My name’s George – I’m part of the Visitor Service Team at Time & Tide. One of the most wonderful parts of my job is talking to visitors about their museum experience: I love to hear how much they enjoy the building that everyone who works here has so much pride in.
I must be honest – when I was told what the new exhibition would be, a switch in my head turned off. Textiles have never interested me in a museum and I had never really thought about them. As for them provoking an emotional reaction, I thought not (especially as I have been described as having the emotional range of a teaspoon). However, there came a day during installation when I was asked to help hang what looked like a dirty sheet. Debbie Phipps (textile conservator) and Alison Hall (exhibitions coordinator) started talking about what I now know as The Newgate Quilt and yes it does look a little worn but its remarkably good for its 200 year history. My interest was piqued and I began to go to the exhibition room every time a new piece was put lovingly in place and one evening when most people had left I read the Elizabeth Parker sampler and its stark reality of a terrible abuse left me quite moved. It’s unusually quiet when you step into that particular gallery, apart from hushed whispers about sewing techniques. It almost makes me feel like I am intruding on visitors thoughts when I do my regular patrols.
Back in reception, visitors talk about the exhibition with wonderful words, which our curators and everyone behind the scenes don’t get to hear most of the time. I have spoken with a lady whose relative was mentioned on the Lorina Bulwer Sampler and another lady whose parents were friends with John Craske and his wife. Yet one of the most interesting conversations I had was with a gentleman who said ‘I don’t like sewing’ so I began to tell him about my own experience with the exhibition. Still he was not moved, but then our conversation changed slightly and we were talking about social media and I mentioned that along with another colleague, I do the Facebook and Twitter for Great Yarmouth Museums and we started talking about those people who use social media as a soapbox to complain and moan. Then it occurred to me that if you took those gripes and groans over a period of a few years, put them altogether and removed the spacing it could be a modern day Lorina letter! I mentioned this to the gentleman who was then curious enough to go and read the embroidered letters!