On Wednesday 3 August at 10am, a brand new exhibition will be unveiled at The Swindon Museum and Art Gallery.
The old Victorian Gallery has had a makeover and will now be known as ‘Made in Swindon’. The gallery tells the story of Swindon’s rich heritage and houses some fascinating artefacts.
This brand new exhibition will celebrate production and design in Swindon from the 19th century and showcase the well-known figures that have emerged from our town. Made in Swindon brings together a selection of local companies and products which have contributed to the growth and identity of the town. It includes record players made by Garrard’s and the sign from McIlroys, the town’s grandest department store.
Garrard’s opened in Swindon in 1919 with 40 employees but by 1950 it employed over 1,400 people and was renowned throughout the world for its high quality record gramophones. A selection of recording equipment from Garrard’s is on display, including a rare miniature record deck with enamel cover (pictured below).
McIlroys dominated Regent Street for 123 years. In its day, it was a grand department store and a shop frontage sign is on display in the gallery. A ballroom was added to the department store in the 1930s and stars that performed there included The Beatles and Diana Dors.
Diane Dors, who was born in Swindon, is also represented in the new Gallery along with other local artists including Gilbert O’Sullivan, Ken White, Leslie Cole, Harold Dearden and Alfred Williams.
An array of beautiful ceramic and glass bottles produced by brewers based in Swindon can also be viewed in the gallery. Bottles were moulded or marked with the brand name to stop rival producers imitating their bottles.
Swindon’s crested china and local postcards will also be showcased, showing the town’s sense of humour as well as many images of Swindon through the years.
The gallery refresh is part of the 2014-16 Heritage Lottery Funded project ‘Hidden Potential: Understanding, Centralising, Caring for and Sharing Swindon’s Stored Collections’.
The aim of the project was to rediscover Swindon Museum & Art Gallery’s diverse collections (many of which were in long-term storage) and share them with the Swindon community. Staff and volunteers worked to re-catalogue and photograph objects, allowing them to be publically displayed, share them through social media or make them available to researchers.