A collection of beautiful umbrellas is being saved for a rainy day thanks to a painstaking conservation project.
More than 230 umbrellas and parasols housed at the Leeds Discovery Centre are being carefully documented and catalogued by students from the University of York working with curators from Leeds Museums and Galleries.
The huge collection, which dates from the late 18th century, includes a range of both practical and stunningly decorative examples which were once used to shield their former owners from the elements or to make a bold fashion statement.
Examples include a delicate pink silk parasol dating from the 1850s, which features a frilled border, black silk lining and a carved ivory handle.
Also part of the collection is a sturdier black umbrella, with a hand-carved Indian ivory handle and a gold cap which dates from around 1865. The umbrella was crafted by JJ Leggat in Harrogate and was donated by a member of the public whose great aunt was presented it by its maker.
Among the more colourful examples is a paper and bamboo parasol thought to be brought from Hong Kong in the 1920s. With a bamboo handle and a frame of bamboo strips, it is decorated with a floral design in red, white, yellow and black.
Vanessa Jones, Leeds Museums and Galleries assistant curator of costumes and textiles, said: “It’s amazing to see the full scope of this remarkable collection, accumulated over so many years and with such an astonishing breadth of designs, materials and colours.
“Umbrellas and parasols do obviously have a practical, functional purpose in keeping the sun and rain off, but what we can clearly see from our collection is that they have also very much been used over the centuries as a status symbol, a fashion statement or as a very beautiful accessory.
“By documenting and cataloguing them as we are now, we can help build a picture of not only how these objects have changed through time and in line with evolving fashions, but also the wonderful creativity and imagination of those who have designed and made them too.”
Once the collection has been fully catalogued, key examples will be photographed and featured online before further work to showcase them digitally takes place.
Councillor Jonathan Pryor, Leeds City Council’s executive member for economy, culture and education, said: “The fantastic work that goes on behind-the-scenes in our museums service is what enables us to put on such a diverse, varied and exciting programme of events and activities in our museums and galleries.
“Protecting, preserving and cataloguing this spectacular range of objects also gives future visitors the opportunity to enjoy them and to learn about history and heritage in new and innovative ways.”
The Leeds Discovery Centre is home to more than a million objects and is used to store parts of the Leeds collection which are not currently on display, spanning tens of millions of years of world history.
The centre is free to visit by appointment. For more details on how to book, visit: https://museumsandgalleries.leeds.gov.uk/leeds-discovery-centre