United we stand: the conservation of trade union banners

Lennard, F. and Lochhead, V. (2003) United we stand: the conservation of trade union banners. In: North American Textile Conservation Biannual Conference 2003, Albany, USA, November 2003,

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Surviving examples of trade union banners from the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries are vivid symbols of the British labour history movement. The large, brightly coloured, painted silk banners were used to proclaim and reinforce the identity of groups of workers in their struggle for improved working conditions and to advertise the benefits of trade union membership. <br/> Trade union banners are difficult to handle safely as they are large (often 3m square) and heavy, but also fragile. They have often suffered substantial damage, particularly at the junction between painted and unpainted silk. They are usually double-sided with different images on both sides of a single layer of fabric; conservation treatments have aimed to support weak areas without obscuring the images. Innovative conservation treatments, involving the use of adhesive-impregnated semi-transparent support fabrics, were carried out on these textiles in the mid 1980s and treatments have continued to evolve. A large number of banners has been conserved in two centres, the National Museum of Labour History (now the People’s History Museum) in Manchester, which holds a collection of over 370 trade union and political banners, and the Textile Conservation Centre, which has treated banners belonging to other museum collections and to trade unions. While the basic methods of treatment have been similar, some interesting differences have arisen between the two centres, for example in the degree of cleaning carried out, the types of adhesive used and the techniques employed. Case-histories are used to illustrate some of the treatments carried out.

Item Type:Conference Proceedings
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Lennard, Professor Frances
Authors: Lennard, F., and Lochhead, V.
College/School:College of Arts > School of Culture and Creative Arts > History of Art

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