THE LACE LADY… Rosemary Shepherd OAM

My move to Uralla in 2015 put an end to 37 years involvement with the Powerhouse Museum.
I hadn’t even unpacked properly before a dear friend, also a “Museum person”, came to visit, so of course our first stop was the Mill. We found fascinating displays, moving stories and exceptional label-writing, all inside a sensitively-restored historic building. The writer of the admired labels turned out to be Director Kent who accepted our congratulations and immediately extracted membership fees from us!
A couple of years later, I offered to help my Newcastle friend Janice Jones find a home for her large and significant lace collection. The Powerhouse was not an option since the announcement of the move to Parramatta, so I agreed to be custodian of the collection on behalf of the New England Lace Group until a permanent home could be found.
I had assumed it wouldn’t be appropriate for the Mill, but when I mentioned it to Kent, his response was, “If the British Museum can have the Elgin Marbles, we can have a lace collection!” I was delighted with this response, and so was Janice, to know that her precious lace would be on public display.
That happened at the end of 2018, and my lace-curator skills have been fully occupied since. I was also involved in the design of the beautiful, fitted display cabinets made locally by Neil Cordery.
The Lace Group has provided all the display materials, members meticulously covering the twenty-eight display boards for the drawers with fabric, ready to attach the lace. A former Powerhouse colleague has made supports for the smaller costume items. My job has been selecting and cataloguing the lace. The most significant 150 pieces have been chosen from more than 400: the oldest was made in the 1500s, the newest in 1989.
*The OAM, now 30 years old, reads ‘for service to the arts, particularly lace-making’ and makes me proud on behalf of five centuries of Lacemakers who remain anonymous despite producing some of the most exquisite textiles ever made.

The Millers’ Tales – Autumn/Winter 2020