Embroidered Tales: Hidden Histories and Silent Voices of The New Forest

The New Forest Heritage Trust is delighted to announce that is has been awarded a major grant from the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund which is administered by the Museums Association on behalf of the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. In conjunction with an Arts Council England grant and South East Museum Development Funding.

The project will enable the New Forest Heritage Trust to undertake an innovative digital project which focuses on its remarkable heritage collections and their potential to reveal the often hidden or marginalised stories of some New Forest communities. The project, Embroidered Tales: Hidden Histories and Silent Voices of The New Forest will be community-led with young people, members of the Roma and LGBTQIA+ communities from within and beyond the New Forest participating.

Mary Montagu-Scott, Chair of the New Forest Heritage Trust said, “I am so thrilled that this project is going to use the New Forest Embroidery as a catalyst for community engagement and digital innovation as a result of this funding from Esmée Fairbairn. My mother spent 4 years creating this community artwork and I was one of over 60 volunteers who sewed a canvas-work feature into the panel when I was a grumpy teenager. It helped me to develop my love of the New Forest and understand its history. I am delighted that the innovative digitisation and 3D modelling will make it accessible to new audiences bringing different insights to the narrative.”

This project will enable these local community groups to exploit the New Forest Heritage Centre’s collections of objects, archives, documents and publications to source content to tell stories of the New Forest from their own perspectives. The iconic New Forest Embroidery will feature as a central focus and will be recreated as an innovative digital avatar, through which these communities will be able to challenge conventional narratives of the New Forest’s history and present stories and experiences of the Forest that have been either marginalised or hidden by conventional narratives and traditional museum practices.

Commissioned by the New Forest Association in 1979 to commemorate the 900th anniversary of the creation of Nova Foresta by William the Conqueror, the New Forest Embroidery (NFE) is over 6m long and 70cm high. The object is divided into four panelled sections and presents a narrative history of the New Forest and its changing seasons, from its designation as a Forest in 1079 to anniversary tree planting by Her Majesty The Queen in 1979. The embroidery conveys key local and national events, characters associated with the history of the New Forest and features other key objects within the collections of the New Forest Heritage Centre.

Emulating the community-focused approach to making the embroidery, the project will be an equitable collaboration in which community participants will work together with New Forest Heritage Trust staff and heritage experts from the academic and commercial heritage sectors, using ground-breaking digital technologies to tell their stories to global audiences.

In collaboration with digital heritage experts from the Centre for Print Research, University of the West of England, and digital engagement specialists Mnemoscene, community participants and the staff and volunteers at the New Forest Heritage Centre, will create a dynamic digital version of the iconic New Forest Embroidery, making it accessible beyond the walls of the museum. Significantly, the project will also produce a 3D-printed tactile sensory model of sections of the Embroidery. This will feature embedded touch sensors to enable visitors to access audio descriptions, film clips and links to information and interpretation ‘hotspots’ via their mobile devices, thus making the object and its stories accessible to visitors with diverse physical abilities.

For more information, you can follow the project through all the stages on our social media pages @newforeshiddenhistories

The Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund is run by the Museums Association, funding projects that develop collections to achieve social impact. Since its launch in 2011, it has awarded 162 projects with grants totalling over £11 million. https://www.museumsassociation.org/funding/esmee-fairbairn-collections-fund/

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More information about how you can get involved and take part in the project will follow. In the meantime, follow us on social media for updates:

@nfheritage @NewForestHeritage  @newforestheritage

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