Researching LGBTQ+ History at North East Wales Archives

Have you ever wondered what LGBTQ+ archives might be held at North East Wales Archives (NEWA)? 

North East Wales Archives images.
North East Wales Archives images.

Today, we would like to shine the spotlight on some of the initiatives which are helping Wales to uncover the LGBTQ+ heritage held within our archives.   It can be quite a challenge to find records of this type of history since, because of its historically subversive nature, it was often hidden, destroyed or even put into code to avoid discovery.  Searching for records of LGBTQ+ history can prove difficult, because the terms that were used historically are different to those used in today’s language. Glamorgan Archives have put together an extremely helpful guide (PDF) called ‘Queering Glamorgan’, which also has an essential glossary of words and terms to help researchers find articles and stories in historic newspapers.

Image of archival storage, provided by North East Wales Archives/Adobe Spark.
Colourised image of archival storage units #LGBTQ (NEWA/Adobe Spark).

Societies like #Draig Enfys or #Rainbow Dragon are working tirelessly to find and share the stories and lives of people in Wales throughout the ages and to help us to explore the archives for ourselves. Draig Enfys is a research group set up by Norena Shopland, who specialises in researching, recording and promoting LGBT+, women’s and Welsh histories; Mark Etheridge, National Museum Wales; and Susan Edwards, Glamorgan Archives. They wanted to create a forum for researchers to network, help each other out and prevent people working on duplicate subjects.  They saw the benefit of people joining forces and collaborating together in this often lonely field of research.

There is also a hive of creative activity in this field, with original research being undertaken in Wales.  Projects like Living Histories Cymru, run by Jane Hoy and Helen Sandler, bring historic Welsh LGBTQ+ individuals to life through lively, costumed talks and plays. Other researchers and groups of young people are currently working with National Museum Wales to host various exhibitions and publish books on LGBTQ+ history.

James Henry Lynch: The Rt. Hon. Lady Eleanor Butler & Miss Ponsonby 'The Ladies of Llangollen'. A portrait from the Welsh Portrait Collection at the National Library of Wales. Image in the public domain.
James Henry Lynch: The Rt. Hon. Lady Eleanor Butler & Miss Ponsonby ‘The Ladies of Llangollen’. A portrait from the Welsh Portrait Collection at the National Library of Wales. Image in the public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

At the Denbighshire branch of NEWA, we hold Minutes of the weekly medical officers meetings which contain details of patient cases, including discussions on the benefits and problems associated with ECT treatment, and brief details on the treatment of a homosexual patient in March 1968.  We also hold records relating to the celebrated ‘Ladies of Llangollen’, ‘romantic friends’ in the 18th century, who ran away together to escape the constraints of patriarchal society to live together in isolation. Newspapers and court records at both branches are also rich sources of LGBTQ+ stories and pathways to further research.

Photographs of North East Wales Archives.
Photographs of the Hawarden (Archifdy Sir y Fflint / Flintshire Record Office) and Ruthin (Archifau Sir Ddinbych / Denbighshire Archives) branches.

If you are interested in LGBTQ+ history, why not try using the terms in Glamorgan Archives’ glossary to search for stories in online newspapers? You can also visit our website to uncover more sources of historical stories from your local area!

Teresa Davies
Archive Assistant
North East Wales Archives/NEWA (Hawarden)

Related

Explore more LGBTQ archives on the Archives Hub

Browse all Archifau Sir Ddinbych / Denbighshire Archives collections on the Archives Hub.

Browse all Archifdy Sir y Fflint / Flintshire Record Office collections on the Archives Hub.

Previous feature

Unlocking the Asylum: Cataloguing the North Wales Hospital Archive

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

Online resources from the Salvation Army International Heritage Centre Archive

Archives Hub feature for January 2021

Over the past few years at the Salvation Army International Heritage Centre, we have been working towards digitising parts of our collections in order to provide open access to them online. Our digitisation has been focussed on small, self-contained series of nineteenth-century periodicals and pamphlets from The Salvation Army’s early history. We envisaged these digital collections not only as ways of allowing more people to use and enjoy the material, but also as places where we could put the historical material in context and provide other helpful tools like indices and research guides. As they represent only tiny fraction of our holdings, these digital collections were never intended to be a substitute for accessing our collections in person. However, when in March 2020 we had to close to the public and limit our own access to the archives due to the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic, they unexpectedly became one of the few ways we had of keeping ourselves and others connected with our collections.

