New Open-Access Article on Capturing Skills for Demonstrating Heritage Machinery

Written for the Science Museum Journal by Pippi Carty-Hornsby, ‘Preserving skills and knowledge in heritage machinery operations’, Science Museum Group Journal, Autumn 2021, Issue 16, details an approach to knowledge capture on a collection of working textile machinery at the Science and Industry Museum. The machinery collection dates between 1880 and 1955 and the knowledge capture process outlined in the case study was prompted by the retirement announcement of the last machine operator on staff with first-hand experience of the textile industry.

Heritage machinery demonstrations provide a unique opportunity for visitors to museums to experience the sights, smells and sounds of Britain’s industrial past. However, with many of the operating roles in the sector being staffed by an ageing population, heritage machinery demonstrations are at risk of substantial knowledge loss over the coming years. Without intervention, many of the tacit skills and knowledge that the operators hold will be lost, along with the opportunity for the public to learn from and experience the machinery first-hand.

The method outlined in this article includes a review of existing documentation, operation recording and interrogation of results, comparison and discussion with stakeholders, and production of documentation and resources. The results of this process included a set of documents that reflected both modern health and safety and conservation and collections care guidelines, as well as cross-media resources that can be used as a future training aid. Though the case study detailed here features textile machinery, it is applicable across many strands of heritage machinery and could provide a useful tool for similar ‘at-risk’ machinery operations in museums and other cultural institutions.

For free access to this article follow this link:

Textile gallery, Science and Industry Museum, Manchester

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