Surveyors through the ages: a glimpse into the Lloyds Register archive

Archives Hub feature for January 2023

In March 2022 the Heritage and Education Centre (HEC) for Lloyds Register (LR) began an inventory of the archive holdings as large parts of the collections currently remain uncatalogued. Part of this work has highlighted the individual experiences of some of the surveyor’s working for LR over a period of nearly 200 years in the form of surveyor letter books, notebooks, and journals. Alongside the related survey reports, plans and correspondence which make up a core part of both the archive and the historic work of LR we can provide an insight into these unique individuals and their roles.

Some of the earliest surviving accounts of surveyors we hold come from two surveyors based in Scotland, Walter Paton (Leith and Firth of Forth ports) and John Bar Cumming (Clyde Ports). Their letter books and journals span the years 1834-1850, they generally contain information and notes from their time surveying vessels which accompanies the information which was to be captured on the ship survey reports and subsequently included in the Register Books. They also reflect the changes in shipping within a steadily growing global industrial world as well as showing the lives of individuals operating within shipping. On several occasions Walter Paton explains his dissatisfaction with the unwillingness of local ship owners and builders to pay the survey fees. In one letter John Bar Cummings puts forward a suggestion for a master of a ship to accept a job taking immigrants to Australia.

Page 163-164 of John Bar Cummings Letter book, 1838-1840.

The later survey report for David Clark shows that the person in question took this job.

Annual Surveys Report for David Clark 21st April 1841.

Both these surveyors reference meeting and contacting each other throughout their correspondence, demonstrating the networks of officials operating across the United Kingdom, and internationally, with a centralised contact with the London Office.

Surveyors were initially selected from positions as shipwrights and sea captains, not only was this practical experience with the understanding of ship construction and maintenance relevant for the tasks at hand but it also prepared the surveyors for the dangers of life at sea, this can be seen by Walter Paton assisting with a shipwreck of the coast of Leith. Reflecting a theme that runs through the history of LR, safety at sea. The surveyors often worked long hours and in the early days had limited holidays. As a letter book for John Bar Cummings shows, the work-life balance of some of the surveyors from this time was fraught with difficulty. Usually working the Christmas period, Cummings luckily had one holiday on Saturday 1st of January 1848 due to closed offices!

Page 22-23 of Walter Paton Letter book, 1834-1838.

The early ship survey reports often included additional information on the ship owners, ship builders, the vessel themselves or comments on events and activities at the port of survey. These often go hand in hand with the letter books and journals. The survey report for Hecla states that the vessel was thoroughly overhauled and fitted out as a whaling ship, for the now famous Northern expedition under Captain William Edward Parry, but that originally, she had been built as a bomb vessel for the Royal Navy.

Report of Survey for Hecla 31 January 1835 (page 1).
Report of Survey for Hecla 31 January 1835 (page 2).

Some of the later accounts of surveyors we hold provide less of a personal insight, but they do reveal how technology and industry were changing and the specialised knowledge that was required to undertake their roles. N H Burgess surveyor notebooks from the late 19th and early 20th century include various detailed diagrams and calculations and lists the safe number of staff that should be on any given ship at one time. Again, reflecting the continued theme of safety at sea within the work of the surveyors. Likewise, the Surveyor notebooks for S Archer from 1942 onwards contain various tables, diagrams, and calculations. Together they show the engineering, scientific and mathematical capabilities required for surveying in the first half of the 20th century. More information on these surveyors can be found listed on the ‘List of Surveyors’ (1) available on our website and found in the Lloyd’s Register of Ships.

Page from N H Burgess surveyor notebook 1901.

The surveyor journal for Bill Blacklock for 1962-1964, around South Shields, Liverpool and Middlesborough, reflects a great change in the global approaches towards energy and fuel. He was one of the surveyors to have worked on the HMS Dreadnaught, the UK’s first nuclear powered submarine.

Page 111 of Bill Ballock surveyor journal, 1962-1964.

The notebooks of surveyor John Mansfield covering the 1980s contain multiple volumes from his tenure at the then Machinery Design and Plan Approval Department. In addition to working for plan approval in London he was also positioned in Hamburg. They are typically representative of surveyors work from the time and detail the activities on the ground for the surveying staff. The notebooks include detailed diagrams, calculations and notes on engineering and shipbuilding, including extracts from letters and discussions for rules and regulations. In the case of the letter below, comments extended to the inspection of onboard CO2 fire extinguisher cannisters.

Page from John Mansfield surveyor notebook, 1980.

From surveying artic exploration vessels and shipwrecks, to inspecting nuclear powered vessels, these records offer unique insights into the working lives of the Lloyd’s Register Surveyor on sea and on land.

As noted above not all our collections are currently catalogued and searchable online, as our inventory and archival site mapping work progresses, HEC aims to make as much of this material freely and publicly accessible. HEC is currently closed for refurbishments, for further information on our archives, and access the ship plan and survey report, register books and list of surveyors please visit our online catalogue.

Zach Schieferstein, Archive Officer
Heritage & Education Centre
Lloyd’s Register Foundation

Related

(1) Lloyd’s Register List of Surveyors 1942-1947: Lloyd’s Register Foundation, Heritage & Education Centre: Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive

Browse the Lloyd’s Register Foundation, Heritage and Education Centre descriptions to date on Archives Hub

All images copyright LRF heritage and education centre. Reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.

A polymath’s archive: the Edward-Heron Allen Collection at West Sussex Record Office

Archives Hub feature for December 2022

The polymath Edward Heron-Allen (1861-1943) was a man of considerable talent and many interests. A solicitor by profession, his interests touched on a plethora of subjects: science, languages, literature and music. His pioneering treatise Violin-Making As It Was And Is, published in 1884, remains one of the key works on the instrument (the newest edition was published as recently as 2017). Heron-Allen’s study of Persian enabled him to publish a literal translation of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam in 1898, and he lectured widely on the subject.

After moving to Selsey, a small fishing village on the Manhood peninsula in West Sussex, in 1911 (where he had built a house in 1904), Heron-Allen turned his attention to foraminifera (tiny, single-celled marine organisms) and published a large number of scientific papers, often in conjunction with the oceanographer Arthur Earland; as a result of this work, Heron-Allen was President of the Royal Microscopical Society from 1916-1917 and elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1919. Anxious to serve in World War I, Heron-Allen enlisted in Selsey’s Home Guard (where he lined his uniform with silk, for comfort), but his linguistic abilities eventually saw him work for the intelligence services, where he devised propaganda before serving on the front line in France, on special duty.

Copies of Heron-Allen’s science and science fiction books.
Copies of Heron-Allen’s The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, 1898 (EHA 1/4/1/9), Violin-Making As It Was And Is, 1884 (EHA 1/4/1/3), Codex Chirmontiae, 1883 (EHA 1/4/1/1) and A Manual of Cheirosophy, late 19th century (EHA 1/4/1/7).

Despite his grounding in the solid, traditional subjects of music, science, law and classical literature, Heron-Allen had a keen interest in the unseen and unknown world, and the occult. Under the pseudonym Christopher Blayre, Heron-Allen penned a number of early science fiction works, some of which are now regarded as classics, including The Cheetah Girl and The Purple Sapphire. This latter work was based on an amethyst which came into Heron-Allen’s own possession in 1890; supposedly cursed, Heron-Allen believed it wreaked havoc on his own life, to the extent that he eventually packed it in seven boxes and left it with his bankers, who were under strict instructions not to open it until 30 years after his death (it now forms part of the Natural History Museum’s collections). Years before he wrote his science fiction, Heron-Allen studied palmistry, publishing A Manual of Cheirosophy in 1885 and The Science of the Hand in 1886; such was his skill that he foretold the death of his younger daughter, Armorel, in a car crash in 1930, many years before the tragic event, merely by observing her hands.

