Colours, Community & Chemistry was a 17-week exhibition at the People’s History Museum on the Salford-Manchester border in Northwest England.
22,571 visitors saw the exhibition and took part in events between 8th October 2014 and 18th January 2015. Collaborators, participants and visitors came from Australia, India, North and South America, the Midlands, London, and from across the UK.
A collaboration between regional artists, archivists and scientists, anyone was welcome to share their stories. Read Jenny White’s blog about her Big-Up Female Boffins banner (hemmed by Oly Bliss) and some of the visitors’ craftivist creations here.
Five events were jointly programmed by Manchester Science Festival.
ARTIFICIAL SILK made a series of short audio recordings called Stories of the North during the exhibition.
The Colours, Community and Chemistry exhibition had five events in Manchester Science Festival 2014:
1. Big-Up Female Boffins – 26th October
2. Macromolecular Marvels – 29th October
3. Blue Pigment Spectra – 29th October
4. Making North – 1st November
5. Colouring Art and Science – 2nd November
Camilla Mørk Røstvik gave a talk about women in science. In the UK, only 13% of scientists and 17% of professors of science are female. At the CERN research centre near Geneva, women represent 17% of the total number of scientists.
Young children and their families and other visitors interpreted Camilla Rostvik’s data on women in science through vinyl shapes, colours and glue (and a few irresistible pompoms).
Craftivists Warp & Weft made the Big-Up Female Boffins banner and jointly ran some events.
Jenny White recorded: A story from Kathleen Ollerenshaw about Manchester’s Shirley Institute for cotton research
Students and families took part in experimentation by Dr Frank Mair, University of Manchester.
The chemist made artificial threads in the Community Gallery and analysed a filament of blue pigmented 1970s Lancashire artificial silk (also called viscose or rayon) with a spectrometer. Artificial silk is made from the pulp in the wood of fir trees.
We were able to see the macromolecular picture, including the amount of cellulose in one filament of artificial silk.
Below is a rayon spectrum created at the exhibition by microscopic analysis of the blue pigmented skein (twist) of filaments:
Some young women wanting to work in STEM research got involved.
Jean Crossthwaite recorded: Make do and sew
Textile archivist Lyn Broster gave a lecture on vintage textiles and Eleanor McClure ran a colour perception workshop at the final event in 2015. Eleanor also designed the logo.
Final event: craft, vintage textiles and socialising
William Grundy recorded: Exploding colours at ICI
Hazel Blears, MP for Salford Eccles and previously Secretary of State, made a short film especially for the exhibition.
Here is a flavour of visitor experiences in the exhibition book:
Eve McPhee gave valuable advice at the very beginning, for which we are grateful. Nigel Barlow graciously tweeted, and managed the social media.
It took us two days to set up the exhibition in the Community Gallery at the People’s History Museum.
Josh and Mark using the cherry picker to install the window vinyls in the Engine Room. Another window features skeins of blue Lancashire artificial silk
Jean took part in Colours, Community & Chemistry at the People’s History Museum. She contracted Covid-19 and died at the end of 2020.
Read Jean Boyle’s Other lives obituary published in The Guardian on 10th February 2021.
Read Terry Boyle’s Other Lives obituary in The Guardian on 30th August 2021.
Read exObjects about some of the people who worked in the textile factory.