Category Archives: Collections

Where are all the women?

by Ellie Miles, Documentary Curator

In December 2018, we launched the collecting project Where are all the women? and asked the public to contribute their stories about female family members, ancestors or employees who may have worked in the transport industry in London, or across the United Kingdom, from 1800 to the present day. Here follows a little update on how the collecting project is going.

A storekeeper in the fitting shop at the LGOC’s engineering works during WW2

So far, we have been trusted with some remarkable stories which I’d like to share with you. We have heard about women who found that they were the only females working in an area at the time, whether that was twenty or seventy years ago:

“Mum said she worked in the ticket office at Waterloo station during the war. She was the only female employee in the ticket offices.”  – Ann Westfold, describing her mother’s work during the Second World War

“For a while I was the only female train operator on the Bakerloo line.” – Hannah Wood, talking about her job in the 1990s

Canteen workers being trained at Baker Street, 1968

We have a range of dates covered already, from the last of the horse-drawn era in the 1940s to the Jubilee Line Extension in the 1990s:

“Rose worked on horse-drawn vehicles at King’s Cross and St Pancras from the late 1940s until the 1960s… At only four foot nine inches and weighing six and a half stone, Rose’s small stature was quite a contrast to the large heavy horses she worked with.” – Margaret Palmer, describing her mother’s work

“I joined in 1998 when there was a big recruitment drive for the Jubilee Line Extension. Saw the advert for station assistant at Whitechapel station and decided to apply.” – Nicola Dinneen, describing the start of her career

Vic Roberts tells us she was a “driver, manager and then mechanic. I was part of the much unseen fabric that we women create.” She features in images in the Museum’s collection, and donated a set of photographs that she took of her colleagues.

Bus mechanic Vic Roberts cleaning her tools at Putney bus garage in the mid-1990s

There is still time to submit your story, and we would love you to do that so we can share it. Here are some frequently asked questions about the project:

I’m a woman and I work in transport – can I put myself forward?

Of course! We love first-hand accounts of your work and it’s great to hear from the experts.

Do you want stories that aren’t all positive? Sometimes work has been difficult and I’ve faced sexism in the workplace.

Unfortunately, many people face discrimination at work and have experienced unfair treatment, harassment and bullying. If this is part of your story, please include it in your account so we can preserve a full picture.

I’m a trans woman, is my story welcome?

Yes, we would be very pleased to hear from you, and grateful that you have chosen to share your story with London Transport Museum. The experiences of non-binary people and transgender women are under-represented in our collections and we would like to correct this. If you can help, we’d be delighted.

We look forward to hearing from you. Just pop over to Where are all the women? project webpage and fill out the form there!

LGBT+ Linking Lives collecting project

London Transport Museum’s Documentary Curators, Susanna Cordner and Ellie Miles, collate and collect perspectives on and stories about the role transport plays in contemporary London. Their work gives us the opportunity to bring new voices into our collection and to make sure that the history and narratives we tell reflect the experiences of different kinds of people.

In this blog, Susanna reveals what attracted her to this role, and introduces her latest collecting project, LGBT+ Linking Lives.

What first drew me to the role of Documentary Curator was the opportunity to seek out and share different kinds of social stories. Transport seemed a particularly potent subject through which to do it. Public transport acts as a great unifier of public experience. If you dare to look around you, next time you’re sat on the Tube (I grant you, this isn’t common practice, but it might be worth the risk), more likely than not you’ll find yourself framed by a diverse range of people, with a greater mix of ages, ethnicities, and orientations than the majority of other work places or public spaces can offer.

Public transport is therefore a social space, a social subject, and, simultaneously, the performer of an essential social role. Transport doesn’t just take people from A to B, it connects us – it allows disparate parts of our city, and of our lives, to link.

