National Needlework Archive
The National Needlework Archive came into being in 1998 because of a desire to document the nation's Millennium needlework projects.
Today, based in the Old Chapel at Greenham Business Park, the Archive has expanded not only into a Museum of national community needlework but also into an Exhibition Centre with ever changing exhibits, a national needlework preservation studio, a library (both reference and lending), an archive used for academic research, a centre running workshops for the public and displaying exhibition stands all over the country, and a shop selling all manner of needlework supplies and books. You can also get a cup of coffee and a cake.
It's all been achieved through donations - the Archive is a registered charity - and the hard work and dedication of the volunteers who run it and of Linda Connell whose original idea it was, and who is now the Archive's Director.
Starting in a small room in Southampton, the Archive received its first grant from the Millennium Fund for the Millennium needlework archiving project. Soon it became apparent that the archiving of a whole range of other community needlework treasures was also needed. Needlework in churches, Women's Institutes, stately homes, theatres, hospitals, libraries, cinemas, clubs, pubs and even lighthouses is now being used to document a nation's history. Fifteen years later, alongside all the other projects, the Millennium needlework archiving goes on, with over 1,000 projects still being documented from all over the country.
In 2009 The Archive acquired The Country Wife, a 4.5m x 5m textile mural designed and stitched by Constance Howard, Head of Textiles at Goldsmith’s College, and her students for the Country Pavilion at the Festival of Britain in 1951. The size of the mural meant that the Archive was in urgent need of new premises. It was simply too big to fit into the room.
Just as the economy was slumping, Linda and her colleagues began a nationwide search for somewhere where they could undertake the necessary conservation work on the mural, which was expected to take at least three years. After looking at locations throughout the country, from stately homes to museums, it became apparent that long leases were hard to come by.
Then Linda began trying Chambers of Commerce, and finally, with the help of Greenham Common Trust, found the space and long lease she needed on Greenham Business Park. The Archive moved into its new premises and opened its doors to the public in Autumn 2009.
Nowadays, when you drop in to see one of the exhibitions at the Old Chapel, you can watch the work being done on The Country Wife. Volunteers are also being trained to work on the mural, under the supervision of consultant textile conservation specialists. Anyone interested in volunteering for The Country Wife project in any way should email email@example.com
See what's on at the centre at www.nationalneedleworkarchive.org.uk
Telephone: 01635 38740
The Old Chapel, Main Street, Greenham Business Park, Newbury, Berkshire RG19 6HW