A Museum To Cherish In Worthing
by Ruth Lawrence
Worthing Museum’s costume trail throughout the town charts the history of fashion. Ruth Lawrence went exploring.
As a fan of vintage clothing, I was looking forward to visiting Worthing Museum’s ambitious and nationally unique Costume Trail, made possible by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The collection holds over 30,000 objects and focuses not only on couture and bespoke clothing but homemade and shop bought clothing to reflect the real lives of people like ourselves who remember buying clothes we cherished. Imaginatively displayed costumes dated from over 400 years ago to modern times and show the incredible skill of the tailors and seamstresses who made them; sewing machines were not patented until 1830 so much of the collection is completely handmade. Items from the collection are being displayed in showcases around Worthing and are due to change this June. Not part of the costume trail but displayed in an exhibit about performers who had played in Worthing hung a pair of fabulous high waisted black satin flares worn by David Bowie in 1972 during the Ziggy Stardust tour.
The Museum houses an eclectic range of exhibitions, events and workshops throughout the year; I was drawn into the stories of Sussex’s ancient history by the artfully lit collections of items used by our ancestors as they survived and thrived in a landscape so different to our own. The skeleton of a 6th century young woman lay with the accessories she was buried with and numerous tools showed how people wrestled a livelihood from the soil. A flint mining diorama showed how people from 4,000 BC dug 50foot deep shafts into the ground at complexes at Harrow Hill.
The art galleries house thought provoking contemporary exhibitions in conjunction with events and screenings. From mid April to September, a major exhibition tackles the theme of solitude in what promises to be a mesmerising multi media response to a fascinating subject. From May, the Norwood Gallery will exhibit ‘Schools of Thought’, focusing on paintings from the Camden Town and London group, the Pre Raphaelites and the Newlyn School. Works will include a selection by William Holman Hunt, Stanley Spencer and Walter Sickert.
The museum succeeds brilliantly in making history engaging and accessible by introducing it in new ways; a series of archaeology walks led by James, the museum’s historian and archaeologist, will take place in June and August, all with guaranteed breathtaking views en route. Talks cover subjects from the Pleistocene era up to the age of steam and children are lucky enough to have a huge selection of hands on workshops to kick-start their creativity and be involved in making their own works.
Housed in a grand and prominent building in the centre of Worthing the Museum and Art Gallery is a superbly inspiring hub for the town, forward thinking and inclusive, it speaks to everyone and engages all generations.