Whilst Heron-Allen deposited many of his papers at institutions such as the Royal College of Music, the collection at West Sussex Record Office contains some of his more personal items, as well as copies of his many published works. Gathered for the most part by his grandson, Ivor Jones, the Edward Heron-Allen Collection (reference EHA) includes letters, visitor’s books, photographs, family material, and diaries, and it provides us with a clear sense of Heron-Allen’s personality.

The spines of three volumes of Heron-Allen’s bound travel journals.
The spines of three volumes of Heron-Allen’s bound travel journals (refs EHA 1/2/1/9-11).

The bulk of the collection is formed by Heron-Allen’s holiday journals, a meticulous, expansive set of 32 volumes, dating from 1885-1937, all written in Heron-Allen’s neat hand and featuring photographs and postcards alongside all manner of ephemera, from menus, wine cards, bills and receipts, train tickets and timetables, deck plans, and even laundry lists.

Pages from Volume XI of Heron-Allen’s travel journals, featuring Paris
Pages from Volume XI of Heron-Allen’s travel journals, featuring Paris, where Heron-Allen and his wife, Edith, spent their honeymoon in November 1903. Reference EHA 1/2/1/11.

Locations range from British destinations such as Harrogate and Penzance, to European countries including Belgium, France and Italy, and further afield to Constantinople (now Istanbul), Egypt and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). Whilst some journals record holidays, others record scientific trips, such as the survey of Clare Island (Ireland), alongside Arthur Earland, in 1911, and the British Association’s meeting at Dundee in 1912.

Pages from Volume X of Heron-Allen’s travel journals, featuring Egypt
Pages from Volume X of Heron-Allen’s travel journals, featuring Egypt, which Heron-Allen visited in 1903. Heron-Allen can be seen in the photograph on the right of the page, on board the SS Tewfik. Reference EHA 1/2/1/10.
Part of a leaflet for a watchmaker and jewellers in Cairo, pasted into Volume X of Heron-Allen’s travel journals.
Part of a leaflet for a watchmaker and jewellers in Cairo, pasted into Volume X of Heron-Allen’s travel journals. Heron-Allen visited Egypt in 1903. Reference EHA 1/2/1/10.

All provide evidence of Heron-Allen’s personality, as well as a slice of social and local history, and can provide wonderful detail for researchers interested in a particular locality visited by Heron-Allen.

Photographs pasted into Volume IX of Heron-Allen’s travel journals, probably taken in Turkey.
Photographs pasted into Volume IX of Heron-Allen’s travel journals, probably taken in Turkey, which Heron-Allen visited in 1902. Reference EHA 1/2/1/9.

Local history was another of Heron-Allen’s keen interests, and another subject in which he excelled. After moving to Selsey in 1911, Heron-Allen quickly published his epic work, Selsey Bill Historic and Prehistoric, providing an exhaustive geographical history of the area; a condensed, ‘popular’ version of this was delivered by lecture at Chichester High School for Girls in 1911, illustrated by lantern slides. Heron-Allen also produced numerous scholarly articles on the area, primarily for the Sussex Archaeological Collections.

Perhaps more accessible for many of us are his seven volumes of Selseyana, dating from 1901-1937, comprising press cuttings, reports of local associations, postcards, posters and handbills, and assorted other ephemera, all of which provide a compelling story of what it was like to live on the peninsula. As with his other work, Heron-Allen’s thirst for knowledge, eye for detail and compulsion to collect have provided us with a social as well as physical history of this small corner of West Sussex.

 A handbill advertising Heron-Allen’s ‘Attractive Scientific Lecture’ on ‘Nature and History at Selsey Bill’.
A handbill advertising Heron-Allen’s ‘Attractive Scientific Lecture’ on ‘Nature and History at Selsey Bill’, held at Chichester High School for Girls on February 4, 1911. Reference MP 118.

The Edward Heron-Allen Collection is freely available to view at West Sussex Record Office. For information on opening times, our location and access conditions, please click see our website

The Edward Heron-Allen Society was formed in 2000. It hosts regular symposia and publishes a series of Opuscula, which concern the symposia and biographical matters relating to Heron-Allen. More about the Heron-Allen Society.

You can find out more about the Purple Sapphire on the Natural History Society’s website.

Nichola Court, Archivist
West Sussex Record Office

Related

The Edward Heron-Allen Collection, 1850 – ongoing

Browse the West Sussex Record Office descriptions to date on the Archives Hub

Exploring IIIF for the ‘Images and Machine Learning’ project

There are many ways of utilising the International Image Interoperability framework (IIIF) in order to deliver high-quality, attributed digital objects online at scale. One of the exploratory areas focused on in Images and Machine Learning – a project which is part of Archives Hub Labs – is how to display the context of the archive hierarchy using IIIF alongside the digital media.

Two of the objectives for this project are:

  • to explore IIIF Manifest and IIIF Collection creation from archive descriptions.
  • to test IIIF viewers in the context of showing the structure of archival material whilst viewing the digitised collections.

We have been experimenting with two types of resource from the IIIF Presentation API. The IIIF Manifest added into the Mirador viewer on the collection page contains just the images, in order to easily access these through the viewer. This is in contrast to a IIIF Collection, which we have been experimenting with. The IIIF Collection includes not only the images from a collection but also metadata and item structure within the IIIF resource. It is defined as a set of manifests (or ‘child’ collections) that communicate hierarchy or gather related things (for example, a set of boxes that each have folders within them, and photographs within those folders). We have been testing whether this has the potential to represent the hierarchy of an archival structure within the IIIF structure.

Creating a User Interface

Since joining the Archives Hub team, one of the areas I’ve been involved in is building a User Interface for this project that allows us to test out the different ways in which we can display the IIIF Images, Manifests and Collections using the IIIF Image API and the IIIF Presentation API. Below I will share some screenshots from my progress and talk about my process when building this User Interface.

The homepage for the UI showing the list of contributors for this project.
The collections from all of our contributors that are being displayed within the UI using IIIF manifests and collections.

This web application is currently a prototype and further development will be happening in the future. The programming language I am using is Typescript. I began by creating a Next.js React application and I am also using Tailwind CSS for styling. My first task was to use the Mirador viewer to display IIIF Collections and Manifests, so I installed the mirador package into the codebase. I created dynamic pages for every contributor to display their collections.

This is the contributor page for the University of Brighton Design Archives.

I also created dynamic collection pages for each collection. Included on the left-hand side of a collection page is the archives hub record link and the metadata about the collection taken from the archival EAD data – these sections displaying the metadata can be extended or hidden. The right-hand side of a collection page features a Mirador viewer. A simple IIIF Manifest has been added for all of the images in each collection. This Manifest is used to help quickly navigate through and browse the images in the collection.

This is the collection page for the University of Brighton Design Archives ‘Britain Can Make It’ collection.

Mirador has the ability to display multiple windows within one workspace. This is really useful for comparison of images side-by-side. Therefore, I have also created a ‘Compare Collections’ page where two Manifests of collection images can be compared side-by-side. I have configured two windows to display within one Mirador viewer. Then, two collections can be chosen for comparison using the dropdown select boxes seen in the image below.

The ‘Compare Collections’ page.

