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Northern Ireland’s textile past, present and future: reviving the William Liddell Collection

Two new exhibitions ‘Shuttle & Shafts’ and ‘Linen Lace Concrete’ at the Irish Linen Centre & Lisburn Museum will showcase Northern Ireland’s rich textile heritage and exciting future.

The Shuttle & Shafts exhibition is a result of a two-year project funded by the National Lottery via the Heritage Lottery Fund and led by Senior Research Fellow Trish Belford of Ulster University to clean and restore glass plates from the William Liddell Damask archive which famously supplied the White Star Line.

In 2007 a collection of delicate glass plates found in an abandoned factory of the William Liddell Company, became the catalyst for the two-year project of restoration. Ulster University experts began the process of archiving the glass plates with funding received by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The damask designs on glass plates supported by new work, will be on display at the exhibition, giving a rare insight into Northern Ireland’s manufacturing heritage.

William Liddell & Co Ltd., one of the country’s most successful Jacquard weaving companies, is embedded in the history of Northern Ireland from supplying luxury linen to the RMS Titanic to producing air craft wing fabrics and uniforms during the war.

The Linen Lace Concrete exhibition funded by the Arts Humanaties and Research Council, is a collaboration between Ulster University, Queen’s University and a MYB Textiles, Scotland to create new linen lace concrete surfaces.

Lead researcher, Patricia Belford from Ulster University’s Belfast School of Art, said:

"These exhibitions are the culmination of a 2-year project that has included the archiving of the delicate William Liddell glass plate collection uncovered in 2007.  We are excited that this collection is available for public viewing as it gives an important insight into Northern Ireland’s manufacturing history and preserves this find for the community and future generations.

Working with our project partners we were able to use designs from the archive to develop new innovative linen concrete surfaces which sees Northern Ireland's manufacturing past taken forward to the future."

Tony McCusker, member of the NI Committee of the Heritage Lottery Fund commented:

“We were delighted to be able to support this delicate glass plate restoration project. The ability to replicate intricate designs was essential to the success of the Irish linen industry and the glass plates enabled this to happen much like a photographic plate or negative. We are so pleased to see the restored plates go on display so people can no only see the plates but also the designs used in the industry. It is thanks to players of the National Lottery that we can invest in project that preserve and showcase our rich industrial heritage.”