Three of the digital collections that we have created so far have now been added to Archives Hub as Online Resources. They are all still works in progress that will continue to grow as we are able to add to them, but this feature provides an introductory overview.

The Darkest England Gazette

In October 1890 — just over 130 years ago — The Salvation Army’s founder William Booth published what is probably his best-known and most influential book, In Darkest England and the Way Out. Planned and researched in under a year while his wife Catherine was terminally ill and released just weeks after her death, the book was penned with substantial assistance from the journalist WT Stead, a family friend and supporter of The Salvation Army’s work. Taking inspiration from the title of Henry Morton Stanley’s In Darkest Africa, published earlier the same year, In Darkest England described the social landscape of the United Kingdom as it had come to be seen by Booth over the course of 25 years of directing The Salvation Army’s evangelistic and social work among people living in poverty.

In Darkest England lithograph.
In Darkest England lithograph.

Booth estimated that a tenth of the country’s population experienced conditions of such extreme misery and destitution that it had become impossible for them to improve their lives without assistance. He called these people ‘the submerged tenth’ and the striking and colourful frontispiece of the book (the work of an unknown artist) shows them struggling to stay afloat in a turbulent sea as waves of hardship (unemployment, starvation, drunkenness, want and sin) crash over their heads. The book set out Booth’s grand plan for rescuing them, which would form the basis for The Salvation Army’s social work going forward. The overarching idea was to reverse the urbanisation that Booth saw as being at the root of so many contemporary social problems by creating a system of ‘colonies’ which would provide shelter, work and support. He intended that people progress through these in a landward direction, starting off in the ‘City Colony’ before moving to the ‘Farm Colony’ and then ultimately to the ‘Colony across the Sea’ where, in the dominant imperial view of the time, open land was considered plentiful and available for the taking.

In Darkest England sold exceptionally well—its first print run sold out on the day of publication and two more editions were printed by the end of the year. Although the reception from readers was mixed, it succeeded in providing the finance and impetus for the rapid expansion of Salvation Army social work and the establishment of many of the institutions Booth had envisaged. The Darkest England Scheme, as The Salvation Army’s organised social work became known, had far-reaching and lasting effects on both The Salvation Army and wider society that have recently been explored in a new anniversary publication, In Darkest England 130 Years On (London: Shield Books, 2020). At the time, however, the Scheme’s objectives and achievements were reported in a weekly newspaper called The Darkest England Gazette which is the subject of one of our digital collections.

The Darkest England Gazette ran from 1 July 1893 to 16 June 1894, after which it continued under the new name The Social Gazette. The Social Gazette soon adopted a smaller, cheaper 4-page format, and it continued to be published in this form until 1917. All 51 issues of The Darkest England Gazette have now been digitised and a growing selection is available online. The digital collection also includes a series of research guides that offer brief introductions to prominent themes from the Gazette which include some quite surprising subjects from animal welfare, vivisection and vegetarianism to poetry and popular fiction.

The Christian Mission

The Salvation Army counts its age from July 1865, but its current name was not adopted until 1878. For most of the first 13 years of its existence it was known as The Christian Mission. The Mission grew out of the East London Special Services Committee, a group of Christian businessmen who did evangelistic work in the east end of London. William Booth, a former Methodist turned independent evangelist, first had contact with this committee in June 1865, when he preached at a meeting organised by them at the Quaker Burial Ground in Whitechapel. Within a short time, he had been asked to give permanent leadership to their ministry and over subsequent decades, grew it into an international movement.

Christian Mission Magazine, January 1870.
Christian Mission Magazine, January 1870.

From October 1868, the Mission began publicising its work by means of its own monthly magazine, which ran until it was superseded by the well-known War Cry in December 1879. This magazine is one of the most important surviving sources of information about the early development of The Salvation Army and its expansion from the east end of London throughout the UK. We have now put many issues online alongside a selection of other documents produced by the Mission.

Rare pamphlets

As our other digital collections show, since its earliest days as the Christian Mission (and even before), The Salvation Army’s leaders and members have been prolific publishers, not only of periodicals and books, but also of various forms of pamphlet. One of the earliest in our collection is an 1870 edition of Catherine Booth’s treatise Female Ministry, or Women’s Right to Preach the Gospel, which is a revised version of her 1859 pamphlet Female Teaching. No known copies of the first edition survive but a second edition of her original text dating from 1861 survives in the John Rylands Library at Manchester University. Catherine’s views shaped The Salvation Army’s position on women preachers, whose equal status with their male counterparts has been written into the organisation’s constitution since 1870.