Next steps

There are three key next steps for developing the User Interface –

  • We have experimented with the Mirador viewer, and now we will be looking at how the Universal Viewer handles IIIF Collections. 
  • From the workshop feedback and from our exploration with the display of images, we will be looking at how we can offer an alternative experience of these archival images – distinct from their cataloguing hierarchy – such as thematic digital exhibitions and linking to other IIIF Collections and Manifests that already exist.
  • As part of the Machine Learning aspect of this project, we will be utilising the additional option to add annotations within the IIIF resources, so that the ML outputs from each image can be added as annotations and displayed in a viewer.

Labs IIIF Workshop

We recently held a workshop with the Archives Hub Labs project participants in order to get feedback on viewing the archive hierarchy through these IIIF Collections, displayed in a Mirador viewer. In preparation for this workshop, Ben created a sample of IIIF Collections using the images kindly provided by the project participants and the archival data related to these images that is on the Archives Hub. These were then loaded into the Mirador viewer so our workshop participants could see how the collection hierarchy is displayed within the viewer. The outcomes of this workshop will be explored in the next Archives Hub Labs blog post.

Thank you to Cardiff University, Bangor University, Brighton Design Archives at the University of Brighton, the University of Hull, the Borthwick Institute for Archives at the University of York, Lambeth Palace (Church of England) and Lloyds Bank for providing their digital collections and for participating in Archives Hub Labs.

Running Machine Learning in AWS

For our Machine Learning experiments we are using Amazon Web Services (AWS). We thought it would be useful to explain what we have been doing.

AWS, like most Cloud providers, gives you access to a huge range of infrastructure, services and tools. Typically, instead of having your own servers physically on your premises, you instead utlitise the virtual servers provided in the Cloud. The Cloud is a cost effective solution, and in particular it allows for elasticity; dynamically allocating resources as required. It also provides a range of features, and that includes a set of Machine Learning services and tools.

The AWS console lists the services available. For Machine Learning there are a range of options.

One of the services available is Amazon Rekognition. This is what we have used when writing our previous blog posts.

Amazon Rekognition enables you to analyse images

One of the things Rekognition does is object detection. We have written about using Rekognition in a previous post.

Our initial experiments were done on the basis of uploading single images at a time and looking at the output. The next step is to work out how to submit a batch of images and get output from that. AWS doesn’t have an interface that allows you to upload a batch. We have batches of images stored in the Cloud (using the ‘S3’ service), and so we need to pass sets of images from S3 to the Rekognition service and store the resulting label predictions (outputs). We also need to figure out how to provide these predictions to our contributors in a user friendly display.

S3 provides a storage facility (‘buckets’), where we have uploaded images from our Labs participants

After substantial research into approaches that we could take, we decided to use the AWS Lambda and DynamoDB services along with Rekognition and S3. Lambda is a service that allows you to run code without having to set up the virtual machine infrastructure (it is often referred to as a serverless approach). We used some ‘blueprint’ Lambda code (written in Python) as the basis, and extended it for our purposes.

One of the blueprints is for using Rekognition to detect faces

Using something like AWS does not mean that you get this type of facility out of the box. AWS provides the infrastructure and the interfaces are reasonably user friendly, but it does not provide a full blown application for doing Machine Learning. We have to do some development work in order to use Rekognition, or other ML tools, for a set of images.

A slice of the code – the images are taken from the S3 bucket and Rekognition provides a response with levels of confidence.

Lambda is set up so the code will run every time an image is placed in the S3 bucket. It then passes the output (label prediction) to another AWS service, called DynamoDB, which is a ‘NoSQL’ database.

DynamoDB output

In the above image you can see an excerpt from the output from running the Lambda code. This is for image U DX336-1-6.jpg (see below) and it has predicted ‘tree’ with a confidence level of 94.51 percent. Ideally we wanted to add the ‘bounding box’ which provides the co-ordinates for where the object is within the image.

Image from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland showing bounding boxes to identify person and chair

We spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out how to add bounding boxes, and eventually realised that they are only added for some objects – Amazon Rekognition Image and Amazon Rekognition Video can return the bounding box for common object labels such as cars, furniture, apparel or pets, but the information isn’t returned for less common object labels. Quite how things are classed as more or less common is not clear. At the moment we are working on passing the bounding box information (when there is any) to our database output.

Image from Hull University Archives
Label predictions for the above image

Clearly for this image, it would be useful to have ‘memorial’ and ‘cross’ as label predictions, but these terms are absent. However, sometimes ML can provide terms that might not be used by the cataloguer, such as ‘tree’ or ‘monument’.

So we now have the ability to submit a batch of images, but currently the output is in JSON (the above output table is only provided if you upload the image individually). We are hoping to read the data and place the labels into our IIIF development interface.

The next step is to create a model using a subset of the images that our participants have provided. A key thing to understand is that in order to train a model so that it makes better predictions you need to provide labelled images. Therefore, if you want to try using ML, it is likely that part of the ML journey will require you to undertake a substantial amount of labelling if you don’t already have labelled images. Providing labelled content is the way that the algorithm learns. If we provided the above image and a batch of others like it and included a label of ‘memorial’ then that would make it more likely that other non-labelled images we input would be identified correctly. We could also include the more specific label ‘war memorial’ – but it would seem like a tall order for ML to distinguish war memorials from other types. Having said that, the fascinating thing is that often machines learn to detect patterns in a way that surpasses what humans can achieve. We can only give it a go and see what we get.

Birth of a Broadcasting Institution: British Broadcasting Company Papers and Reith Diaries at the BBC Written Archives Centre

Archives Hub feature for November 2022

The BBC is celebrating its centenary this year and the BBC Written Archives Centre in Caversham holds the documents that chronicle the Corporation’s contribution to the cultural history of the UK.

Rather than try and cover all 100 years in one post (you can see our selection of 100 objects here) I have picked out a couple of collections that come right at the beginning of the BBC’s story.

The Company Papers: from Company to Corporation

It’s hard to imagine a world without broadcast media, but in early 1922 the UK’s General Post Office (GPO) and a group of wireless manufacturers were busy negotiating how a nationwide system for wireless broadcasting on a large scale could be implemented and funded.

BBC-CO1-2 – Memo from the GPO outlining the Postmaster General’s considerations for broadcasting licences.

These discussions resulted in the formation of the ‘British Broadcasting Company’, the BBC’s predecessor before it was established under a Royal Charter in 1927.  The commercial company was granted a licence to broadcast by the GPO, funded by royalties from the sales of wireless sets from approved manufacturers. The Company was formed on 18th October 1922, registered on 15th December 1922 and received its Licence from the Post Office on 18th January 1923.

BBC/CO1/4/1 and BBC/CO1/5/1 – BBC Company Board of Directors Agenda Book and Attendance Book.

Daily broadcasts began on 14th November 1922 from Marconi House on the Strand. The regular programme on the 2LO London station included music, drama and ‘talks’ for several hours each day. Licences to receive the broadcasts could be obtained for 10 shillings.

There was soon debate about the relationship between the newly formed Company and the government. This came to a head with the General Strike in 1926, which opened up the possibility that the government could use the BBC as a means of promoting its own views. The Company managed to maintain its impartiality while covering the crisis, broadcasting from the point of the view of the strikers and the government, which appealed to the general public.

BBC/CO1/31/6 – General Strike News Bulletins for 8th May 1925 – Draft Copies.

