The last box
14 May 2012
RAMM’s dedicated volunteer lace experts Liz Trebble and Carol McFazdean have recently finished documenting the museum’s lace collection; a labour of love that took them eight years.
Over 130 people are involved in RAMM’s volunteer programme. They carry out a wide range of roles from tour guides to documentation assistants, gallery interpreters to public speakers. Many volunteers come to gain a deeper connection and insight into the museum and its collections whilst other volunteers come for the social or recreational aspects of volunteering. Some volunteers are at the start of their career, others, like Liz and Carol, already have considerable knowledge and experience. Whatever the work, it can be very rewarding but, as in most things in life, the more you put in, the more you get out.
Liz Trebble and Carol McFazdean relate their extraordinary experiences at RAMM:
“After fifteen monthly research visits to study RAMM’s collection of Devon Trolly and Honiton lace we became weekly volunteers in January 2004.
“Our first task took approximately three months; it was to sort and check the boxes to make sure that the lace in the box matched the label on the box! By the end of this task we knew what work lay ahead and what delights were awaiting us.
We then, took each of the 60+ boxes and identified the lace that had already been accessioned and that which required ‘the full works’. For each accessioned piece, we found the MDA card [the accession cards used until the 1980s] and looked in amazement when many of them said only ‘Lace’ with no description at all. We classified, measured and completed a new description to identify each piece on the museum database – our creative writing skills improved accordingly!
“Along the way, interruptions to our progress came in the form of our world lace travels to attend events, see major lace exhibitions or teach the Devon laces. We were also allocated individual tasks relating to the development of RAMM, e.g. recommending interesting pieces of lace for the new study centre, searching out missing pieces from Mrs Treadwin’s sample book, (our nicknames became Cagney & Lacey), or accessioning a spectacular and newly acquired item to join the extensive and superb collection of lace at RAMM.
“Box by box we covered the English, Continental and machine laces, then having completed the new descriptions for the accessioned pieces we began the whole process again for those that required ‘the full works’. As is often the case with volunteering, it is a two way process; just as well as it was a very long task. We learnt so much along the way, studying books to identify, (to us), unknown laces or methods of construction. As our knowledge grew so did our friendship with the museum staff with whom we worked. Informal discussions over coffee always produced a new avenue for thought or further research.
“The boxes of machine lace, not our favourite, were tackled towards the end of 2011, but that did have some wonderful designs elements, all the same. The last box was completed on 19 January 2012, after 8 years of work – a momentous feeling of satisfaction for us both, having classified over 2,200 individual items and having completed the task.
“To treat ourselves for our endeavours, we then went to Brugge for our annual week of lace and hot chocolate – you see what temptations are to be had when you love lace?!! Now that the lace collection is moving to the Ark, we are not sure where or when we will be, but we intend to continue on this valuable Devon resource!!”