A day in the life of… The Archive Assistant at Sunny Bank Mills

February 4th, 2022

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In May 2021 I was delighted to be part of a new initiative – to create weekend
access for visitors to the Sunny Bank Mills Archive.  One of the first little nuggets I received in my new role (from the Archive’s curator and greatest aficionado – Rachel Moaby) was how to wake up and say hello to the collection by uncovering displays and checking all is in order.

Housed in the old warping shed, it is an Aladdin’s cave for any visitor holding thousands of samples of the cloth produced at the mill (from the late 1800s onwards) in various formats.
These huge guard books are perhaps the most concise record of the fine worsted cloth listing it by date, season (made for fashion and Saville Row), or by country.

There are also the cash and wage books and various pieces of machinery and equipment from the vast array of departments needed for the production of cloth. Here is just a flavour…

The preservation and maintenance of the collection include providing an inventory of new additions – one of my first tasks was listing some very characterful oil canisters newly arrived from the Old Mechanics:

You are rarely alone at the Archive – we have the oral history of June (a former mender at Sunny Bank Mills) encapsulated within an installation by the entrance and will often play of its own accord!

Saturdays at the Archive are fundamentally about the visitors we welcome to the collection.

Some are researchers or have a general interest in textiles and the textile industry; some visitors live locally and others, from further afield, have come to Farsley for the day on another pretext. They are curious and in turn, astonished at the breadth and uniqueness of the collection. The highlights are always the experiences and stories that visitors will bring with them (some having very personal connections to Sunny Bank Mills and family members who have worked here in the past) adding to the archive’s rich tapestry of social history.

And quite a few are returning visitors as one visit is never quite enough!
We look forward to seeing you soon.

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General Museum & Archive Arts & Culture