Partly as a result of navigating the right tone for the strike and partly via the outcome of two committees to review the new medium of radio broadcasting (Sykes Committee in 1923 and Crawford Committee in 1925) the British Broadcasting Company was reorganised as a public service to become the British Broadcasting Corporation on 1st January 1927.

The papers in the archive for series CO1 cover the Company’s formation and organisation, including correspondence with the radio trade, politicians, and the press. The files, which include discussions around the first programme content and the tensions brought about by the General Strike, provide a fascinating glimpse into the origins of an organisation that is now so well-known.

Reith Diaries: the Founder of the BBC

John Reith (later Sir John Reith, and subsequently 1st Baron Reith of Stonehaven) became the first General Manager of the British Broadcasting Company in 1922 and the first Director-General of the Corporation from 1927 to 1938. His name has become so connected with the style and output of the BBC through his mission to ‘inform, educate and entertain’ that the term ‘Reithian’ has come to describe these principles of broadcasting.

MIP1610 – DG Portrait – Sir John Reith by Oswald Hornby Joseph Birley.

Born in 1889, Reith was son of a Scottish minister. He trained and worked as an engineer and factory manager, spending two years in America and serving as a lieutenant in the First World War. He successfully applied for the post of General Manager of the British Broadcasting Company in 1922, when there was little thought as to the direction it should take. This was to become the start of Reith’s ideas of broadcasting as a force for social good, with an intrinsically moral tone.

Having led the BBC through its formation as a Corporation, the introduction of overseas services and the launch of television, Reith resigned in 1938. He was involved in a number of high positions in government and as a chairman of several organisations before his death in 1971.   

The archive holds Reith’s personal papers as a Special Collection. Most notable are his diaries, which span from 1911 to his death. The volumes are a mixture of typed and handwritten material and cover Reith’s personal thoughts and decisions on both the business and domestic sides of his life, including the key events of his time at the BBC.

ACQ/S/S60/6/5 – Enclosure Volume 1927-1930.

Alongside the diaries are a collection of enclosure volumes, known as scrapbooks. These contain Reith’s hand-picked mementoes of his life and include letters, press cuttings and ephemera such as postcards and greetings cards. They help to provide a more personal portrait of Reith, who is so often associated purely with his working life.  

All of this material combines with everything in the written archives to provide extra context to well-known stories and increase our understanding of how past events shaped the BBC.

Further Information

Collection level descriptions for the BBC Broadcasting Company Papers and the Reith Special Collection are available to view on the Archives Hub:

Descriptions listing individual files will soon be available via the BBC Written Archives Centre’s in-house catalogue, which is currently in development.

The BBC Written Archives Centre is available to visit by appointment if you are carrying out an academic or commercial project.

For further information on the BBC centenary:

Matthew Chipping
Archive Collections Manager (WAC Catalogue)
BBC Written Archives Centre

Related

Browse the BBC Written Archives Centre descriptions to date on Archives Hub

All images copyright the BBC. Reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.

Explore Science and Technology collections using Archives Hub

This blog post forms part of History Day 2022, a day of online interactive events for students, researchers and history enthusiasts to explore library, museum, archive and history collections across the UK and beyond. History Day is part of the Being Human festival, the UK’s national festival of the humanities, taking place 10–19 November 2022.

Use Archives Hub, a free resource, to find unique sources for your research, both physical and digital. Search across descriptions of archives, held at over 380 institutions and organisations across the UK.

This year’s History Day is themed ‘Human Discovery: Experiencing Science’, so we’re highlighting a range of archive collections relating to inventions, technology, medical advances and more.

Photograph of women factory workers during WW1. Image copyright Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

Press photograph of women factory workers during WW1. Image copyright © Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

Feature: Engineering and innovation during the First World War (October 2014).

Inventions and inventors

John Logie Baird papers (1906-2009). Baird was born in Helensburgh and studied electrical engineering at the Glasgow and West of Scotland Technical College, then attended Glasgow University. After becoming apprenticed with Argyll Motors and then to working with other firms, from 1916 he engaged in various private business ventures in Glasgow, London and the West Indies. In 1922 he began to experiment with transmitting and receiving visual signals. In 1924 his efforts were rewarded by a flickering image on his screen. A public demonstration was given at Selfridge’s Oxford Street store in April 1925 and showed the transmission of crude outlines of simple objects. The world’s first demonstration of television followed on 26 January 1926 at the Royal Institution, London. In May 1927 the first demonstration of television between London and Glasgow took place, and in February of the following year the first transatlantic television broadcast was successfully carried out. On 30 September 1929 the BBC made its first television broadcast using the Baird 30-line system. Material held by University of Strathclyde Archives and Special Collections – see full collection description.

Papers of Marjorie Jean Oswald Kennedy (19th-20th century). Marjorie hailed from the Kennedy family of Kilmarnock which included Thomas Kennedy c1796-1874, founder of Glenfield & Kennedy (producers of valves) and inventor of the world’s first water meter. During the Second World War, Kennedy served with the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS), 1942-1945. She was stationed at HMS Pembroke III, the WRNS training depot at Mill Hill in 1942, then at HMS Beaver, Hull, from 1942 to 1943, at HMS Drake, Devonport, in 1943, and then at HMS Pembroke III again and HMS Pembroke V, Bletchley Park, between 1943 and 1945. At Bletchley Park Kennedy was working with the team of allied codebreakers who were able to decrypt a vast number of messages that had been enciphered using the German’s Enigma machine. The intelligence gleaned from this source, codenamed ‘Ultra’ by the British, had been a substantial aid to the Allied war effort. Material held by Edinburgh University Library Special Collections – see full collection description.

Frederick Lanchester at the wheel of the 8 h.p. two cylinder Lanchester known as the ‘Gold Medal Phaeton’ with his brother George as passenger. c1899. Coventry University [reference no. LAN/1/16/4].

Photograph copyright © Coventry University.


Feature: The Frederick Lanchester archive at Coventry University (December 2018):
The work of car manufacturer, engineer, scientist and inventor Frederick Lanchester (1868-1946) is being celebrated by the Lanchester Interactive Archive project at Coventry University. He was one of the UK’s leading automobile engineers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries and creator in 1895 of the first all-British four-wheel petrol driven motor car.

Records, publications and artefacts relating to James Watt (1705-1990): Watt was born at Greenock in 1736. He trained as an instrument maker in London and began to practise this trade in Glasgow. Watt soon developed a reputation as a high quality engineer and was employed on the Forth & Clyde Canal and the Caledonian Canal. In 1763 he repaired the model of Newcomen’s steam engine belonging to Glasgow University, and began experiments on properties of steam. Watt improved on the engine’s design and took out a patent for the separate condenser in 1769. He later adapted the engine to rotary motion, making it suitable for a variety of industrial purposes, and invented the flywheel and the governor. In 1774 he went into partnership with Matthew Boulton to make steam engines at their works at Soho, Birmingham. The first engines were used in collieries and iron works and were the driving force behind the transformation of cotton spinning from a cottage to factory industry. Watt’s inventive talents led him to patent a variety of machines and devices including a letter-copier and a smoke-consuming furnace. Material held by Heriot-Watt University Museum and Archive – see full collection description.

Technology

Lithograph of George Biggin, Letitia Sage and Vincenzo Lunardi ascending from St George’s Fields, London, 29 June 1785. Image copyright © National Aerospace Library.

Feature: Planes, pilots and politics: National Aerospace Library’s collections fly onto Archives Hub (April 2020).