Catherine Booth.
Catherine Booth.

This pamphlet and more than seventy others are now accessible online in our Rare Pamphlets Collection, covering a wide variety of subjects from slum ministry and social work, to international missionary work, to biographies and songs.

Ruth Macdonald
Archivist & Deputy Director
The Salvation Army International Heritage Centre

Twitter & Instagram: @salvarmyarchive

Related

The Darkest England Gazette’ Digital Collection

The Christian Mission Digital Collection

Salvation Army Rare Pamphlets Collection

Browse all Salvation Army International Heritage Centre Archive collections on the Archives Hub

Browse all Online Resources descriptions on the Archives Hub

Previous features on the Salvation Army International Heritage Centre’s Archive collections:

Personal diaries in the archive of The Salvation Army International Heritage Centre

Researching 150 years of Salvation Army history

All images copyright Salvation Army International Heritage Centre. Reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.

Cotesbach Archive: A Remarkable Harvest

Archives Hub feature for December 2020

High up on a sheltered, well lit corner of a wall in an outbuilding at Cotesbach Hall can be deciphered a faint scribbling entitled ‘TOTAL TATERS 1920’ [1]. 

Writing on the Wall, Cotesbach Hall: 'Total Taters 1920'. Photo: Tom Clarke, CET Archive volunteer.
Writing on the Wall, Cotesbach Hall: ‘Total Taters 1920’. Photo: Tom Clark, CET Archive volunteer.

The unmistakeable hand of Rowley Marriott (1899-1992) can be discerned listing the weight of potatoes yielded from each of three areas in the walled garden, to a total imperial equivalent of 1,238 kg, nearly three times what we considered to be an exceptional yield this year, 420kg.  Struggling out of the war years, the family having lost two sons on the bloody fields of Flanders and then Father who died of grief in 1918, this harvest would have been no mean feat, and their circumstances many times more challenging than ours.  What may seem a trivial detail holds spine tingling resonance for us, a most tangible, personal connection to the people who lived here before us.  It was a remarkable harvest a century ago, otherwise the result would never have been written on the wall. 

We are very fortunate that the Cotesbach Archive preserves a mine of documents which enable us to piece these stories together connecting people to place, and to wider context.  Rowley was one of seven brothers whose boyhood was filled with occupations such as collecting birds eggs [2] and following the hunt, through which they learned to know and love the countryside around, the names and characteristics of each field and spinney. 

Record of birds’ eggs collected by Marriott brothers of Cotesbach, 1910-1913, Digby (1895-1915), Rowley (1899-1992), Michael (1900-1974).

They stepped up to the challenge of vegetable production when the war came along with a spirit of novelty and competition which shows through in Rowley’s letters from his brother Michael, who nicknames him ‘My dear old Parsnip’, signed ‘Your blasted Broccoli’, describing to some extent what and how they were growing.  Yet the yield from an initial search on ‘harvest’ in the archive catalogue is sparse: Mother (Mary Emily nee Peach 1862-1934) writing to their elder brother James ca 1914, along with reporting on the tenant farmer’s arable harvest mentions that: ‘Potatoes are being taken up, so there is plenty to do in the garden’ [3, understatement!].  So often, the commonplace is un-remark-able. 

Letter from Mary Emily Marriott to her eldest son James, September 13th 1914. COTMA:5413.
Letter from Mary Emily Marriott to her eldest son James, September 13th 1914. COTMA:5413.

Engrossed in cultivation as we have been this year, we are curious for more knowledge of traditional cultivation methods, management, storage, diet.  Did they only eat potatoes, and game? Detective work into estate maps, periodic reports, receipts and correspondence will gradually reveal more, but the very absence of everyday detail is an indication of social change.  Families of landowners who had previously relied on farm labourers were undergoing hardship themselves and stepped into vegetable production when it was needed most.  There were mouths to feed at Cotesbach Hall, 11 residents recorded in the 1911 census, 19 a generation earlier in 1861 out of a village community of 186 (108 in 1911). Harvest time is backbreaking work, dependent on the weather, sadness at the end of summer mingled with celebration of work well done. 

