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Celebrating a fashion icon: Lois K Alexander Lane

12 October 2018 by Sarah

Lois K Alexander Lane. Credit: Courtesy of Susan McNeill and the Estate of Robert H. McNeill

We are honoured to have a guest blog from Joyce Bailey, daughter of the late Lois K Alexander Lane who is celebrated on our Black Achievers Wall at the Museum.

As a young girl, Lois K Alexander would look in boutique store windows and sketch the clothes she liked. She was clearly gifted, but not allowed to go in the stores to buy anything because of her race.  She later set out to dispel the myth ‘that Blacks were new found talent in the fashion industry’ and studied for a Master’s Degree from New York University. From there, her career in fashion was unstoppable. Read more about the incredible Lois K Alexander Lane, with thanks to her family:

“My mother was born Lois Marie Kindle in Little Rock, Arkansas on July 11, 1916. I have been told everyone knew she was destined for greatness.”

Lois K Alexander Lane. Credit: Courtesy of Susan McNeill and the Estate of Robert H. McNeill

“As a young girl, she would go downtown, look in boutique store windows and sketch the garments she favored. She was not allowed to go in the stores to buy anything because of her race. Mom purchased fabric and notions from the Five & Dime stores which she took home and produced garments similar to the ones she sketched. She made clothing for her mother, two sisters and her doll babies.

“Mom graduated from Virginia’s Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) and in the 1940s came to Washington, DC and began a career in the federal government. Starting as a clerk-stenographer for the War Department in 1942 and ending her tenure in 1978 as a Planning and Community Development Officer at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“In the 1960s, after being told by a New York University professor that Blacks had not made any contributions to the fashion world, she set out to dispel the myth that Blacks were new found talent in the fashion industry. She received her Master’s Degree from New York University. Her thesis title was “The Role of the Negro in Retailing in New York City from 1863 to the Present” (1963).

Lois K Alexander Lane, honoured on the Museum’s Black Achiever’s Wall

“Mom established two custom wear boutiques – one in Washington, DC (The Needle Nook) and one in New York City (Lois K. Alexander & Co.). In 1966, she founded the Harlem Institute of Fashion, an educational institute that offered free courses to students interested in dressmaking, millinery and tailoring. In the same year she founded the National Association of Milliners, Dressmakers and Tailors.

“In 1979, she founded The Black Fashion Museum (BFM) in New York City, committing the rest of her life to telling the world about the centuries of contributions women and men of the African Diaspora have made to fashion and design.”

Find out more about our Black Achievers Wall as well as all the free events we have lined up for Black History Month in the UK this October.

Celebrating Angus Wood

11 October 2018 by Kay

group photo of men in suits

Angus Wood (with coat over his arms)

This Black History Month we celebrate diverse voices from Liverpool’s Black community. This second blog in the series celebrates the life of Angus Wood and his contribution to the war effort during the Second World War.

“Because I am from Jamaica, an engineer didn’t think I was capable of sharpening a drill, although after that you know we got on smashing. I was treated quite well, especially when they suddenly realised that everything in Kingston was the same as in England”

Angus Wood, speaking in 2002. Liverpool Voices, Liverpool Lives archive, Museum of Liverpool.

Angus was born in Kingston, Jamaica and came to Liverpool when he responded to the call for engineers to come and work in munitions factories here in Britain.  He left Kingston on 13 January 1940 with a large group of other skilled men.

After a long journey they docked in Scotland and travelled by train to Liverpool. Initially they lived at the YMCA in Birkenhead.

Angus was employed at ROF Fazakerley, a newly opened rifle manufacturing factory. Initially he was treated a little differently but once he proved that he knew his job he was treated the same as the other workers. His job, a protected occupation, was to set up machines that the women workers used to cut and grind components for rifles.

Angus also joined the factory’s own Home Guard, performing night fire watches and guard duty before and after a full days work.

The women workers in the factory helped them to find lodgings with local families. Angus lived for two years with the Roberts family, in Crescent Road, Fazakerley, before meeting his wife at the factory and setting up their own home.

Angus and his friends often went to the Grafton Ballroom in their free time. Here they experienced some racism from American GIs. Angus tells us more –

“The Americans didn’t want any coloured chaps in there, and we were British so they couldn’t stop us, and when they objected there was a fight.  I always keep clear of any fights. I was never personally involved in any of them”.

After the war the men were offered the opportunity to return to Jamaica, or stay in Britain. Angus, who was by then married with young children, chose to stay. He lived and worked in Liverpool, staying on at the factory until it closed in 1962.

Don’t forget to download our trail exploring how Liverpool’s Black community is represented in our displays and check out the Black History Month events across National Museums Liverpool’s venues throughout October.

A glimpse into the life of a historic seafarer for World Mental Health Day

10 October 2018 by Jen

Logo compromised of a lifebelt and phone receiver to look like an old fashioned phone with text giving the e-mail address for SeafarerHelp

SeafarerHelp run a free, confidential, multilingual helpline for seafarers and their families, offering support with whatever issues they may be facing. You can find a link to their website at the bottom of this page.

Earlier this year I wrote about a romantic story from the journals of young Captain William Porter, from the 1860s. He was dearly missing his wife, Bess, when he discovered, weeks out to sea, that she’d hidden a letter to him among his belongings.