Private Telegraph Companies (1846-1899): The development of the telegraph system in the United Kingdom closely followed the growth of the railways with telegraph offices often being located at stations. The Government allowed the network to develop under private ownership and did not intervene significantly in its running. This was in sharp contrast to the telegraph system on the Continent which had been under state ownership since its inception. By 1868 there were five major telegraph companies operating the inland network, all of which were open to criticism regarding errors, delays and high prices. Frank Ives Scudamore campaigned on behalf of the Post Office for them to be nationalised citing how unfavourably they compared with those on the Continent. Despite protestations from the companies a series of Acts of Parliament were passed and the inland telegraph system came under control of the Post Office in 1870. Material held by British Telecom Archives – see full collection description.

Online Resource: Developing LEO: The world’s first business computer. Reports, memoranda, photographs and other documents from the archives of the statistician John Simmons (1902-1985), including key material on the development of the pioneering LEO computers by J. Lyons & Company Ltd. during the 1940s and 1950s. Provided by Modern Records Centre, University of Warwick.

Barclaycard 1972 promotions. Photograph copyright © Barclays Group Archives.

Feature: Barclaycard: 50 years of plastic money – the story from the Archives (June 2016).

Illustration: Spare Rib, April 1978, photo copyright © The Women’s Library.

Feature: Typewriters and Office Machines

Online Resource: Hiroshima Archive – the Hiroshima Archive is a pluralistic digital archive using the digital earth to display in a multi-layered way all the materials gained from such sources as the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, the Hiroshima Jogakuin Gaines Association, and the Hachioji Hibakusha (A-bomb Survivors) Association. Beyond time and space, the user can get a panoramic view over Hiroshima to browse survivors’ accounts, photos, maps, and other materials as of 1945, together with aerial photos, 3D topographical data, and building models as of 2010. The archive aims to promote multifaceted and comprehensive understanding of the reality of atomic bombing. Stories of Atomic bomb survivors living across Japan. Around 170 testimonies and around 150 photographs can be browsed.

Destroyer fitted with a type ‘N’ paravane. Image copyright © Institution of Mechanical Engineers. Feature: Engineering and innovation during the First World War (October 2014).

Medical Advances

Papers of the Dorset House School of Occupational Therapy (1919-2005): Dorset House, the first School of Occupational Therapy in England, was established by its visionary Medical Director, Dr Elizabeth Casson, in the latter part of the 1920s. Over the years the School has moved from its original base in Bristol to Bromsgrove, and finally to Oxford, firstly in Nissen Huts in the grounds of the Churchill Hospital and then to London Road in 1964. In 1992 Dorset House School of Occupational Therapy became part of Oxford Polytechnic, which, later that year, was conferred with university status and was named Oxford Brookes University. Material held by Oxford Brookes University Special Collections and Archives – full collection description.

Elizabeth Casson, aged 21. Image copyright © Oxford Brookes University Special Collections and Archives. Feature: The Dorset House Archive (December 2019).

John Charnley/William Waugh Collection (1922-1989): John Charnley, orthopaedic surgeon, born in 1911, was educated at the Medical School of the Victoria University of Manchester. In 1937, he took up his first post as a resident surgical officer at Salford Royal Hospital, and demonstrated an early talent for making and developing specialist apparatus and equipment. He first encountered work in orthopaedics and fractures in 1939 as resident casualty officer at the Manchester Royal Infirmary. During the Second World War, Charnley worked at an Orthopaedic Centre near Cairo, applying to become an orthopaedic specialist in 1942. Charnley returned to Manchester in 1946 at the Manchester Royal Infirmary as an honorary assistant orthopaedic surgeon and lecturer in orthopaedic surgery, and later as a consultant. In 1949, Charnley became a visiting orthopaedic surgeon at Wrightington Hospital. He began to work on the mobility of the hip in painful hip conditions due to arthritis. His discoveries in this field were made possible by his outstanding ability in engineering, and in working with materials. In 1961, Charnley established the Centre for Hip Surgery at Wrightington Hospital, where he pioneered and developed prostheses for hip replacement surgery, and studied the acceptance of artificial materials within bone and joint tissues. The hip replacement operation is now one of the most common operations performed in the UK. Material held by University of Manchester Library – full collection description.

Online Resource: London’s Pulse: Medical Officer of Health Reports 1848-1972. This collection features digitised reports of the UK Medical Officers of Health for the London area during the 19th and 20th centuries. These reports were compiled on an annual basis and include written information and statistical data on public health issues, such as infectious diseases, mortality rates, health services and environmental impacts on health. Selected reports are available from the period and the areas covered include the present City of London, the current 32 London boroughs and the predecessor local authorities for these areas. The reports also highlight the differences between different Medical Officers of Health and show how individual personality influenced their work and reporting style. Provided by the Wellcome Library.

Papers of Martindale, Louisa (1872-1966): Louisa Martindale was born in 1872 and studied at the London School of Medicine for Women and in Vienna, Berlin and Freiburg, obtaining her M.D. in London in 1906. She practised in Brighton and was founder of the New Sussex Hospital here in 1918, where she was Senior Honorary Surgeon. In 1921 she moved to London as a Consultant Surgeon and was Honorary Surgeon to the Marie Curie Hospital at Hampstead. During a visit to New York in 1919 she was a moving force behind the foundation of the Medical Women’s Federation and in 1931 she was elected President of that body. Martindale was a pioneer in the treatment of uterine cancer and fibroid growths in women through deep X-ray therapy. She died in 1966. Material held by the Wellcome Collection – full collection description.

HD/1/81: The minute book of the founders of the hospital, discussing the principles of kind treatment and moral management, dated 1842-1848. Image copyright © Archifau Sir Ddinbych / Denbighshire Archives.

Feature: Unlocking the Asylum: Cataloguing the North Wales Hospital Archive (August 2019).

Northern Ireland Hospitals Authority Archive (1948-1974): The collection consists of reports and monographs on the location, construction and administration of hospitals in Northern Ireland covering the period 1948 to 1974. Items include reports from The Northern Ireland Hospitals Authority, Hospital Management Committees, research organisations and central government. The archive constitutes the nucleus of the Northern Ireland Hospitals Authority library which passed to The Queen’s University of Belfast at the Authority’s demise in 1973. Queens University Medical Library continues to maintain an archive of material related to health and social services provision in Northern Ireland. Material held by Queen’s University Belfast Special Collections & Archives – full collection description.

One of our first attempts at archiving the RCN COVID-19 webpages using our digital archive. Image copyright © Royal College of Nursing Archives.

Feature: Creating a COVID-19 archive at the Royal College of Nursing (November 2020).

Florence Nightingale letters (1882-1883): Florence Nightingale, (1820-1910), nursing pioneer and reformer, is regarded as the founder of modern nursing. Born in Florence, Italy, she dedicated her life to the care of the sick and war wounded. In 1844, she began to visit hospitals; in 1850, she spent some time with the nursing Sisters of St. Vincent de Paul in Alexandria and a year later studied at the institute for Protestant deaconesses in Kaiserswerth, Germany. In 1854, she organized a unit of 38 nurses for service in the Crimean War. In 1860, she established the Nightingale School for nurse training at St. Thomas’s Hospital, London and in 1907 became the first woman to be given the British Order of Merit. This collection contains letters from Florence Nightingale to William Rathbone the MP for Caernarfonshire, concerning public health issues and the typhoid epidemic at Bangor in 1882. Material held by Archifdy Prifysgol Bangor / Bangor University Archives – full collection description.

