Reimagine Grant – Design Residency by Emily Sorrell

Exploring innovative ideas for immersive learning experiences at Coldharbour Mill with support from Art Fund.

We are thrilled to have kicked off our latest project in collaboration with award winning creative strategist and innovation designer, Emily Sorrell. Emily specialises in experience architecture, working with heritage collections and cultural sites across the UK to design and produce multi-sensory spaces that allow visitors to immerse themselves in moments in history.


Over the next four months, Emily will be at the helm of Coldharbour’s first ever creative research residency, laying the foundations for continuous collaborations with other artists and innovators in the Mill’s future. This has been made possible with the support from Art Fund’s Reimagine grant, which aims to help museums, galleries and cultural organisations to re-examine what a museum could look like post-pandemic.


A series of future-gazing conversations with Emily back in 2020 became the catalyst for these “Unravelling Residencies”. Emily explains, “There has been a mill on this site since (at least) the days of the Doomsday Book – a manuscript record cataloging much of England and parts of Wales: basically the first medieval Yellow pages. This was published in 1086, roughly 37 generations ago. When I first chatted with the Trust back in 2021, I asked what the mill might look like in another 37 generations… an interesting question for any heritage organisation, since preservation and progress aren’t mutually exclusive.”


Emily has already spent a week on site, wandering the spaces, gathering information and exploring the collections and archives, beginning to uncover the lesser-known stories of the wool trade in industrial Britain; its rise, fall and small-scale revival; its worldwide reach; its enormous work force; its innovators… and its black sheep.


Emily is now working remotely from her studio in Cornwall to design an immersive exhibition that pulls on some of these threads, tracing the collection’s enduring relevance across the past present and future to explore how textiles and human lives have always been like warp and weft.


Emily says, “I often talk about the Overview Effect; it’s a dramatic cognitive shift that has been reported by some astronauts. Looking back at the earth changes them deeply. This is a guiding star in my work with museums and communities: bringing a shift in perspective that allows us to see and understand ourselves differently, leaving us with a clearer sense of our place in the context of everything.”


If you’d like to discuss the project, or share your own history of Coldharbour Mill, you can reach Emily here:

With support from Art Fund.