A major exhibition into the history of John Player & Sons – one of the biggest employers in Nottingham at its peak – has opened in Nottingham.
The exhibition – the culmination of a long-running project by The University of Nottingham and Nottingham City Museums and Galleries – puts pieces from Player’s advertising archives on public display for the first time.
Former employees have contributed their memories of working at Player’s, which like Raleigh and Boots, is a big name in Nottingham’s industrial history. At its peak it employed several thousand people, touching the lives of thousands of people in the city.
The John Player’s Archive consists of over 20,000 objects from the 1880s to the 1980s, including advertising designs, promotional material, packaging, photographs and business records. Film footage of employees’ memories of working at Player’s features in the exhibition – these memories have helped researchers better understand the company’s history and its impact on Nottingham.
The exhibition serves as the culmination of a 21-month Knowledge Transfer Partnership between the University and Nottingham City Museums and Galleries. The aim was to connect the expertise of the museums staff with that of the academics at the University’s School of History. Since the project began in September 2009, the archive has evolved into a fascinating resource that will be of lasting importance for researchers, students, the city and the public.
It will also be used for a major conference at the University on 18 May 2011. “Smoking, Advertising and the History of Consumer Culture” will bring together academics, museum professionals and archivists to consider how the heritage sector and Higher Education can work together.
In September 2010, the project – which had generous funding from Renaissance East Midlands - won the Collections Care and Development Award in the East Midlands Regional Heritage Awards.
The exhibition is not only a testament to Nottingham’s industrial heritage but also illustrates a shift in attitudes to smoking after public health advances, controls on tobacco advertising and the move to smoke-free public places.
Professor Liz Harvey, Head of the University of Nottingham’s School of History, said: “The collection is a window on a bygone age of promoting and marketing tobacco products and on the world of leisure and entertainment with which Player’s was associated.”
The Museum’s Collections Manager, Ann Inscker, said the project had been a mammoth task and also features on MuBu, which uses digital projects to attract new audiences. Visit: http://www.mubu.org.uk/.
She added: “Many local people will have worked at Player’s and this exhibition also tells their story, in their own words, and it gives a flavour of the working, social and sporting life of one of the city’s largest employers. A plaster cast of the iconic Player’s Navy Cut sailor will be among the exhibits and there is the opportunity for the public to note their views, memories and favourite objects from the exhibition.
“Many volunteers have contributed to the cataloguing and storage improvements of the collection, helping to forge links with the history departments in both our universities, as well as with community groups. Additional Renaissance funding has extended our capacity to tackle areas of the collection that fell outside the initial project, to do more work with community groups and young people and use social networking for the first time to publicise the archive and exhibition.”
The exhibition runs at the Museum of Nottingham Life at Brewhouse Yard until Sunday 31 July.
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