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Digital Content on Archives Hub

As part of the Archives Hub Labs ‘Images and Machine Learning’ project we are currently exploring the challenges around implementing IIIF image services for archival collections, and also for Archives Hub more specifically as an aggregator of archival descriptions. This work is motivated by our desire to encourage the inclusion of more digital content on Archives Hub, and to improve our users’ experience of that content, in terms of both display and associated functionality.

Before we start to report on our progress with IIIF, we thought it would be useful to capture some of our current ideas and objectives with regards to the presentation of digital content on Archives Hub. This will help us to assess at later stages of the project how well IIIF supports those objectives, since it can be easy to get caught up in the excitement of experimenting with new technologies and lose sight of one’s starting point. It will also help our audience to understand how we’re aiming to develop the Hub, and how the Labs project supports those aims.

     Why more digital content?

  • We know it’s what our users want
  • Crucial part of modern research and engagement with collections, especially after the pandemic
  • Another route into archives for researchers
  • Contributes to making archives more accessible
  • Will enable us to create new experiences and entry points within Archives Hub
  • To support contributing archives which can’t host or display content themselves
The poet Edward Thomas, ‘Wearing hat, c.1904’

The Current Situation

At the moment our contributors can include digital content in their descriptions on Archives Hub. They add links to their descriptions prior to publication, and they can do this at any level, e.g. ‘item’ level for images of individually catalogued objects, or maybe ‘fonds’ or ‘collection’ level for a selection of sample images. If the links are to image files, these are displayed on the Hub as part of the description. If the links are to video or audio files, or documents, we just display a link.

There are a few disadvantages to this set up: it can be a labour-intensive process adding individual links to descriptions; links often go dead because content is moved, leading to disappointment for researchers; and it means contributing archives need to be able to host content themselves, which isn’t always possible.

Where images are included in descriptions, these are embedded in the page as part of the description itself. If there are multiple images they are arranged to best fit the size of the screen, which means their order isn’t preserved.

If a user clicks on an image it is opened in a pop out viewer, which has a zoom button, and arrows for browsing if there is more than one image.

The embedded image and the viewer are both quite small, so there is also a button to view the image in fullscreen.

The viewer and the fullscreen option both obscure all or part of the decription itself, and there is no descriptive information included around the image other than a caption, if one has been provided.

As you can see the current interface is functional, but not ideal. Listed below are some of the key things we would like to look at and improve going forwards. The list is not intended to be exhaustive, but even so it’s pretty long, and we’re aware that we might not be able to fix everything, and certainly not in one go.

Documenting our aims though is an important part of steering our innovations work, even if those aims end up evolving as part of the exploration process.

Display and Viewing Experience

❐ The viewer needs updating so that users can play audio and video files in situ on the Hub, just as they can view images at the moment. It would be great if they could also read documents (PDF, Word etc).

❐ Large or high-resolution image files should load more quickly into the viewer.

❐ The viewer should also include tools for interacting with content, e.g. for images: zoom, rotate, greyscale, adjust brightness/contrast etc; for audio-visual files: play, pause, rewind, modify speed etc.

❐ When opened, any content viewer should expand to a more usable size than the current one.

❐ Should the viewer also support the display of descriptive information around the content, so that if the archive description itself is obscured, the user still has context for what they’re looking at? Any viewer should definitely clearly display rights and licensing information alongside content.

‘Now for a jolly ride at Bridlington’

Search and Navigation

❐ The Archives Hub search interface should offer users the option to filter by the type of digital content included in their search results (e.g. image, video, PDF etc).

❐ The search interface should also highlight the presence of digital content in search results more prominently, and maybe even include a preview?

❐ When viewing the top level of a multi-level description, users should be able to identify easily which levels include digital content.

❐ Users should also be able to jump to the digital content within a multi-level description quickly – possibly being able to browse through the digital content separately from the description itself?

❐ Users should be able to begin with digital content as a route into the material on Archives Hub, rather than only being able to search the text descriptions as their starting point.

Contributor Experience

❐ Perhaps Archives Hub should offer some form of hosting service, to support archives, improve availability of digital content on the Hub, and allow for the development of workflows around managing content?

❐ Ideally, we would also develop a user-friendly method for linking content to descriptions, to make publishing and updating digital content easy and time-efficient.

❐ Any workflows or interfaces for managing digital content should be straightforward and accessible for non-technical staff.

❐ The service could give contributors access to innovative but sustainable tools, which drive engagement by highlighting their collections.

❐ If possible, any resources created should be re-usable within an archive’s own sites or resources – making the most of both the material and the time invested.

Future Possibilities

❐ We could look at offering options for contributors to curate content in creative and inventive ways which aren’t tied to cataloguing alone, and which offer alternative ways of experiencing archival material for users.

❐ It would be exciting for users to be able to ‘collect’, customise or interact with content in more direct ways. Some examples might include:

  • Creating their own collections of content
  • Creating annotations or notes
  • Publicly tagging or commenting on content

❐ Develop the experience for users with things like: automated tagging of images for better search; providing searchable OCR scanned text for text within images; using the tagging or classification of content to provide links to information and resources elsewhere.

Image credits

Edward Thomas: Papers of Edward Thomas (GB 1239 424/8/1/1/10), Cardiff University Archives / Prifysgol Caerdydd.

Servants of the Queen (from Salome, c1900): by Dorothy Carleton Smyth. Art, Design and Architecture collection (GB 1694 NMC/0098F), Glasgow School of Art Archives and Collections.

‘Now for a jolly ride at Bridlington’: Claude William Jamson Archive (GB 50 U DX336/8/1), Hull University Archives.

‘Things for children’: Design Council Archives (GB 1837 DES/DCA/30/1/13/25), University of Brighton Design Archives.

Archiving Art Deco: The Podolsky Collection at the Goldsmiths’ Company Library and Archive

Archives Hub feature for October 2022

In 2027 the Goldsmiths’ Company will celebrate 700 years since it received its first royal charter, which formalised the company’s existence as a craft guild.

To mark this anniversary, a programme of cataloguing and digitisation is underway to make the archives more widely accessible. Sharing the catalogues on public forums – such as the Archives Hub – is a vital aspect of this project.

The archives of the Goldsmiths’ Company date back to the 14th century, with the earliest minutes recorded in 1334. The company prides itself on the breadth of its archival collections; with records covering not only the broad administrative past of the company, but also the history of making and retailing in precious metals. The variety in the archives reflects the strong ties between the craft and the company that remain to this day.

The Podolsky Collection is an excellent example of a maker’s archive, recording all aspects of jewellery craft and trade; from design, to the promotion and sale of wares. Spanning from 1920-2010, the series also offers insight into the resilience of the trade and the evolution of style across the decades.

Paul Podolsky, liveryman of the Goldsmiths’ Company.

Most of the collection was donated to the archive by Paul Podolsky, a liveryman of the Goldsmiths’ Company with a career in jewellery spanning over 70 years. Throughout his career he worked both as a designer, then as an executive, dedicating himself to the company set up by his father Eyna Podolsky.

Eyna Podolsky, a Ukrainian immigrant and the son of metalworkers, began his career with an apprenticeship with a jeweller at just 12, eventually becoming a skilled diamond mounter, setter and engraver.

He was able to start his own business in 1920 and was so successful he employed around 40 people. Originally diamond mounters and watchcase makers, the firm was first known as The British National Watch Case Co.

Eyna Podolsky was the first man in Britain to go into mass production of platinum and diamond-set wrist watches, which were mainly sold to wholesalers.

AC/4/1/3/107: designs for diamond-set wrist watches.

