Visitors to Woodhorn, near Ashington, Northumberland, will be able to enjoy the first peep at the wonderful new Julian Germain Big Meetings exhibition which opens on Saturday Sept. 22, as well as seeing for themselves how some of Woodhorn’s precious miners’ banners are repaired and looked after.
Specialist historical textile conservator Caroline Rendell will be working in one of the museum’s gallery spaces on both Saturday and Sunday to conserve and repair several miners’ banners and an election banner from the archives.
Head of Collections Sue Wood is sure many people will be fascinated to watch this process. “Although the banners would have been solidly constructed when they were first made, time and general wear and tear has taken its toll. Add to this our desire to protect them for future generations, and you can appreciate the need for delicate handling. Caroline is one of only a few specialists in this field, so anyone viewing the process is watching a real expert at work.
“This is a rare opportunity for people to see for themselves the kind of special treatment needed for our collections at Woodhorn,” explained Sue. “It’s normally only the public research side of archive activities that are on view, but this is a great chance to watch and perhaps understand a little more about what we do.”
The National Union of Mineworkers banners to be repaired include those from West Sleekburn, North Walbottle and the Dudley banner which was deposited at Woodhorn Northumberland 18 months ago and has been awaiting conservation.
Big Meetings features the work of photographer Julian Germain, who was invited to experience and chronicle the 2011 Durham Miners’ Gala. Attended by more than 100,000 people, the Big Meeting is one of the largest political events in Europe. Julian was invited to document the meeting itself, including the parade, blessing of the banners in Durham Cathedral and the speeches.
Visiting former pit communities including Chopwell, Easington and Esh Winning, Julian photographed local residents with their banners, brass bands in their practice rooms and activist groups meeting ahead of the gala. His pictures explore the ideas of identity and cultural tradition and question the nature of politics at a point in history when it is widely held that Socialist ideals have been buried by consumerism.
This exhibition was commissioned in partnership with DLI Museum & Durham Art Gallery. It runs until Dec. 23, 2012.