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The Cultural Development Agency for the Isle of Wight
Elizabeth Packs Keys

Unpacking Department: Exciting new heritage project now underway

Sally Perry
20, May 2024

In another example of how funding bodies are more than willing to invest and support cultural heritage on the Isle of Wight, National Lottery Heritage Fund have awarded a substantial grant to Department Ryde for a year-long project led by Shademakers UK.

Tracy Mikich and Teresa Grimaldi, curators for ‘Unpacking Department’, have been busily sifting through the archive material of the former department store on Cross Street, Ryde, which will open as an arts and cultural space for the whole community in 2025.

‘Unpacking Department’ will culminate in a major exhibition at Department, Ryde launching in Spring 2025.

Public engagement sessions
The starting point for the heritage project, which will encompass a range of smaller projects, has been a series of community-led sessions at Ryde Library.

April saw the first, a very successful session, which connected the team with former window dressers and customer service assistants, as well as family members, all generously sharing their stories and photos.

Another chance to share your memories
The curators, along with the team leading the oral history project (Packs People), will be embedding themselves in the Library for two more engagement sessions where past employees, loyal customers and suppliers to Woods and Wilkins, Pack and Culliford, Packs, or Elizabeth Pack, or indeed anyone who has a memory or anecdote are invited to come along.

The next session takes place on Wednesday 29th May from 11am to 2pm, with the following session taking place on Friday 28th June 2024 between the same times.

If you can’t make it along to the sessions, there is a book situated in the library where you can add your memories.

George: We are looking forward to everyone’s contributions
Sharon George, Creative Director, Shademakers UK, said,

“We are looking forward to everyone’s contributions to Unpacking Department. We have already found objects within the store as we refurbish Packs and create a new cultural centre for the community.

“We are now looking for everyone’s stories, photographs and contributions…which will go towards the opening of the new building in early 2025.”

The project is being supported by National Lottery Heritage Fund which leads towards opening exhibitions and events at the iconic department store on Cross Street in Ryde.

The former department store is now being transformed in partnership with the Isle of Wight Council, Arts Council England, Historic England.

Follow Department on Instagram for the latest updates.

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