The company also had orders for other pieces of jewellery and commissions from some private clients. In total there are over 130 design drawings in the collection, many of which are from the 1920s and 1930s and so are excellent examples of Art Deco work.

AC/4/1/3/26: design for a brooch or double clip.
AC/4/1/3/93: design drawing for a bracelet, showing annotations to design.

Paul Podolsky’s childhood was spent in and out of his father’s workshops, learning techniques from craftspeople long before he officially joined the firm. Despite this upbringing, Paul didn’t initially want to be a jeweller; he left school at 16 to join a commercial art studio in 1939. The outbreak of war soon closed this down, and Paul joined his father’s studio as an apprentice diamond mounter, by which time the business was thriving in its Hatton Garden premises.

AC/4/2/1: Business card, in 1938 the firm became known as E. Podolsky & Co., Ltd.

The markets depressed during the war and many young jewellers joined the army, leaving an aging workforce. These gaps were supplemented by an influx of Jewish refugees to Hatton Garden leading up to the war. Paul Podolsky recalls craftspeople from all over the former British Empire coming to work in London at this time, including a German-Jewish refugee named ‘Margot’ who joined the Podolsky workshop.

AC/4/1/3/18: design drawing for a brooch, reportedly designed by ‘Margot’ a German-Jewish refugee named Margot working at the company during the war.
AC/4/1/3/19: design drawing for a brooch by Paul Podolsky, inspired by ‘Margot’s’ design.

Like many jewellers E. Podolsky & Co. Ltd. switched to supplying for the war effort – using their small tools to create objects such as fuses. Production at times was 24 hours a day with Paul and his colleagues working night shifts.

After his own service in the army (1944-1947), Paul Podolsky took control of the business, and one of his first actions in charge was to acquire the jewellery subdivisions of Birmingham firms Blanckensee and Albion Chain who had decided to concentrate on engineering work after the war. 

This new venture had to pivot away from the fine work produced between the wars to produce cheaper 9ct items. Many of the initial designs were drawn by Paul Podolsky himself as he was unable to afford a professional designer. It was a gamble, but his economy paid off, with the company still producing commercial jewellery well into the 1980s.

AC/4/1/3/136: designs for more economical brooches in the post-war market.

Further information

The listings for the Paul Podolsky collection are available on Archives Hub: https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb1990-ac/4

The archive is also available to view by appointment at the Goldsmiths Company Library and Archive:
https://www.thegoldsmiths.co.uk/craft/library-research/

Listen to the Goldsmiths’ Company Librarian, Eleni Bide’s talk on Paul Podolsky here: https://vimeo.com/674581225

For further information on the history of the Goldsmiths’ Company:
https://www.thegoldsmiths.co.uk/company/history/history-of-the-company/

Sophie Leverington
Archivist
The Goldsmiths’ Company
Goldsmith’s Hall

Related

Browse The Goldsmiths’ Company Library and Archive descriptions to date on the Archives Hub

All images copyright The Goldsmiths’ Company. Reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.

Establishment of the East London Mosque Archives

Archives Hub feature for September 2022

About the East London Mosque Archives

Mosque, referred to as a place of worship for Muslims is probably not something that would jump to our minds when we think of archives. It is not surprising then that people are often intrigued to learn that the East London Mosque, which is one of London’s oldest Mosque has its own archive repository located in its complex; the Maryam Centre in Whitechapel. Established as an archive service in 2015, the ELM Archives as it is commonly called, has unique and rich archive collections documenting the various aspects of British Muslim-related history, which is housed in a purpose built Strong Room. At the moment, it is the only mosque in Britain with such facility.

Strong Room, November 2017. Section of the mobile roller racking within the new purpose built Strong Room with some of the East London Mosque archives on the shelves.
Strong Room, November 2017. Section of the mobile roller racking within the new purpose built Strong Room with some of the East London Mosque archives on the shelves.

The ELM Archives Project

The ELM Archives holds the institutional records, dating from 1910 onwards of the East London Mosque Trust, which is responsible for the administration and management of the Mosque. What is perhaps not widely known is that the Archives came into existence from a campaign initiated by the Mosque to preserve its own heritage. This all begun in 1995, when the late Muhammad Suleiman Jetha who was a former Chairman of the East London Mosque rediscovered and bequeathed the documents he had taken during the World War II bombings for safekeeping back to the Mosque. The deposit contained the London Mosque Fund Minute Book and collection of letters, which provided wealth of information on the creation and shaping of the East London Mosque. Realising the value, this led to the start of an effort, later to become recognised as the ELM Archives Project, to professionally organise and store the Mosque archives.

The London Mosque Fund Minute Book, 1910-1951
The London Mosque Fund Minute Book, 1910-1951. Part of the East London Mosque Trust archive collection, the London Mosque Fund Minute Book records a great deal of information right back to the first meeting in 1910, including how the London Mosque Fund raised money; how it invested the funds when they were established; the search for property; and how the fund helped other organisations in the interim period before it bought the premises for the Mosque. The minutes are written in a beautiful handwriting for the first 150 pages and from 1930s onwards there inserts of typewritten sheets.

Not much was done until 2012 when the Mosque secured the help of a qualified Archivist to carry out a two day scoping study of the existing materials to identify the work required for long term protection and management of the archives. The report compiled at the end offered recommendations on how to classify, catalogue, preserve and provide access to the archives.

Further progress was made as the Mosque submitted a successful application for The National Archives’ Cataloguing Grants programme in 2013. This secured a grant to recruit a temporary Archivist for 1 year to catalogue the archives. At the same time, an Archives Steering Group was formed, comprising of different individuals with relevant expertise within the Mosque and externally from the Religious Archives Group to deliver strategic guidance for the Project. By the end of 2014, the archives were appraised, sorted and catalogued accordingly to best practice in archival standards onto the Archives Hub. Moreover, all the archive materials were labelled, repackaged into acid free folders and put into acid free boxes.

Transition to Archives Service

Inside of The London Mosque Fund Minute Book, 1910-1951.
Inside of The London Mosque Fund Minute Book, 1910-1951.

The success of the cataloguing meant that the archive collection of the East London Mosque Trust went live on the Archives Hub in September 2014, and for the time it was made available to the public for online browsing. To accommodate enquiries and facilitate requests to access the archives, 9 volunteers were recruited. They were given training on how to retrieve and put away documents, supervise researchers and assist with basic queries by the Archivist.

The Reading Room service and the online catalogue were officially launched in January 2015. Since then, the Archives has been hosting both internal and external researchers. Access to the Reading Room is free and open to everyone. The Reading Room currently operates on a part time basis and researchers are requested to book an appointment in advance before their intended visit. Further details of the opening hours can be found on the Archives repository homepage within the Archives Hub.

For the long term storage of the archive materials, the Archives Steering Group researched and developed specifications and requirements to build a purpose built Strong Room in the Maryam Centre. Standards relevant at the time, such as PD 5454:2012 Guide for the Storage and Exhibition of Archival Materials and The National Archives’ Standard for Record Repositories, which gave recommendations for storing and keeping archives within best practice and incorporated factors such as repository construction, storage environment, fire protection and prevention and temperature and humidity parameters were taken into consideration. The built also took into account archival storage needs for the next 50 years. Soon after, fundraising for the necessary construction and equipment began. The building of the Strong Room, equipped with mobile shelving, monitoring system for humidity, humidifiers and extractors, fire proofing and fire alarm system and water drainage arrangements was accomplished and inaugurated on 22 November 2017 by Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.

