History of Courtaulds Ltd. - volunteering experiences by Aimee Palmer

The Courtaulds project has been an interesting and enjoyable project to volunteer on, from the initial research stage, to learning about the history of the company and all the factories they had. The information we gathered as a group helped us to create a short film, booklet and online exhibition, and I especially liked that we got to interview former employees about their stories and experiences of working at the factory.

Before interviewing the former employees, we had to do a photo call at the Ulster Museum to help us gather a response. Thankfully, there was a lot of interest in it and past employees were eager to come forward to tell their story. I interviewed a man called Billy; he started off as an apprentice, working in the painting and decorating department. It was great hearing his stories of his time there and how he looked back on his apprenticeship with such fondness.

Image: Billy during his apprenticeship, courtesy of Billy Edwards
Billy during his apprenticeship, courtesy of Billy Edwards

Volunteering has been a nice way to connect with people during the pandemic. Our weekly Teams meetings kept us all in touch with one another, and it was good to work on something with the other volunteers and also to collaborate with staff from National Museums NI to complete the project.

Valerie Wilson, Curator of Textiles, provided us with fabulous examples of Courtaulds products within the collection held at the Ulster Folk Museum which were a great inspiration to us.

Image: This purple and white tank top of acetate and polyester, was made by Courtaulds’ CELESTA brand around the mid -1970s
This purple and white tank top of acetate and polyester, was made by Courtaulds’ CELESTA brand around the mid -1970s

The project has pushed me out of my comfort zone by reaching out to the public and interviewing people, which is something I have never done before, so I feel that I have gained new skills from the process. It has also given me more confidence for any future volunteer projects like this one.