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Historic steelmaking images come to Middlesbrough

25 March 2010 @TeesUniNews


As the last blast furnace on Teesside ceases production, a new exhibition of previously unseen steelmaking images can be seen at the Dorman Museum in Middlesbrough.

Over 40 woodblock prints have been brought together for this unique exhibition, including 15 depicting the process of making steel.

The unusual subject matter is the work of Yorkshire artist Viva Talbot (1900-1983), who created the images during the 1930s when it was almost unknown for women to be allowed access to the steelworks.

During her lifetime Viva created hundreds of woodblock prints. This exhibition, developed by Dr Joan Heggie, a Research Fellow at Teesside University, also contains personal items such as sketch books, photographs and even one of Viva’s diaries.

The exhibition can be seen from Tuesday 30 March to Sunday 18 July, at the Dorman Museum, Linthorpe Road, Middlesbrough. Admission is free.

Free public lecture Dr Joan Heggie will also give a public lecture about the exhibition at the museum on Thursday 17 June.

The chance discovery of these prints in 2006 generated a new research interest for their finder, Dr Heggie, who was initially unable to find any information about Viva Talbot.

Her name was absent from reference books and it was a mystery why and how she had gained such privileged access to the steelworks. Since then Dr Heggie has spent every spare minute piecing together the story of Viva Talbot, her life and her art.

Viva was the daughter of Benjamin Talbot (1864-1947), inventor of the Talbot tilting furnace which transformed the Open Hearth method of producing steel. Benjamin Talbot, originally from Shropshire, came to Teesside at the beginning of the 20th Century. Having spent a decade working for iron companies in America, Talbot brought new ideas back to England at a time when they were much needed.

He became involved with two companies in particular – Cargo Fleet Iron Company (Middlesbrough) and the South Durham Steel & Iron Company (Stockton) - both of which are possible locations for the steelmaking images. In 1925, he became Managing Director of both companies and Chairman of the Board in 1940.

Viva Talbot married Thomas Nussey in 1941 and within a few years she became Lady Nussey when Thomas inherited a baronetcy from his father.

In the News

It's ladies' day at mima
Evening Gazette (Teesside), 16/08/2010, p.2; Living North, 01/09/2010, p.171
Teesside University's Dr Joan Heggie discovered a series of prints by the late Viva Talbot.

Steel yourself: Viva Talbot
Evening Gazette (Teesside), 16/07/2010, p.2
The Steel Making exhibition at mima is showcasing fifteen prints from artist Viva Talbot. The prints were discovered by Teesside University Research Fellow Joan Heggie.

Viva's steel life art is revived
Metro North East, 14/07/2010, p.29
Teesside University research fellow Dr Joan Heggie unearthed an historic collection of steel-making prints by Viva Talbot.

Woodcut artist showed her mettle
Culture, July 2010, p.22
Feature focusing on the work of Viva Talbot, who in the 1930s was given an unusual artistic commission to enter the grimy world of steelmaking. Teesside University research fellow Dr Joan Heggie put t

Talk on life of artist
Darlington & Stockton Times (North Yorks), 16/04/2010, p.12
Dr Joan Heggie, a Research Fellow at Teesside University and project manager for the British Steel Archive Project, is to give a lecture on the life and art of Viva Talbot to the Middleham and Dales L

Woodblocks of steel at the Dorman Museum
What's On North East (Web), 09/04/2010
Teesside University's Dr Joan Heggie collated a series of woodblock carvings depicting the steelmaking industry on Teesside. They are currently on display at the Dorman Museum, Middlesbrough.

Historic steelmaking images come to Middlesbrough
Evening Gazette (Web) Remember When, 06/04/2010
Previously unseen images from the steelmaking industry have been gathered by Teesside University's Dr Joan Heggie for an exhibition at Middlesbrough's Dorman Museum.

A blast from the past
Evening Gazette, 07/04/2010, p.13
Previously unseen images of Teesside steelmaking, gathered by Teesside University's Dr Joan Heggie, can be seen in an exhibition at Middlesbrough's Dorman Museum.