This sweet story about William and Bess was not however what had drawn me to the journals in the first place. It was a rather less happy strand to his writing that had caught my eye on the summary transcript. I had been researching in the Archives for historic references to struggles with mental health, or simply the loneliness and isolation we know are often a part of life at sea. In the summary for William’s journals there were certainly mentions of loneliness, but also repeated references to worry about a variety of things and a note of a New Year’s Eve entry that particularly spoke about his state of mind. Read more…

Happy Birthday John and Sean!

9 October 2018 by Victoria

9 October 1978 – John and Sean celebrate a double birthday

Photo by NIshi F. Saimaru  © Yoko Ono
9 October 1978 – John and Sean celebrate a double birthday

Today marks John Lennon and his son Sean Taro Ono Lennon’s joint birthday. John would have been 78 today and Sean is celebrating turning 43.

Sean was born on 9 October 1975, on John’s 35th birthday. Around that time John and Yoko decided that raising Sean, and having a more traditional family life, was the most important thing for them so John decided to cut back on work and dedicate himself to Sean’s early years. During this time John and Sean developed a very close bond. Read more…

Journey to Justice, DIY activism

5 October 2018 by Andrew Bullock

Over here zine fest poster

Over here zine fest poster

In addition to celebrating historic civil rights activists, International Slavery Museum’s exciting new exhibition Journey to Justice also aims to raise awareness of the ways that the fight for social justice can be continued and led by people like us. To showcase the fantastic work of activists working within DIY self-publishing networks, we invited Over Here Zine Fest to curate a selection of zines by BAME artists and writers. Here, Heena Patel discusses their involvement in organising Over Here Zine Fest and selecting the zines for the exhibition. Read more…

Giant stories all year round in our Titanic exhibition!

3 October 2018 by Sam

Enormous wooden puppet of a diver, standing in the water by the Albert Dock

The Giant first arrived in Salthouse Dock back in April 2012. Photo © Pete Carr

With the discovery of a mysterious giant sandal last night, which is now suspended over the Canning Dock nearby, anticipation is building for the Giant Spectacular event in Liverpool this weekend. This will be the third and final time that the Royal de Luxe will take over the city to enchant and delight us with their epic tales. However did you know that their first visit to Liverpool back in 2012 was inspired by a simple letter from our Maritime ArchivesRead more…

Standing and walking proud

3 October 2018 by Kay

Addae wearing his rugby shirt

Addae, 2017. Courtesy of Liverpool Tritons RUFC

This Black History Month we celebrate diverse voices from Liverpool’s Black community.

The first is Addae, a member of Liverpool Tritons Inclusive Rugby Club. The Tritons, founded in 2016, is the first gay inclusive rugby team on Merseyside. They encourage new members from all backgrounds, ages, fitness levels, and rugby experience.

Tritons Rugby Club tshirt with a picture of Neptune holding a trident

Liverpool Tritons Inclusive Rugby Club t-shirt worn at Liverpool Pride, 30 July 2016; the day the club was officially launched. You can see this t-shirt on display in Tales from the city exhibition

Addae, tells us more about what the Club means to him:

“When I recently relocated to Liverpool from Trinidad & Tobago, via London, I realized that I wasn’t particularly fond of the area. Liverpool was cold, damp, and windy, and understanding the Scouse dialect seemed more of a task than a pleasure. I didn’t feel like I belonged here.

Frequently bored and uninspired, the only solace that I found was from running and reading, until I got the opportunity to leave. One day while I was leaving the Liverpool Central Library (which I consider a literary oasis), and although I had been there innumerable times, on that day my eyes were drawn to a flyer that had the holy words, ‘Liverpool Tritons: Inclusive Rugby’.  Read more…

Everyone welcome – especially unicorns

28 September 2018 by Ann

Unicorns learning about life in the Eighteenth century!

The Lady Lever Art Gallery was named in memory of Lord Lever’s wife Elizabeth and was built to house an art collection to share with Lever’s soap factory workers.  It’s always been about community and inclusion and today is no different.  It’s not uncommon for us to hear parents say they don’t think the gallery is for them as they fear they’ll be too noisy or it’ll go over the kids’ heads.  We’d like to shout from the top of our beautiful glass domes that we love noise, creativity and little ones and we’d love you to come and visit! Read more…

Hands Across The Ocean, a guest blog from visiting author Deborah Heiligman

26 September 2018 by Jen

Deborah Heiligman with Sonia Bech Williams, child survivor of the sinking of the City of Benares, outside Sonia's childhood home.

Deborah Heiligman with Sonia Bech Williams, child survivor of the sinking of the City of Benares, outside Sonia’s childhood home.

Earlier this year I met with American author Deborah Heiligman, who’s working on a new children’s book about the sinking of the City of Benares in World War II. It was lovely to meet her and exchange information on this fascinating story and she’s now been kind enough to write a blog for us talking about her research and what drew her to the City of Benares: Read more…

Latest archaeological discoveries

26 September 2018 by Liz

NML archaeologist shows recent find at Rainford

This year’s Merseyside Archaeological Society Conference, being hosted at the Museum of Liverpool on Saturday 13 October, is exploring ‘Recent developments in Merseyside archaeology’. Talks will present some of the latest finds, with reference to many periods of our region’s past.
Read more…



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Welcome to the National Museums Liverpool blog! Written by our staff and volunteers, we’ll give you a peek behind the scenes of our museums and galleries.

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We try to ensure that the information provided on our blog is accurate and that appropriate permissions to use images have been sought. The opinions in each blog are very much those of the individuals writing.