It was a way of life, the annual round, which for a scarcely educated farmer would involve attending Sunday church, with its diet of interminable sermons.  One such work of Rev. James Powell Marriott delivered for Harvest Thanksgiving on 6th October 1864 warns repeatedly of God’s ultimate harvest of souls and His Almighty Hand which could wreak revenge just as blessing to the crops, implying the villager’s conduct would make a difference, whilst rays of light pouring into the nave would have only reminded him of work to be done, and his disappointment that the Wake or Harvest Festival had been cancelled due to villagers’ overindulgence in previous years.  We empathise with that, yet also wonder at the change in values and ideologies, in these days of locked down pews, witnesses as we are of a Faustian reality where humans have induced climate change wreaking havoc with weather patterns, and the need to build and rebuild skills, knowledge and science of the environment which is greater than ever before.

When we agreed to do a slot for the Archives Hub this time last year, the world was a very different place, with our plans to take on four MA students from Leicester University for their summer placements getting under way, the results of which would have provided displays for Heritage Open Days and content for this article.  Everything changed with lockdown, yet in all four areas we have made progress, enabling us to be even better placed for next year’s students. Additional HLF funding has brought forward the task of solving the question of migration of our Item level records to the Hub, which involves adopting CALM software, instead of  MODES.  Back in 2008, the latter seemed the most suitable match for our holistic approach to heritage, our overall aim being to preserve not only the archive but the material culture and books belonging to past generations which retain associations and have already frequently been used as educational resources and display material for the CET.  Each object, especially combined with document and imagination, is a doorway into history, into time travel, into discovery. 

Our catalogue records need to be as versatile as any of these possibilities, not locked into proprietary arrangements, ensuring it stays relevant and dynamic for new generations.  When harvest time comes for our crop of catalogue records it is hoped that the yield will be plentiful, its quality sound, that it will reflect diversity over monoculture, the commonplace and the extraordinary – that there will be much to celebrate and fertile ground for new seed to be sown – starting with new placement proposals for summer 2021.

Smith’s Potato Crisps vintage tin 1930s, Cotesbach Family Trust.

This year has made us more attuned to the unexpected, more likely to see things with fresh eyes.  And so, returning to the most wonderful subject of potatoes, this Smith’s Crisps tin suddenly came into the spotlight, from a dark corner containing bits and pieces roughly where it has sat since the 1930s [4].  My retro-hope is that after all the loss and drudgery, Mother experienced the pleasure of a ‘dainty and appetising’ potato crisp before her day of reckoning. 

Sophy Newton
Heritage Manager (Hon)
Cotesbach Educational Trust

Related

Records of the Marriott Family of Cotesbach, 1661-1946 on the Archives Hub

Cotesbach on Instagram

@cotesbach_educational_trust
@cotesbach_organic
@cotesbachestate

All images copyright Cotesbach Educational Trust. Reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.

Creating a COVID-19 archive at the Royal College of Nursing

Archives Hub feature for November 2020

Now more than ever as we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, the world is reliant on its digital infrastructure; the need to provide and access accurate and up-to-date information is of paramount importance. This raises some interesting questions, challenges and opportunities for archive services who can play their part in the collective response to the crisis by capturing and recording events, activities and decisions. Archives and recordkeeping professionals have always supported the notions of accountability and transparency through their work, something which is being demonstrated in real time during the development of the pandemic.

As the UK’s largest trade union and professional association for nurses, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has been supporting and representing nurses and healthcare workers throughout the pandemic. It is vital that records of how this has been done are available to the organisation in perpetuity as evidence of advice given and decisions taken. The RCN has a responsibility to its members to be able to demonstrate that the organisation has been working in their best interests and the interests of their patients. In turn, the RCN archive has a responsibility to ensure that records with evidential and research value are captured, preserved and accessible to right audiences at the right time.

One of our first attempts at archiving the RCN COVID-19 webpages using our digital archive.
One of our first attempts at archiving the RCN COVID-19 webpages using our digital archive.

As a result, like many of our archivist and recordkeeping colleagues across the world, we have created a COVID-19 archive. Since the beginning of the year the RCN archive team have been actively collecting records relating to COVID-19 from across the organisation to build up a picture of how the pandemic has unfolded through the eyes of RCN members and staff. Unsurprisingly, this covers a wide range of record types and digital formats: web crawls of special COVID-19 webpages containing up-to-date guidance and advice, targeted staff emails, member surveys on working conditions and PPE, General Secretary’s video messages, special committee situation reports, newly created online nursing resources, publications – the list could go on. Within this set of records is a complex combination of access requirements and restrictions which, through balancing business confidentiality with public interest, we will manage alongside the records themselves.

