An exhibition inspired by textiles and tailors opened at Cornwall’s Army Museum, Bodmin, in late July.
The story of military uniform from the early 1800s was created by Fran Singleton, trainee curate at Bodmin Keep, using the Keep’s own historic collections.
Books written by tailors in 1905 and 1926 gave sketches and drafts of uniform patterns that Fran could refer to and display and Fran gained an insight into the history of tailoring in Bodmin from the towns’ tailors’ accounts, at Kresen Kernow.
Attractive posters explained how uniforms were designed and made and the reasoning behind the choice of material. Ever with an eye for highlighting interesting historical snippets, Fran showed how some articles of clothing were shaved down to make them less itchy! She also included one display showing an object half finished, to demonstration its construction, on top of many other fascinating objects and documents.
Phil Gale, from Bodmin Town Museum, said: “This exhibition is a wonderful expression of what our armed forces had to wear throughout the centuries, from early red jackets hiding blood stains to camouflage clothing for more coverage while in action.”
Not only is Fran honing her curator skills, she tried her hand at painting and decorating, including stencilling the titles of each section high on the walls and even learned how to perform surgery on a mannequin!
One of her colleagues, Oliver Byram, said: “Fran consistently gives so much effort and has an excellent work ethic.”
Speaking about Fran and other trainee staff at Bodmin Keep, managing director, Helen Bishop-Stephens, said: “They bring contemporary, critical thought and we have benefited from the up-to-date perspective of these young staff, who have had the opportunity to work alongside experienced employees and volunteers at the Keep.”
A corner of the exhibition, showing the work of young visitors to the Keep, was a draw to several visitors, who couldn’t resist touching the variety of textiles on display. A keen user of technology, it is not surprising that Fran installed an interactive ipad within her exhibition.
One of the Keep’s volunteers, Nick Kelly said: “As an education volunteer at the Keep, I feel this exhibition is an excellent opportunity for students to see how military uniform has evolved over the ages.”
The Keep’s chair of trustees, Charles Edward-Collins, said: “I was a soldier for nearly 20 years and am a Cornish man to my boots. This museum is a bit of Cornwall and Bodmin’s heritage and we trust, with the support of the town and county, we will continue to survive and thrive.”