Design study collection to get public airing at museum

"It's wonderful that some of Betty's 'living archive' will now be on show to the wider public and we're grateful to The National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies (NADFAS) who've been working on the objects, repairing them and giving them TLC and are helping to set up the exhibition."

Liz Allen, Keeper of the Betty Smithers Design Collection

A STUNNING collection of period clothing housed at Staffordshire University travels to Newcastle this week as a tribute to fashion lecturer and historian Betty Smithers.

The exhibition - entitled 'Out of the Wardrobe - Fashioning a Life' opens at the Newcastle Borough Museum and Art Gallery on Saturday January 14 and features some of the outfits from the collection.

Betty won a scholarship to study design at the Royal College of Art and when her family moved to North Staffordshire, she taught at the Sutherland Institute in Longton, before moving to Stoke-on-Trent College, where she taught for 22 years.

Finally, she lectured at Burslem School of Art until she retired in 1995, at the age of 70. Before Betty's death in 2008, she donated her extensive clothing collection to Staffordshire University, so that students could be inspired and informed by the designs, and make full use of what Betty liked to call her 'Living Archive.'

In recognition of the gesture, the University's entire design collection, was renamed the Betty Smithers Design Study Collection.

Liz Allen, keeper of the Betty Smithers Design Study Collection, said: "The collection is an Aladdin's cave of objects spanning 20th century design history and is a regular source of inspiration for our students, whether for a photoshoot or to merely browse through some of our magazines and periodicals."

"It's wonderful that some of Betty's 'living archive' will now be on show to the wider public and we're grateful to The National Association of Decorative & Fine Arts Societies (NADFAS) who've been working on the objects, repairing them and giving them TLC and are helping to set up the exhibition."

In addition to Betty's costumes and original designs, the exhibition will include work by the Midlands Textile Forum which has been inspired by the Collection.

Betty's daughter Rebecca, a Guardian journalist, described her mother as an "inspiration" who was very much part of the community.  "She was a lively local figure and was often called upon for her opinion and ideas about fashion and design."

'Out of the Wardrobe - Fashioning a Life' runs at Newcastle Borough Museum and Art Gallery until March 4.

Contact

Maria Scrivens
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t: +44 (0)1782 294375
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e: m.c.scrivens@staffs.ac.uk