Hi! My name is Pippi and I’m part of the young member’s board of the AIA. I work at the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester where I look after the operation and interpretation of the heritage machinery collection. That basically means I get to play with steam, diesel and gas engines and Victorian cotton mill machines for my day job! One of my favourite things at work is looking up close at the imposing machines and noticing the tiny mechanisms that all work together to make the whole machine work, like in the video of the Pirn Winder from our textile machine collection (which you can see on our Instagram account). I am also responsible for advocacy around our machinery collection, so I work with a lot of other heritage machinery specialists from other museums, like Quarry Bank Mill in Cheshire, and have recently published a paper on preserving skills in heritage machinery operations.
I especially love the handmade tools that were adapted by engineers and technicians of old – the random bits of metal and wooden pokey sticks that were collected to do a very particular job. I have a bucket of random objects in my shed that I use in exactly the same way (an old ladle to empty paint cans with, a butter knife that has all sorts of uses) so it’s lovely to see that people have been adapting tools throughout history.
I live in Stockport and am fortunate that there are lots of industrial heritage and industrial archaeology sites near me to explore, especially on dog walks. Some of my favourites are Samuel Oldknow’s Mill in Mellor, Stockport (managed by Oldknows which is a Mellor Archaeology and the Canal and River Trust), and Torr Vale Mill in New Mills, Derbyshire.
I also recently found out about Robin Hood’s Picking Rods which are thought to be the lower part of two Saxon crosses but get their name from a bit of folklore that Robin Hood used them to bend and string his bows. They are on the Derbyshire/Stockport border (so nowhere near Nottingham, but the locals were just enamoured with Robin Hood), and they form part of a really nice ramble around the South Pennine hills.
As well as industrial archaeology and heritage, I’m also really interested in craft skills and DIY. There aren’t many DIY tasks that I wouldn’t try and last year I finished renovating my house, an 1886 stone workers terrace in Stockport. Unfortunately, it had been badly ‘renovated’ in the 60s and we had terrible damp so almost all of the original features had been removed but we did manage to knock back the monstrous 60s fireplace to find the original Victorian brickwork and a high-set hearth, complete with original cooking soot. We think the section that has been chiselled into the side of the hearth would have been where the cooker was installed.
I love all kinds of crafts and working with my hands and have been sewing for about 20 years. I really enjoy making costumes and even made my own wedding dress. Next on my sewing wish list to make is an 1890s ladies’ waistcoat (inspired by the historical costuming community on Instagram), I’ve got a ‘Black Snail Patterns’ sewing pattern lined up for it so I’m looking forward to starting that this year!