Launch Day, January 2015. The event celebrated the completion of cataloguing of the East London Mosque Trust archive collection and launch of the online catalogue on Archives Hub and opening of the Reading Room service. Photograph shows Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, Simon Hughes, Former Minister for Justice and Civil Liberties, Eilís McCarthy, Project Archivists with Archive Volunteers.
Launch Day, January 2015. The event celebrated the completion of cataloguing of the East London Mosque Trust archive collection and launch of the online catalogue on Archives Hub and opening of the Reading Room service. Photograph shows Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, Simon Hughes, Former Minister for Justice and Civil Liberties, Eilís McCarthy, Project Archivists with Archive Volunteers.

The ELM Archives Now

It has been a long journey and the ELM Archives has now transitioned from a Project to a Service. In 2018, a part time permanent Archivist was employed by the Mosque to manage the growing archive collections. The Archives started with the intention of just preserving the history of the East London Mosque but now endeavours to create a repository for all and any records relating to British Muslims in Britain.

With the collecting remit broadened, at present, the Archives has the following archival collections in its holdings:

Due to a backlog, not all these collections have been fully catalogued and made available on the Archives Hub yet. Please contact the East London Mosque Archives for further information.     

Further Information 

Browse all the East London Mosque Archives collection descriptions on the Archives Hub.

Ways to connect with the East London Mosque Archives:

Email: archives@londonmuslimcentre.org.uk

Website: http://eastlondonmosquearchives.org.uk/

Twitter: @ELM Archives

Instagram: ELM_Archives

To discover the history of the East London Mosque, from the formation of the London Mosque Fund in 1910, the opening of the first Mosque buildings in 1941, making of the Mosque in Whitechapel to the present day, browse the following links:

https://www.eastlondonmosque.org.uk/history

https://www.ourmigrationstory.org.uk/oms/the-east-london-mosque

https://surveyoflondon.org/map/feature/954/detail/

The London Mosque Fund Minute Book from the East London Mosque Trust archive collection has been digitised and a copy can be accessed here:

https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/royal-historical-society-camden-fifth-series/article/london-mosque-fund/800E27BBC9A990B01C1AB43B7515A079

Shahera Begum, Archivist
East London Mosque & London Muslim Centre

All images copyright East London Mosque Archives. Reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.

Larkin with archives

Archives Hub feature for August 2022

Preserving a literary legacy…

‘I feel the only thing you can do about life is to preserve it, by art if you’re an artist, by children if you’re not’ (PAL, letter to Monica Jones)

Self-portrait taken by Larkin whilst on a beach in Sark with Monica Jones, 1961 [RefNo. U DLV/2/5/49]

The 9th of August 2022 marks the centenary of the birth of poet and librarian Philip Arthur Larkin.

His approach to life as represented in the above quote will resonate with anyone involved in archival work and research. It speaks to the core function of the archivist in preserving the surviving evidence of past thoughts, beliefs and events.

Although not born in Hull, Larkin was intimately connected with the city. Appointed to the post of Librarian at the University of Hull in March 1955, he spent half of his life in the area, living first in Cottingham, then in Hull’s Pearson Park, and finally in the well-to-do area of Newland Park near the University. Some of his most famous works were inspired by the experience of living in, travelling from and returning to the city. During his time at the University, he guided the library through a period of significant development, helping to transform it from a small operation in a series of makeshift spaces, to a purpose built and sector-leading academic library. Through his collaboration with academic colleagues, he promoted the growth of Hull University Archives from a small selection of manuscripts to an internationally significant repository for archive collections. So, it is fitting that his surviving archive is held at Hull as part of the University Archives.

Creative process of a poet…

‘[T]o construct a verbal device that would preserve an experience indefinitely by reproducing it in whoever read the poem’ (PAL, definition of the purpose of a poet, from Required Reading)

Self-portrait taken by Larkin whilst in Oxford, 1941 [RefNo. U DLV/2/1/14]

One of the most important of the Larkin related collections held at Hull is his personal archive which contains, amongst other things, his manuscript poetry workbooks.

Draft of poem ‘Fiction and the reading public’, 19 May 1949 [RefNo U DPL/1/2/56]

Written in pencil, they contain manuscript drafts of poems written by Larkin, and provide evidence that he drafted and redrafted individual poems over several days or weeks, even returning to them months later. The pages sometimes feature small doodles or comments, giving us an insight into his feelings and state of mind in a given moment. Thus, the workbooks are a vital and unique record of Larkin’s creative process.

Capturing a view on life…

‘I feel the only thing you can do about life is to preserve it, by art if you’re an artist, by children if you’re not’ (PAL, letter to Monica Jones)

Spring Bank Cemetery taken by Larkin, c.1960s [RefNo. U DLV/3/249/14]

Aside from writing poetry, Larkin was a keen and skilled amateur photographer and the evidence is preserved in his photographic archive [RefNo. U DLV]. Having shown an interest in photography from a young age, Larkin was given a camera to use by his father, a Houghton-Butcher Ensign Carbine No.5. In a letter dated 1947, addressed to a childhood friend, he notes that he has spent a large amount of money on a camera of his own, believed to be a Purma Special. From this point there was no looking back, and later on he became known for his use of a professional quality Rolleiflex camera with timers, lenses and filters.

Gull streaked mud flats along the banks of the Humber River, taken and marked up for enlargement by Larkin, c.1957 [RefNo. U DLV/3/91/4 and U DLV/2/5/32]

His approach to photography seems akin to that of his writing. His photographs skilfully capture the experience of everyday life according to fundamental principles of photographic composition. His subjects regularly include self-portraits, rural landscapes, church yards, and the friends, family and women in his life. His surviving photographs often show evidence that he marked up prints for enlargement to create a better composition.

Communication is key…

‘Man hands on misery to man. It deepens like a coastal shelf. Get out as early as you can, And don’t have any kids yourself’ (PAL, This be the verse)

Self-portrait of Larkin and Monica Jones, taken by Larkin, c.1950s [U DMA]

In an age of emails, texts and social media, we perhaps forget how important letter writing was to communication in the mid-20th century. Larkin was a prolific letter writer, maintaining contact with friends, acquaintances, and family on a regular basis. There are many collections of his correspondence at Hull.

Letter from Larkin to James ‘Jim’ Sutton, 1940 [U DP174/2/9]

Highlights include letters sent to Monica Jones, his life-long partner [RefNo. U DX341], which reveal their close and frank relationship, along with aspects of Larkin’s character and life views. Another highlight is the correspondence between Larkin and his childhood friend James Sutton [U DP174 and U DP182]. The two friends discuss home life, friends, jazz music, and their current creative endeavours, which provides opportunity to explore Larkin’s formative years at home, school and university.

Further information…

In this centenary year we’ve been busy working to enhance access to the Larkin collections, improving catalogue descriptions, producing a new source guide and creating an online exhibition.

To access the source guide: https://libguides.hull.ac.uk/archives-at-hhc/published-guides

To explore the online exhibition: https://libguides.hull.ac.uk/larkin100/home

Claire Weatherall, Archivist
Hull University Archives

Related

Collections at Hull University Archives relating to Philip Larkin – letters, papers and more

Browse all Hull University Archives descriptions on the Archives Hub

Previous features on Hull University Archives

For those in peril on the sea – Seamen’s Missions archives at Hull History Centre (2019)

Papers of the Association of Chief Police Officers – the National Reporting Centre (2016)

Liberty, Parity and Justice at the Hull History Centre (2010)

All images copyright Hull University Archives. Reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.