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Recent acquisitions

Social History Collection

Rugby Branch Co-operative Women’s Guild Banner

On display in the Social History Gallery from 30 June
This banner dates from 1885 and belonged to the Rugby Industrial and Provident Co-operative Society Women’s Guild.
The banner would have been a thing of pride and used in various processions and taken to the National Women’s Guild Congress held throughout the UK. It is decorated with embroidery and appliqué. Flowers were common banner images, on this banner shows a rose bush interwoven with a scroll reading ‘Onward and Upward’. The lower border reads ‘Rugby Branch Formed 1885’.

womens guild banner

History of the Guild
The Guild was founded in 1883 by Alice Acland. By 1889 it had more than 51 branches across the country.
From early on they focused on the advancement of working class women, to clearly distinguish their work from that of the many middle class women’s groups.
The Guild was active in shaping a wide range of social legislation: maternity cover, child health, divorce reform, the cost of living and consumer rights, equal pay, health and housing, suffrage and the pursuit of international peace. The Guild created the first ever white peace poppies for Remembrance Day in 1933.
At its height it had 1500 branches and 72,000 members. In 2015 a vote was taken to dissolve the Guild due to dwindling membership. The Rugby banner had been housed at the Nuneaton Branch for many years after the Rugby Branch dissolved. In June 2016 the banner was donated to Rugby Art Gallery and Museum as the Nuneaton Branch was closing.
We would like to thank Christine Walker and the Guild for their donation and grant for the banner.

Conservation of the banner
At the time of donation, the National Executive of the Guild gave Rugby Art Gallery and Museum a grant towards the conservation of the banner which allowed us to stabilize this fragile textile for future generations to enjoy.
The main fabric of the banner is a lightweight beige unbleached weave linen with pink/red lining and border. The main panel, lining and border has faded significantly. The banner is hand stitched throughout. It appears that the border has been applied too tightly to the main panel which has led the banner to blouse and crease. A repair had been made to try and correct by stitching in a pleat at the top of the banner.  Loop fixings along the top of the banner had also caused the banner to distort into a scalloped edge. Rust marks and water staining had accelerated its degradation.
In 2017 we used the help of conservator Victoria Allan to assess the damage to the banner and come to a decision to conserve what we could.
Without major intervention we could not repair much of the blousing. We were also unable to apply a wet-clean as the fabric was so stained and faded it may have proved harmful and cause shrinkage and splitting in the fabric.
The Treatment
A panel of fabric was added to enable us to hang the banner along a pole and reduce the scalloped edge which had formed.
A low suction vacuum was applied and humidification treatments applied to reduce wrinkles and creases.
Broken embroidery was secured.
A new padded support was created for the banner so it can be wrapped for storage.


The Rugby Collection

THE Rugby Collection  acquired works in 2018 by Turner Prize winner Lubaina Himid and Claudette Johnson after securing grants from Art Fund, Arts Council England, the Victoria and Albert Purchase Art Fund 2018 and the Contemporary Art Society.

Himid and Johnson have both played leading roles in Britain's Black Arts Movement, creating pieces which focus on racial politics and identity and their works enhance the Rugby Collection of 20th and 21st centuy British contemporary art.

All three works featured in About Face, an exhibition of portraiture which explored the artists behind the artworks.  Listen to the 'In Conversation' Rugby Art Gallery & Museum held with Lubaina Himid and Claudette Johnson.


rugby colleciton

Claudette Johnson (b.1959)

Standing Figure

Charcoal & Masking Tape, 2017

New acquisition to the Rugby Collection (Dec 2017)

Purchased with the support from the Contemporary Art Society 2017.  Presented by the Contemparary Art Society with the support of Rugby Art Gallery and Museum 2017.

Although her works are often defined as 'portraits', Johnson has suggested that the 'drawings sit outside of portraiture as the figures inhabit an undefined space that makes no reference to the sitter's personal history or location'.  Standing Figure depicts a young Black woman who never meets our gaze, nor does she give the impression that she is shy.   Standing Figure is un-staged and intimate, instead of performing to an audience, the subject is in a moment of contemplation.

"I wanted to render the figure with as few lines as possible whilst still giving a sense of her physicality and presence.  Tone was introduced quite late in the work to act as a ballast to the lightness of the head and upper figure.  My aim, through scale and structure is to enable the viewer to have a visceral response to the presence of this figure".

Claudette Johnson


rugby collection

Lubaina Himid MBE (b. 1954) Turner Prize Winner 2017

Man in Paper Drawer (left)

Man in Pencil Drawer (right)

Acrylic and found drawer 2017

Rugby Collection

Purchased with assistance from the Art Fund and the Arts Council England/Victoria and Albert Purchase Grant Fund 2018.

Lubaina is interested in the visible and invisible.  Man in Paper Drawer and Man in Pencil Drawer suggest the act of revealing something.  The drawer carries with it a performance action of bringing something into the field of vision.  It could perhaps also refer to an act of naming, filing and archiving; archiving histories and particularly Black histories.

"Museums imagine than they don't know audiences, as if 'audiences' are this funny, grey, humming thing - audiences are just made up of people....The way to get more audiences, different audiences in is to get different artists in: it's really that simple"

Lubaina Himid