonstrate the heritage of English glove design and manufacturing being of national significance and worthy of international interest. The collections are held independently and exist in relative isolation with little previous interaction between them. Each organisation is at a very different stage with regards to their collection management and conservation of the glove collections, therefore there is great potential for knowledge exchange, sharing of best practice and learning around issues of collection management and conservation.

- Museum audiences - engagement of new and existing audiences with the heritage of glove-making
For centuries, Worcester was famous across the world for its glove making but the industry has completely ceased in the city and the skills required to turn leather into fashionable and functional gloves is being lost to time. Northampton is the heart of the UK's leather industry, though the industry is declining in the region the manufacture of leather and leather goods form a large part of the local heritage and pride. The network will enable museum partners, particularly Museums Worcestershire and the National Leather Collection, to consider how best to share stories relating to the social and cultural dimensions of gloves and to the history of their design and manufacture with new and existing visitors.

- Industry and designers - glove and accessory design and manufacture
The involvement of industry partners (Pittards) and glove/accessory designers will create an opportunity for contemporary designers and manufacturers to draw inspiration from historical collections and manufacturing techniques. This will be of particular interest to those interested in slow fashion and issues around sustainability and to explore the remarkably elaborate decorative detail of historical gloves including lace and hand-embroidery incorporating the finest materials such as metallic threads, three-dimensional motifs of flora and fauna, precious stones, and beading which can inform contemporary artisan design.

Pathways to Impact through knowledge exchange are embedded into the design of this network which will bring together interested parties from academia, museums and manufacturing, with expert knowledge of the production, collections, conservation and display of English leather gloves.

Publications

10 25 50