Kendal’s smallest museum, tucked inside a 200 year old Georgian Meeting House and passed by thousands using the A65 Stramongate and New Road, celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.
The Quaker Tapestry Museum, an accredited Arts Council museum, a VisitEngland Hidden Gem and a registered charity opened its doors in April 1994 and has welcomed over 350,000 people since then.
The Museum, looked after by a small staff team, trustees and a dedicated band of volunteers, consists of an exhibition space and a gift shop. It occupies a large room that would have once held 850 people for worship and community gatherings.
Important milestones reached during the Museum’s first 25 years include:
- A string of industry accolades including – achieving Museum Status in 2000, a North West ‘Small Visitor Attraction 2008’, and Museum Accreditation in 2009 – the same year it was named a top three small visitor attraction in England
- Being a Visit England ‘Hidden Gem’ since 2014 and holding a Red Rose Marque since 2008
- Establishing travelling roadshows that have visited 29 places in Scotland, England and Ireland since 1999.
- Gaining celebrity support, Victoria Wood CBE opened the first roadshow and others were opened by Sheila Hancock CBE and Dame Mary Archer DBE
- Permanently installing the world’s largest community textile which has inspired over 35 textiles, the largest being an Australian project started in 2008
- Opening new permanent exhibitions, including ‘The Early Railways’ and ‘Money, Shoes, Chocolate and all that!’
- Expanding the museum experience to include embroidery workshops and, for 2019, creative writing workshops
- Involving hundreds of volunteers
General Manager Bridget Guest, who has been in charge of the Museum since it opened, said: “The hard work and dedication of many people, past and present, has resulted in a wonderful museum for the local community, schools and visitors. Museums help make somewhere a great place to live and visit and we think ours does too.
“Our travelling roadshows have brought people back to Kendal, helping to contribute to the town’s economic vitality. So too has our café enterprise by using local products, providing local jobs and helping people to prepare for work through traineeships.
“We share our space, skills and resources as a good neighbour. Where else can you hire a 200 year old meeting room infused with calm and surrounded by so much thought-provoking social history? We are a place of learning, stimulating ideas and creativity. From hosting visits from school groups, who are keen to discover local and national social history, to getting adults embroidering through workshops. And we try and care for people and places by contributing to community resilience. An example of that is a community flood tapestry, started over two years ago, in response to Storm Desmond. It allowed people to reflect on their experience and produce something that is now a valued exhibit” continued Bridget Guest.
The Quaker Tapestry Museum is also gifted items like the Victorian Barrett Friendship Quilt, which is on display, and other items that are stored away. The Quilt was completed in 1909 and worked on by 34 embroiderers with connections to the Victorian Art World, William Morris and Queen Victoria.
“Over the years we have received all manner of treasured possessions, from wedding dresses, hand-made socks and Victorian sewing boxes to a 19th century Aboriginal messenger stick,” added Bridget.
“At the heart of our museum, and the reason for its existence, are the 77 tapestry panels created by Quakers around the world during the 1980s and 1990s. Around half are on display at any one time and their stories encourage people to reflect on society’s contemporary challenges. They promote social justice and human rights, challenge prejudice and champion fairness and equality at a time when there is great upheaval and inequality. Given the international nature of the tapestry, and the visitors it draws, we hope to foster greater understanding between peoples and nations,” said Bridget.
The Museum’s 25th anniversary celebrations offer something for everyone explains Bridget Guest. In the Museum there are displays, activities, workshops and talks and on the website there will be new things to share.
Bridget is urging people to support their local museum, which attracts visitors from around the world. She says there are lots of good reasons to ensure it remains a viable part of community life in Kendal.
For more information visit quaker-tapestry.co.uk. An adult ticket, which costs £7.50, is valid for 12 months with no limit on the number of visits. Accompanied children are free.