Funded PhD opportunity - Shetland lace knitting

Funded PhD opportunity - Shetland lace knitting

The research project is to investigate the development and significance of the fine lace knitting industry in Shetland from the mid nineteenth century to the early twentieth century. The study will engage with many of the key questions concerning a form of textile production dominated by women, its place within the female economy, and its position within a wider nexus of trade and fashion in nineteenth century Britain and Europe. The hand-knitting of lace had an important place in the economy and culture of the Shetland islands in the nineteenth century and today is still practiced by a small number of skilled knitters, not as a heritage craft but as a living skill. The collection of Shetland lace in Shetland Museum which forms the starting point of this project is part of a the largest collection of historical hand-knitting in the UK and moreover, a collection which is firmly embedded in local culture and identity. This project aims to illuminate the historical significance and relevance of this ‘commonplace craft’.

The project is a collaboration between the Department of History at Glasgow University and Shetland Museum and Archives. The successful candidate will be working with Professor Lynn Abrams and Dr Marina Moskowitz at the University of Glasgow, and Dr Carol Christiansen, curator of textiles at Shetland Museum and Archives. The student will be expected to develop an original thesis on the history of this form of textile production, drawing upon a wide range of sources including material artefacts, oral history and archival materials located primarily in Shetland but also in other repositories in the UK. In addition to researching the thesis the student will also collaborate with museum staff in a number of outreach activities in order to gather information and disseminate findings amongst beneficiary communities.

This comes at an exciting point in the history of Shetland Museum and Archives. The Museum moved to its present location and brand new purpose-built premises in 2007 which enabled it to display not only more artefacts but to present those artefacts within a more sophisticated interpretive context. The textile exhibit presents a model of modern curatorial techniques, permitting visitors to view a large collection of fragile hand-knitted items, including Shetland lace, alongside interpretive and hands-on visitor engagement tools.
Glasgow University has recently established a new Textile Conservation Centre encompassing the study of conservation as well as dress and textile history.

The successful student will be registered as a postgraduate at Glasgow University and will benefit from the extensive doctoral training programme provided for all research students. He or she will also receive training in archival and museum skills at Shetland Museum and Archives.

Application deadline: 28 May 2010

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