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Whispers from the Walls - part 2 - finding inspiration

Updated: Apr 14

In February I excitedly returned to the University of Lincoln's Department of Conservation to visit Lynda Skipper and the wall paper archives. This time with the objective of gathering information and ideas to make some art work in response to Lynda's research. She and I had been paired by a Pint of Science for the Creative Reactions project which brings science and art together. Here she is showing one of the papers.

Dr Lynda Skipper

The wall paper archive is full of gorgeous samples rescued from various interesting places such as Mrs Smith Cottage and Elizabeth Gaskell's house and, as I said in my previous post, their beauty and intrigue made me quite giddy. So many beautiful patterns and colours each giving a glimpse into different times from the past. The impermanence of the papers, as with antique textiles, particularly captivates me. They once were a part of people's daily existence, having been chosen to shape their environments, bringing beauty and comfort to domestic environments or prestige and authority to formal or commercial settings. They would have been the back drop for their lives, often taken for granted but seeping into their psyche and becoming inextricably layered with memories and personal experience. These surviving samples are a reminder of all those lived experiences now lost to time, the signs of wear and decay enhancing their poignancy.

I could have spent an age indulging in decorative elegance and soaking in delightful patterns and colourways but I was particularly drawn to a collection of considerably less pretty samples, predominantly consisting of dark brown colours. Exuding an air of dark Victorian past they made me feel slightly uncomfortable, less romance, more slightly grotty gothic.

Lynda was keen to tell me about them. They came from a property in Lincoln, at the top of Steep Hill near the cathedral, and are in the archive somewhat by lucky chance. Lynda was walking past when some building work was taking place when she spied some wall papers in a skip and was then able to rescue eight layers dating back to the 1840's.

I took lots of photos and learnt from Lynda's expertise about what these papers can tell us.

Lucy McElroy

Thanks for reading.

More about the papers, what I discovered about their story and what they inspired me to create in my next post.

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