Nottingham’s ‘nationally important’ collection of artefacts from its famous lace industry has been recognised with a grant from Arts Council England’s Designation Scheme.

Examples from lace collection
Examples from lace collection

Nottingham City Council Museums and Galleries Service has been awarded £76,685 from the Arts Council of England Designation Scheme to help develop new displays from the city’s lace-making past at Nottingham Castle, Wollaton Hall and Newstead Abbey.

In 2014, the lace and lace machinery collections of Nottingham City Museums & Galleries were designated as being of ‘National Importance’ by Arts Council England (ACE). Funding has now been granted for the project ‘Lace Unravelled’ to develop further understanding of this important resource, to preserve the collections and to make them more accessible.

The programme will bring together collection specialists, academic partners and key members of the lace industry. There are four elements to the project:

Consolidate: To assess and digitally catalogue the collection, identifying key items. Nottingham City Council holds over 100 lace pattern sample books, containing tens of thousands of lace samples which relate to key Nottingham lace makers. Their fragile condition prevents regular use. The aim is to identify:
– Overall condition assessment
– Most significant examples for prioritised access
– Immediate consolidation of the most important examples for conservation
– Digital photography of the most significant items to minimise the need for future handling long-term conservation needs

Learn: To create a network of local experts to share and develop knowledge. In 18 months, the project will engage industrial mentors who have a unique knowledge of the current and historical industrial processes used with the machines in the collection. This will better inform curators, making the collection more resilient. The programme will be supported by Doctoral student placements which will facilitate a close relationship between the museum, academic and industry partners.

Explore: To create a digital resource and produce a series of films on aspects of the lace collection. A temporary Lace Assistant post will be created to co-ordinate and support Industry Mentors as well as developing an online microsite presence and evaluation framework for the project. Five short films will be commissioned to explain the stories emerging from the project for use in galleries and on the website as a series of one-minute edits for social media.

Share: To create a major conference including international speakers to share the key developments from the project. At the end of the project, there will be an event to present and discuss the findings at the museums where the collections are housed. It will include papers from international speakers from major institutions as well as from ‘Lace Unravelled.’ It will also include artists and will reflect multiple perspectives of lace as a product and as a contemporary art form.

Councillor Dave Trimble, Portfolio Holder for Leisure and Culture said: “We are very pleased indeed to have received this award from Arts Council England. It reflects the quality and importance of this outstanding collection and the contribution of lace to the story of Nottingham.

The award will allow us to undertake a range of conservation and interpretation programmes and to pursue further research with industry specialists and others which could not otherwise take place. The benefits of this will be revealed in years ahead through new displays at Nottingham Castle, Wollaton Hall and Newstead Abbey.”

Brian Ashley, Director for Libraries and Nottingham at Arts Council England said: “Designation helps to protect and promote our nation’s treasures so people can make the most of them for years to come. We’re pleased that this latest investment from our development fund is boosting the City Council’s plans to champion Nottingham’s manufacturing history by making more of its wonderful lace and machinery collection available internationally. It’s great news for the city and its heritage.”

For more information please contact Donna Marshall – Communications and Marketing Officer on 0115 8764443 or email


Notes to editors
Arts Council England (ACE)
The 2016-18 round of the Designation Development Fund is investing £1,330,849 to support projects that ensure the long-term sustainability of Designated museum collections.
Arts Council England champions, develops and invests in artistic and cultural experiences that enrich people’s lives. It supports a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to digital art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2015 and 2018, ACE plans to invest £1.1 billion of public money from Government and an estimated £700 million from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country.