Flying the Flag

“Banners are an essential part of working class culture and are rare examples of commissioned working class art. Their long history continues to the present day but despite this there has been very little research on their history and what examples still remain. The fact that the ‘Flying the Flag’ project will not only contribute significantly to this research but will also add to the conservation and preservation of banners for years to come is very important. The People’s History Museum is always updating the National Banner Survey, a database of known banners across the UK; that the research carried out will feed into this database is a very positive outcome of the findings.”

Harriet Beeforth, Collections Officer, People’s History Museum, Manchester

In summer 2013 the SW Conservation Development Officer, Helena Jaeschke secured funding from the Pilgrim Trust to undertake a sub-regional project, ‘Flying the Flag’, to improve the collection care, display, storage and condition of flags and banners in museums across Devon and Cornwall.

The project has worked with 25 museums from Devon and Cornwall providing surgery sessions for museums to bring their flags and banners to have them examined by a textile and a painting conservator, documented by a professional photographer and receive conservation reports, advice, training and equipment to improve display, storage and care. In many cases this has been the first chance the museums had had to see the whole of the flag or banner unfurled – they were too large or too delicate to be unrolled or turned over at their museum. Several banners of national significance were uncovered.

Following the success of this activity, Helena secured a grant for this project, from the Jonathan Ruffer Curatorial Grants Programme (administered by Art Fund) to enable the museums to explore more about these objects and reveal their hidden stories.  We used this funding to employ Charlotte Dew, a research facilitator to support museums in their art historical research and assist them in their investigations looking at sources including commercial archives and national collections and archives held by the Peoples Museum, Manchester.

Helena, alongside Charlotte, delivered two workshops in June 2016 to support volunteers and staff from the original 28 participant museums with a specific focus in two key areas; locally made flags and banners such as the Old Cornwall Society Banner, believed to be the earliest example of its kind, and commercially produced flags and banners such as the several banners by renowned maker George Tutill.  The workshops involved practice based assessments of flags and banners, support to develop a research plan and helpful leads generated by the preparatory research by the facilitator.

In addition Charlotte produced A Guide to Researching and Contextualising Banners and Flags  specifically to support others with their research into their banners and flags.

To keep up to date with all of the latest developments in this project please see our dedicated Facebook page here.