Valerie has curatorial responsibility for the collection of dress, textiles and needlework at the Ulster Folk Museum. The collection dates from 1760 to present day and includes significant examples of fashionable and everyday historic dress, transport uniforms, embroidery, Irish lace, and patchwork quilts. She researches, manages and develops this collection to support the museum’s work in relation to collections access and interpretation.
Valerie turned a childhood love of art and needlework into a career as a museum curator, with a mix of academic study and studio practice along the way. She has a degree in Textiles/Fashion and Post graduate diploma in Cultural Management but most of her knowledge has been gained through many years of hands-on experience of working with museum objects on a daily basis, unlocking the stories they hold in order to bring them to a wider audience. Working as a curator has its own unique challenges and she considers mannequin-wrangling to be one of her specialist skills!
Current research interests include aspects of traditional embroidery, and dressmaking, in Ireland. In her time with the museum she has worked on many exhibitions, including ‘Quilts and Quilt makers’; ‘Ulster Needlework; ‘Tying the Knot’; ‘Fabrics and Fabrication’; ‘Through the eye of a needle’; and, currently, ‘A Step in Time: the story of Irish Dance’. In 2017 Valerie worked with a team of volunteers on the Game of Thrones tapestry prior to its exhibition at the Ulster Museum in 2017 and in Bayeux in 2019.
Valerie has a specialist knowledge of embroidery, and patchwork and quilting in Ulster. In 2010 UFM loaned bedcovers to the V&A exhibition ‘Quilts 1700 -2010’ and she contributed to the accompanying lecture programme at the museum.
Costume and textiles from the collection have been included in catalogues for the exhibitions ‘Ulster Needlework’, ‘Tying the Knot’, and ‘Fabrics and Fabrication’. Valerie has published articles in Ulster Folklife Journal, Uncoverings Journal (American Quilt Study Group) and Embroidery Journal. In recent years she has represented the museum on the committee of DATS (Dress and textiles specialists) and as an ambassador for the Costume Society UK.
Throughout her time at the museum she has maintained her interest in designing, making and exhibiting needlework and in working with local textile guilds and groups as a way of connecting collections with communities.
Valerie loves sewing, and has a keen interest in sustainable fashion using traditional skills. She loves twentieth century design in embroidery, fashion and architecture, the work of Lucienne Day, Bill Gibb, and Eileen Gray in particular.
Exploring exhibitions and collections of art and textiles through city breaks is one of Valerie’s interests, as is enjoying the natural beauty of the north Antrim coast and Mallorca, her two favourite spots to unwind in.