Frederic Forster's Mourning Warehouse and the disappearing trade in female mourning wear in Leeds, UK 1849-1923
- Start date: 1 April 2022
- End date: 31 July 2023
- Funder: Leeds Museums and Galleries/Cultural Institute Cross Disciplinary Innovation Fund
- Primary investigator: Dr Kevin Almond
- Co-investigators: Judith Simpson
- External co-investigators: Curators Natalie Raw and Kitty Ross, Leeds Museums and Galleries
Partners and collaborators
Leeds Museums and Galleries
"This project is using the small collection of items held by Leeds Museums and Galleries from Frederic Forsters' Mourning Warehouse (established 1849) to develop an understanding of why the trade in mourning wear, which dominated the High Street in the late 19th century, has now disappeared.
The project uses a variety of approaches. The objects in the collection have been closely examined, photographed and filmed, while archival sources have been used to explore the history of Forster’s shop and the mourning trade in Leeds.
These interim findings have been shared with both expert and lay audiences in order to explore the following questions:
- What cultural and symbolic work was performed by the items in Frederic Forster's mourning warehouse at the time of their production?
- Did mourning wear exploit women as makers and wearers?
- What do these items signify to a present-day audience?
- Has the need for special clothing to denote mourning disappeared, or is it being met by other clothing practices?
The findings will be shared as both a journal paper, and as a short film which will form part of an exhibition about death and mourning planned for Leeds Museum in 2023.
The film will bring an appreciation of the cultural significance of mourning wear to a wide audience.
The journal paper, meanwhile, addresses a gap in previous research. The phenomenon of the mourning warehouse has only previously been studied in the context of London: with almost nothing written about regional stores.