St John People

London College of Fashion Postgraduate Collaborative Project with The Museum of the Order of St John

Museum of the Order of St John

In October 2023 the Museum of the Order of St John welcomed 36 postgraduate students from the London College of Fashion, as they began their 10-week Collaborative Challenge Unit. The students worked closely with items from the Museum’s extensive but little documented and researched St John Ambulance uniform collection, devising outputs that will help the Museum to better engage audiences with this fascinating social history collection.

The Museum team was delighted to host the students each week, giving them access to garments and archive materials.

The Collaborative Challenge unit, undertaken by all Masters students at London College of Fashion, is designed to support students working in multi-disciplinary teams to develop the negotiation, teamwork and networking skills which are essential in the cultural, entrepreneurial and creative industries.

In this project, the student teams conducted observations on selected pieces from the St John Ambulance uniform collection, with the aim of revealing untold stories of wearing and belonging. Six teams of students explored a range of themes – of male and female volunteers spanning the 19th to the 21st century, St John Youth (since the establishment of the Cadets in 1922), and two individuals; Miss Smith, a nursing member during the second world war, and long-serving nursing volunteer Hilda Craven. In addition to the garments within the uniform collection, students also have access to the vast archive of supporting material such as journals, uniform regulations, first aid manuals and oral histories to establish a rounded context to their research.

The teams have been tasked to design a format through which to share their research with the Museum’s diverse audiences. Outcomes include a design for a workshop for those with visual impairment, a study of uniform items told through a timeline and 3D digital images, a blog series which discusses key features and changes to the uniform regulations, a children’s book, a technical study, and a ‘day in the life’ series of stories supported by a technical pack for reproduction of an example of uniform.

This was an exciting opportunity for both the students and the Museum, as students have had access to historic garments and the heritage expertise of the Museum team, while the Museum has benefitted from fresh perspectives and ideas, and the specialist knowledge of the students. The students’ work will have a real and lasting impact on the Museum’s engagement work around the uniform collection, as their proposals and resources created will inform future activities, and even support grant applications.