A sample of hand sanitiser produced by award-winning County Durham based WL Distillery, which switched production from gin to hand sanitiser at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic has been acquired by the Science Museum Group for its COVID-19 Collecting Project.
WL Distillery was one of the first independent distilleries to switch production to sanitiser to support organisations across the North East including charities and the NHS. The hand sanitiser will join other historic items in the collection to provide insights into the medical and scientific advancements of the last two years, and will help to tell the story of the outbreak for future generations to come. In order to tell the story of how WL Distillery pivoted to manufacturing hand sanitiser, the Science Museum Group has also acquired the equipment that WL Distillery used to make the sanitiser, along with a recorded interview with WL Distillery’s founder and managing director, Scott Wilson-Laing, which will provide the Science Museum with an oral history to enhance the future interpretation of these objects.
Scott Wilson-Laing, Founder and Managing Director at WL Distillery said:
“It’s such a great feeling that a national institution as esteemed as the Science Museum Group would want to archive the equipment and sanitiser products from WL Distillery. I’m glad we were able to support a number of local charities and individuals who were in need of sanitiser at the height of the lockdown and that we made the decision to temporarily halt product.
With my history background I know how important it is to keep artifacts for the future, and as I reflect on the experience of visiting the Science Museum recently to record the interview, it’s really humbling to think that years down the line when Covid is being discussed and studied that future generations will be interacting with something that I had a hand in producing.”
Through its rapid spread, the COVID-19 pandemic created a public health crisis that impacted everyone’s lives and in the height of the pandemic sanitiser was in high demand.
The items from WL Distillery join other objects from across the UK that form the Science Museum Group’s COVID-19 Collecting Project, including historic empty vials of the vaccines from the first worldwide mass vaccinations, signage from the Government’s daily briefings, COVID-19 testing kits, and a range of national and international artworks.
Rupert Cole, Curator of Contemporary Science at the Science Museum, said:
“The Science Museum Group’s COVID-19 Collecting Project not only explores the important contributions made by the medical and scientific communities during the pandemic, but also the role individuals and businesses played in supporting the fight against coronavirus. We’re delighted to have acquired WL Distillery’s hand sanitiser as it illustrates the incredible innovative thinking that took place across industries to help the public during an unprecedented time.”
The distillery was able to restart gin production later in 2020 and since then has gone from strength to strength with a trio of industry awards now under their wing, including Silver at the prestigious 2021 London Spirits Competition, followed by Gold at The Gin Masters and Design Bronze at The World Gin Awards in 2021.