TfL Ride with Pride vehicles, painted in rainbow colours in support of LGBT+ staff network, OUTbound. Photo by Eleanor Bentall

We took inspiration from this for our current LGBT+ Linking Lives collecting project, through which we are collecting stories about how transport connects LGBT+ lives and communities across our Capital. We want to hear about the journeys, sites and stories in which transport has played a role in your LGBT+ experience in London.

Andy De Santis, Vice Chair of OUTbound, TfL’s LGBT+ Staff Network

I’ve been collaborating with colleagues from OUTbound, TfL’s LGBT+ Staff Network Group, who have been so generous about sharing their stories so far. The subjects of these stories range from experiencing public transport as spaces of safety while transitioning, to the accepting community and revelry of the night bus, from feeling heartbroken heading home on the Tube to finding joy in staffing a station during Pride.

We will be sharing these stories over the coming weeks, and they will be the subject of a pop-up display at our upcoming Friday Late: London Stories on Friday 8 February.

Friday Late and Poster Prize for Illustration: London Stories promotional image by Julia Allum

At the event, you will also be able to add your own love stories to a giant map of meeting places. In case you want to record your own piece of past or present there and then, we will also be hosting a pop-up oral history booth on the night.

The everyday can often tell us more about the human experience than the exceptional, and the role and impact of something as arguably humble but essential as transport on our lives deserves to be remembered. I look forward to hearing your stories!

Learn more about our Friday Late: London Stories event on 8 February, and book here.

Celebrating Britain’s Transport Textile

By Georgia Morley, curator

I have been very fortunate to work as Project Curator on ‘Celebrating Britain’s Transport Textile’ from 2017-2018. This project, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, has given us the opportunity to look into the use of moquette on the transport system since the 1920s.

Assisted by two Young Freelancers, Elizabeth Clark and Marie Stewart, we have uncovered many fascinating stories behind the design, manufacturing and use of moquette through the ages.

History 

Moquette – which means carpet in French – is a tough woollen fabric that is used in upholstery on public transport all over the world. The fabric is produced using a weaving technique known as jacquard, and is typically made of 85% wool, 15% nylon mix, with a cotton backing. Before the use of moquette on public transport vehicles, seats were either unpadded timber seats and benches or upholstered in rattan, leather, leathercloth, cotton or silk velvets.

Men working in a shop. One is fitting a moquette.
Trimming shop at Acton Works, fitting ‘Chesham’ moquette design by Marion Dorn, 1954

Research and collection

London Transport Museum’s collection holds over 400 samples of moquette from the 1920s to the present day. We conducted in depth research at many different institutions and collections that hold moquette across London and the UK. By meeting some of the specialist project partners we have gained an insight into why this fabric is so iconic to the life and soul of London and its transport system for over 100 years.

black and white image of people on a train.
‘Caledonian’ moquette design by Marion Dorn on proposed Amersham (Metropolitan) line, 1946

During the research we conducted oral histories with key figures, collected new moquette designs and photographs of moquette in use today. We uncovered a new design by the iconic designer Enid Marx and discovered a new designer of moquette from the 1930s.

We worked in partnership with St Mungo’s, a charitable organisation which supports those who are homeless or have experienced homelessness. A ten-week course at ‘St Mungo’s Recovery College’ was run by a freelance educator and artist practitioner celebrating the design and history of moquette.

Three people on a stage, one is holding a mic and speaking.
Speakers at the ‘Celebrating Britain’s Transport Textile’ symposium, 2017

Visitors gained an insight into moquette through a wide range of public events at London Transport Museum and Acton Depot including; Urban Fabric (Friday Late), London Uncovered (Depot Open Weekend), Design Connections: Robert Elms in conversation with Wallace Sewell and Celebrating Britain’s Transport Textile (Symposium). The events brought together the project partners along with a varied audience of practitioners, lecturers, historians, museum professionals, volunteers, students as well as the public.

We are now sharing all our new discoveries with the public on our Collections Online website.

