Inspired by collections

20 Jun 2018

Hello I’m Laura,

I am a student studying for a BA Honours fashion and textiles degree at Colchester School of Art.  As part of my course staff from Colchester and Ipswich Museums visited us at the university where we began to explore how to objectively look at an historic object.

We did this by questioning an artefact we knew nothing about other than its appearance. I really enjoyed this task and began to form a keen interest in these items. We underwent this process in preparation for a morning visit to Colchester Museums’ object stores the week later. Again, I found myself to be completely enthralled with the history and culture that was available to view, I particularity enjoying hearing further the wonderful history of Colchester within the Roman, Stone and Iron ages.

The inspiration that I felt from this visit encouraged me to apply to the collection to expand my research further. I, at this point had begun to research the 1940’s taken from an inspiring item of meaning, a photograph of my grandmother in the era. I wanted to explore clothing in the 1940’s further and particularity military clothing as this was a huge part of the 1940’s attire.

I had previously been told by the museum staff that we could view items privately and that this could be done by applying in writing to visit.  I was very glad I did this as it was a wonderful experience. I asked to view world war two military clothing and any artefacts with Chinese origin or decoration. I was kindly presented with a selection to which a member of staff Emma helped me to explore and handle.

I looked at a Colchester 13 Home Guard uniform, a Royal Navy Engineer Captains service dress uniform, and a number of interesting Chinese items including a hand painted natural Shantung silk dress that had been altered from its original state as a Kimono. The aspect of these items that really caught my eye was the medal ribbons on the uniform. Some of these ribbons were from world war one but still proudly displayed on world war two wear.


Myself and Emma researched why these medal ribbon trimmings were sewn to the uniforms and this is, so others could see your rank, but also so that you could show your honour’s when it was inappropriate to wear the full medal. These lovely signs of honour had been hand sewn on the breast and struck me as so meaningful, I simply had to create something from them.

When I came home I went about using the images off my phone to design a textile. Shown underneath is the outcome. I would recommend this service to anyone interested in Colchester and its associated history, the staff were exceptionally helpful and welcoming and have an absolute wealth of information and knowledge to share.

Apply to make a research visit to see the Colchester Museums stored collections by emailing


Where will your adventure start?