Claire Victoria Thornton
St Albans Museum Service
Herts AL3 4SW
St Albans Museums Costume collection is fairly eclectic. The collection has its origins with the inception of the Hertfordshire County Museum in 1898. As yet to be fully catalogued and photographed it seems that a wide range of historical time periods are reflected from a Tudor embroidered cap, through to some items made in recent decades by local manufacturers. As a local centre for straw hat manufacture, we have examples of straw plait and straw hats, some of which are on display in our gallery at the Museum of St Albans. The strengths of the collection seem to lie in the Victorian costume which is primarily high end. We also have underwear, a vast number of baby bonnets, children’s clothing, shoes and work wear.
It is hoped that we will be able to find sources of funding to help us do more work on the collection. Recently we were lucky enough to obtain a grant form SHARE MLA which enabled us to properly catalogue and photograph some of our Victorian dresses and have a replica made of one of the dresses, complete with underwear. This will enable us to provide teaching sessions which should encourage interest in the collection. You can see some of the results here: http://www.stalbansmuseums.org.uk/Exhibitions/Online-exhibitions/St-Albans-Museums-Victorian-Costume
Our current collecting policy states that ‘…costume shall be collected to provide a broad reflection of social classes of the district, with particular emphasis on male and female working clothes, leisure wear and the products of the City’s clothing manufacturers.’