New LGBT+ collecting

By Ellie Miles, Documentary Curator

To celebrate the start of Transgender Awareness Week, on Monday 12 November 2018, TfL flew the trans pride flag above 55 Broadway. Perhaps the flag, as well as more personal stories, will come to the Museum soon, as we are working to enrich our collection around LGBT+ people’s contributions to London’s transport.

Trans pride flag above 55 Broadway, 12 November 2018, photo © Andy De Santis

We have been working with OUTbound, one of TfL’s staff network groups, to source some exciting new objects for the collection – one of which you might have spotted in our previous blog #ASKACURATOR. Our Collections Development Group recommended we add the objects below to the Museum’s collection, and we are pleased to share them with you on Transgender Awareness Week.

Placard with roundel in trans pride colours

Placard with roundel in trans pride colours, reference photo © London Transport Museum

The TfL roundel in the trans pride colours adorns this placard, made on behalf of members of OUTbound. Earlier this year, roundels and benches with rainbow and trans pride colours were installed for the first time in a handful of stations for London Pride.
We looked into getting hold of a station roundel, but with them being vinyl stickers – like the Gareth Southgate roundel seen this summer –  they are torn when removed, and we haven’t yet found a practical solution to preserving them. However our search put us in contact with Andy at OUTbound, who carried this special one-off roundel to support trans colleagues at Brighton Trans Pride in August, and offered it to the Museum.

LGBT+ Ally lanyard

LGBT+ Ally lanyard, reference photo © London Transport Museum

This year, TfL launched a new initiative for LGBT+ allies to help employees create a supportive and inclusive environment for staff and customers. These lanyards were produced and distributed to group members who sign up and make a commitment to supporting the LGBT+ community and learning more about LGBT+ issues. These are a valuable addition to our collection, and we intend to keep a record of training materials too, to help contextualise the lanyards in future.

‘Ride with Pride’ badge

‘Ride with Pride’ enamel badge, reference photo © London Transport Museum

This badge shows the popularity of the ‘Ride with Pride’ campaign, which ran in 2015. As with the roundels, we weren’t able to preserve the bus wraps produced for the campaign. We have a few related objects in the collection, like this poster, and London’s first rainbow crossing. But it’s nice to have this badge as a physical memento, as  part of the legacy of ‘Ride with Pride’, alongside photos documenting the project.

TfL Ride with Pride Vehicles. New Routemaster bus, black cab and DLR train painted in rainbow colours in support of LGBT staff network, OUTbound. Photographed at Beckton DLR depot. 1 August 2015. Photo: Eleanor Bentall

These new additions to the collection sit well with some other recent acquisitions, including interviews, posters and oyster card wallets, but they are just a small part of the collection that we hope to build. These objects give us the chance to learn more about LGBT+ experience and London Transport. We are looking forward to collecting more personal stories to go with these objects. This is a topic that we are keen to revisit and we have exciting plans coming up.

If you have objects or stories that you think we ought to be preserving, please get in touch and let us know: documentarycurator@ltmuseum.co.uk

#AskaCurator

What does a Documentary Curator do?

Gareth Southgate roundel
Gareth Southgate roundel @ London Transport Museum

When Southgate station was renamed ‘Gareth Southgate’, when Transport for London staff members took part in Brighton Trans Pride, and when the tube driver Harvey Mitchell stopped his train to make his tribute to the victims of the Grenfell fire, London Transport Museum was at the ready to follow and record these stories and to bring them to the museum. I’m Ellie Miles, I’m one of the museum’s curators and I have the amazing job title ‘documentary curator’. Susanna and I work as Documentary Curators, and it’s our responsibility to work with the people who experience them to bring current events and everyday life into the museum’s collection.

