Hanging Out with Our Researcher: Project Update!

This update is written by Kerrie McGiveron, our researcher on our UK Lottery-funded heritage oral history project, ‘Hanging Out, The Histories of Liverpool’s Laundry Life.’

Gathering Stories

Those of you who follow us on social media will know that our heritage project is well underway. Back in May I started interviewing men and women at Kitty’s Launderette, chatting to them about their memories of wash houses and launderettes in the Liverpool area. As a social historian, it means a lot to me to hear the stories and memories of men and women who recalled streets, shops and aspects of daily life around the wash house. These interviews were recorded and transcribed for our archive at Kitty’s Launderette.


It is important to me that this history project is shared with our community.  I believe that history is for everyone and it is important to communicate and celebrate these lesser-known histories of Liverpool’s laundry life. Back in June, I contacted the Museum of Liverpool to see if we could work together to bring this project to a wider audience in a creative and engaging way. Kay Jones, the curator of urban community history at the museum and Paul Gallagher the deputy director of the museum visited our beautiful launderette on a particularly busy day.

Against the backdrop of whirring washing machines, babies crawling and washing-folding, we chatted about possible ideas for a display in the museum.

Over the coming months we firmed up our plans and I continued with the oral history interviews at Kitty’s (in between doing the sheet dance and folding laundry of course!) As I am also doing a PhD at the University of Liverpool I was able to enlist their help for me to work on the display as a placement. In September I began my short placement at the museum to help put together the display along with Kay Jones. We came up with the idea of using some of the items from the museum’s collections as well as some of the interview material I have gathered. Led by the interviews and the memories of the participants, items were selected from the museum stores and key quotes printed onto washing, as well as folded sheets stacked on an old Silver Cross pram. I won’t add too many spoilers about the display here!

Original photographs in the museum’s collection. These have been scanned to be used in the display and as part of a video to be shown on the screens at the museum.

Behind the Scenes

In early October, Kay and I visited to the museum stores to select the objects for display as well as photographs to be scanned. The items, which included a mangle from Christian Street wash house from around 1930, had to be handled carefully with gloves, wrapped and transported to our office ready to display.

One of the conservators at the museum showing us the mangle.

Our idea about printing quotes onto washing was also coming to fruition around this time!

Working on a ‘washing line’ display

I am very much enjoying bringing together this exhibition with the Museum of Liverpool, Kitty’s Launderette through the University of Liverpool’s placement scheme. The display will celebrate the history of Liverpool’s laundry life, showing some of the memories and lived experience of ordinary people in our community.

The exhibition opens at the Museum of Liverpool on Friday 22nd November 2019 and will run until mid February 2020.