Ellie Miles, Documentary Curator

These news-worthy events are one side of the contemporary collecting work that we do. Sometimes we collect the exceptions: the things which don’t happen every day. Sometimes we collect the typical: things which seem ordinary now but will be hard to get hold of in a few weeks, months or years. Working with groups like OUTbound (TfL’s LGBT+ Staff network) means that sometimes we can find stories that aren’t shared elsewhere. As well as reacting to unexpected events, there are some things which we can plan for. Over the next few years we’ll be collecting in two local areas with new Crossrail stations, to see how the new line changes them. We always try to collect objects that tell us about the times we are living in.

OUTBound at Brighton Trans pride event, 21st July 2018, photo © Andy De Santis, used with permission
OUTBound at Brighton Trans pride event, 21st July 2018, photo © Andy De Santis, used with permission
Trans pride roundel, in the curators’ offices at London Transport Museum, 20th August 2018, photo © London Transport Museum
Trans pride roundel, in the curators’ offices at London Transport Museum, 20th August 2018, photo © London Transport Museum

This can be difficult because sometimes the ‘real’ object has been destroyed through use and we might only be able to get hold of related material – for instance, the designs or plans for a piece or project. There are some new things that we are still learning to collect: for example, we have a lot of old tickets, but maybe it’s time we collected oyster and contactless journey data.

When we find a suitable object, we propose it for review by the Museum’s Collections Development Group. If the group agree it’ll be a good addition to the collection, is in manageable condition and fits our collecting policy, then the Museum will then preserve it alongside the rest of its objects. Sometimes these things get out on display straight away, but most are kept in the stores, for the future.

Harvey Mitchell, 24th July 2018, photo © London Transport Museum
Harvey Mitchell, 24th July 2018, photo © London Transport Museum

Although we are usually free from discussions about repatriation and the questions that other museums must face about human remains, we still need to think about how we collect responsibly. It’s important that we are inclusive; work respectfully with the people who donate their stories and objects to the museum; and ensure that the acquisitions represent London’s diversity. If we don’t, then we aren’t telling the true story of transport in London at all.

I love working to collect the stories of transport in London today, there is so much so learn and so many fascinating things to discover. We couldn’t do it without everyone taking part and sharing their stories. If you have a contemporary object or story for the Museum send us an email, we’d love to hear it – documentarycurator@ltmuseum.co.uk

C&RE

A modern couple who brought a new aesthetic to 1930s poster art

Unique among the artists featured in London Transport Museum’s Poster Girls, Clifford and Rosemary Ellis were a husband and wife design partnership. They married in 1931 after meeting at the Regents Street Polytechnic, and henceforth virtually all their commercial work was jointly signed, often with the initials ‘C&RE’. At the time, this was an unusual demonstration of artistic and marital equality, underlined by the occasional use of the signature ‘Rosemary and Clifford Ellis’ (rather than ‘Clifford & Rosemary’) which can be seen on one of the London Transport posters in the exhibition. In describing their collaborative approach, Rosemary explained that either one might have the original idea for a design which they would then finalise together.

Whatever the origins of their ideas may have been, the results were extraordinary. Their unmistakable style was characterised by a lively use of colour and form, creating unusual and memorable poster designs. Travels in Time (1937), for example, is almost surrealist in its depiction of a disembodied Charles I against an imagined landscape. Luckily for Londoners, this bewildering image was paired with an explanatory poster (also designed by Rosemary and Clifford) promoting the Capital’s museums. In contrast, their representation of animals and birds, seen in their designs for Green Line Coaches (1933), was wonderfully naturalistic and alive with movement.

Ellis artwork

By the late thirties, the couple were much in demand, having designed posters for London Transport, the Empire Marketing Board, the Post Office and Shell-Mex. Their joint output included book jackets, lithographs, murals, mosaics and wallpaper. Clifford was also the headmaster of the Bath Academy of Art and instrumental in re-establishing it as one of Britain’s foremost art colleges at Corsham Court after the Second World War. During the war, Rosemary and Clifford worked together on the monumental Recording Britain project, but are perhaps best remembered today for the 60+ dust jackets they designed for the long running New Naturalist book series.

The couple’s extensive personal archive was auctioned in 2017 following the death of their only child, the sculptor Penelope Ellis. London Transport Museum acquired two rare ‘proof’ versions of ‘Museums’ (1937), showing annotations made by the artists before final printing. These included the replacement of the printed London Transport logo with a hand drawn alternative, which was accepted for the final design.

To find out more about Clifford and Rosemary Ellis, visit the Poster Girls exhibition at London Transport Museum in Covent Garden, or go behind the scenes to explore the Museum’s famous poster collection at Acton Depot Open Weekend, 21-22 April. Full details of Depot tours and times can be found here www.ltmuseum.co.uk/whats-on/museum-depot/open-weekends

David Bownes is co-curator of Poster Girls and director of Twentieth Century Posters (www.twentiethcenturyposters.com)

introducing our new gallery, Digging Deeper

Written by Simon Murphy, Lead Curator of Digging Deeper

In our new permanent tunnelling history gallery, we set ourselves a number of challenges. At the most basic level we needed to bring the tunnelling story up to date to include the Elizabeth line opening later this year. The main display was ten years old, but a large part of it – a full-size representation of a tunnelling machine from 1890 with three mannequin figures, was first installed more than twenty years ago.

Elizabeth line construction

We also wanted to highlight the individual contribution of the engineer James Henry Greathead to tube tunnelling from 1870 right up to the present. What made the project a challenge was that we wanted to tell the story succinctly in a series of videos and key objects in a new tunnel-shaped space, without the need for traditional text panels.

An additional consideration was that the tunnelling story is only one part of the larger narrative of the growth of tube railways, alongside the development of electricity and lifts/escalators. Whilst these other display elements stayed mostly the same, they were spruced up, and we added floor graphics to help visitors distinguish the different story strands.

To create a more immersive experience we built an enclosed tunnel space, that visitors enter through an arch resembling an arch from the first tunnel under the Thames, dug by Marc Brunel between 1825 and 1843. The new tunnel space extends four metres out from the original period tunnel mock-up, using theatrical lighting effects to first mask and then reveal Greathead’s 1890 tunnelling shield.

Immersive tunnel display

The main narrative video is projected into the circular tunnel shape, with three shorter videos focussing on more specific object-related stories appearing on the sides of the tunnel. Broadly, these cover Greathead’s first shield and the Tower Subway tunnel it built in 1870, the refinement of the shield from 1890 and its use on the expanding tube railway network, and the era of computer-guided integrated Tunnel Boring Machines (or TBMs) used on the extension of the Jubilee line in the 1990s and on an unprecedented scale on the Crossrail project from 2012 to 2015.

www.ltmuseum.co.uk/whats-on/year-of-engineering/digging-deeper

A new discovery

One of the major strands of our new display Digging Deeper, supported by Biffa Award, is to celebrate the contribution of the Victorian engineer James Henry Greathead to the development of tube tunnelling worldwide. New research during exhibition work sometimes presents opportunities to find out more about objects in our care, and can reveal exciting new information. I’m happy to say this is one of those times.

We have had this demonstration model of the first circular tunnelling shield in the world in the collection for many years, but we didn’t know much about it. We know that Greathead designed and built the shield that it represents – the one that built the Tower Subway in 1870 – but we couldn’t be sure of a link between this model and the inventor, until now. By looking into the history of the donor I have discovered that the model had been passed down through the family of another engineer who worked with Greathead in the 1880s, establishing a direct link to the great man himself. Now it is not just a model, it’s a part of world tunnelling history, and will be on display for the first time, when the gallery re-opens in March 2018.

Shield Model

Here we see the shield’s six screw-operated rams and representation of two complete tunnel lining rings, which workmen would construct one at a time as the shield moves forward.

Shield in use

In this picture the men are turning the screws which force the tubular shield forward by the width of a tunnel lining ring.

Simon Murphy, Lead Curator, Digging Deeper project 2017

The 1951 Festival of Britain showcase of new London Transport R49 stock

I have just realised that today, 3rd May, is the anniversary of the opening of the 1951 Festival of Britain. The Festival was a showcase of the best of British design and technology, including fascinating transport exhibits representing a new future.

By the end of the Second World War, like the people it served, London’s transport system had been exhausted. Steel was not readily available, so the designers used aluminium for the new District Line trains instead. Keen to show off their new trains, London Transport exhibited a prototype (car 23231) at the Festival of Britain site on the South Bank, and it is shown here being shipped in and only partially painted – just two days before the site opened to the public. In their final production versions, the train exteriors were left as bare unpainted metal, a feature of several post-war Underground stock types.

In the background, the Dome of Discovery (one of the main Festival of Britain exhibition spaces) and the Skylon structure can be seen. More than 8.5 million people visited the South Bank site for the Festival, and many of them will have seen this new London Transport design proudly on display.

Here’s another image of the car transported by Pickfords Road Services roadtrailer from Metro-Cammell at Birmingham, set to be offloaded at the Festival of Britain site on 1st May 1951.

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These trains, known as R49 stock, finally went into formal public service in 1953, were stalwarts for 30 years and were eventually replaced by the D-stock and C-stock. All had left service by 1983.

Frank Pick: BEAUTY < IMMORTALITY

Frank Pick died 75 years ago this week. You’ll know his work; you’ll know his style. Your life is probably better because of him.

Arriving at the Undergound Group from a stint at the North Eastrn Railway at York in 1906, he was made Commercial Manager in 1912. First came pressing matters of fare structures, network consistency and development of some of the earliest travel posters; and by 1915 Pick had commissioned Edward Johnston to create a new, easily legible typeface. Upon that design’s completion he commissioned Johnston again: this time it was to redesign the early “bullseye” station nameboard device – and it became something more akin to the “roundel” we know today.

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Pick and a few of the works he can claim a hand in

It could be said that by 1916 Pick had already become a patron of public works, commissioning a visual identity that is known and trusted worldwide today still. Pick’s philosophy on design was that “the test of the goodness of a thing is its fitness for use. If it fails on this first test, no amount of ornamentation or finish will make it any better; it will only make it more expensive, more foolish.”

Charles Holden was his next great appointment. The contract for seven new stations on the Piccadilly Line extension to Morden was Holden’s proving ground from 1925: Piccadilly Circus, also a Holden creation, opened in 1928. A showpiece for the Underground, it was lavishly decorated and many early features survive today including wood panelling, integrated lighting and the famous World Clock.

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The World Time Today clock in Piccadilly Circus station. Photo: Tim Dunn

As of the 75th anniversary of Pick’s death, 7th November 2016, Piccadilly Circus, that hub of London’s buzzing underground network, is now also home to the permanent Frank Pick memorial. The memorial has been installed on the outer wall of the booking hall, where telephone kiosks once stood.

Another 30 Holden-designed stations followed the development of Piccadilly Circus (in my next blog, we’ll be revisiting some of Pick and Holden’s work). Posters were commissioned from Man Ray, Paul Nash and others; Marion Dorn was briefed to create stunning seat fabrics which still stand the test of time.

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Southgate station: designed by Holden, commissioned by Pick. It opened in 1933. Photo: London Transport Museum collection.
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Marion Dorn’s “Colindale” seat fabric moquette

Pick was a customer champion. He believed that London and London’s transport should be better, and that it could be better. Having commissioned, briefed and ensured so much that went towards achieving that aim, he later became chairman of the Council for Art and Industry (forerunner of the Design Council) in 1934, and an honorary associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

You can read more about his life and selected achievements on the main London Transport Museum website. But if you, like me, occasionally stop on your travels around London’s Underground and  wonder at the great works of a true visionary, perhaps you might like to contribute towards the Frank Pick memorial too.

You can donate here.