We are in the fortunate position of having a remotely accessible network and a digital archive, which has meant that we have been able to collect these records as they have been created and start uploading them to our digital archive straight away. While some of the records we’re collecting as part of the COVID-19 archive project would have been transferred to us anyway, there are several new record series on our 2020 collecting plan as a result of the pandemic. For example, our first venture in web archiving was a test crawl of the RCN COVID-19 webpages; these are now collected regularly and form an integral part of the COVID-19 archive. Having seen and been inspired by the experiences of other archives already running successful daily web crawls to capture public advice and the public response, we decided to capture our pages daily as well – this ensured that we were keeping up to speed with each piece of new advice and guidance shared on the webpages. As the rate of updates to the pages has slowed, we have since reduced the frequency to weekly, although we continue to monitor them, ready to capture more frequently if needed. This was the pilot web archiving project we didn’t know we were doing until it happened, and it has in turn has sparked interest in a larger web archiving project to capture the whole RCN website, which is well underway.

A video message from Donna Kinnar, General Secretary, on the staff intranet. An example of the range of formats collected for the COVID-19 archive.
A video message from Donna Kinnar, General Secretary, on the staff intranet. An example of the range of formats collected for the COVID-19 archive.

Alongside the collecting of material, we have been considering how the records of the COVID-19 archive will fit into our existing catalogue structure. While it would be easy to create a new Fonds for COVID-19, we realised that this view was being skewed by our thoughts about future access to the material, and the ease at which colleagues or researchers would be able to view all the material neatly packaged together. Instead we plan to preserve the context of the records by arranging them by creator, in our case this is mostly the department of origin, to fit within our existing catalogue structure. There will be occasions when it is important to view all COVID-19 records together to get a complete picture of the reaction and response to the pandemic, so using the ‘linked collection’ feature in our digital archive we plan to create a virtual COVID-19 collection containing records from across different record series to allow this level of access. Beyond this we are considering which records from our COVID-19 archive will be shared on our public digital archive website to ensure the transparency and accountability that creating the COVID-19 archive in the first place helps to achieve.

We have certainly learnt a lot this year and the team has upskilled, becoming more proficient and confident in processing a wide range of digital formats, from collection through to access. Our sector has also stepped up by providing online webinars and training events to share our experiences of this extraordinary time. In May we participated in a panel discussion facilitated by Preservica, our digital archive supplier, who generously donated 250GB of storage space for us to store the COVID-19 archive. At the event we shared our plans and projects for collecting COVID-19 records with the archive community alongside colleagues from a wide range of institutions. These included Network Rail, who have been collecting records such as emergency train timetables introduced in response to the falling customer demand, and all the documentation that went into making this happen, and University at Buffalo in the US, who are encouraging students and staff to share their experiences of the pandemic by submitting video diaries and photographs to the archive. Learning about and reflecting on the wide range of collecting projects happening around the world is as informative as it is inspiring.

An example of a publication for the COVID-19 archive. This is the cover of the April 2020 Bulletin RCN members magazine.
An example of a publication for the COVID-19 archive. This is the cover of the April 2020 Bulletin RCN members magazine.

It is amazing to think that in the (probably not too distant) future the COVID-19 records we have collected will be catalogued, available to view online through our digital archive and be being used to inform research into, and evaluations of, the response of the UK’s largest independent nursing organisation and our role in how Britain handled the pandemic.

Katherine Chorley, Digital Asst Archivist
Royal College of Nursing Archives

Related

Browse all Royal College of Nursing Archives collections on the Archives Hub.

Previous RCN Archives feature: Cathlin du Sautoy and Hermione Blackwood: personal papers at the Royal College of Nursing Archives

All images copyright Royal College of Nursing Archives. Reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.

Birkbeck’s Archive

Archives Hub feature for October 2020

Birkbeck was founded as the London Mechanics’ Institute on the evening of the 11th November 1823, when approximately 2,000 people listened to Dr George Birkbeck speak on the importance of education for working Londoners at the Crown and Anchor Tavern on the Strand.  Supporters there that evening included Jeremy Bentham, the philosopher and originator of Utilitarianism, Sir John Hobhouse, a Radical MP who held several important government posts across his career, and Henry Brougham, a liberal MP, anti-slavery campaigner and educational reformer.

George Birkbeck, founder of Birkbeck painted by Samuel Lane circa 1825, Birkbeck Image Collection.

Birkbeck has been transforming lives by helping people access higher education for nearly 200 years. This year, 2020, we celebrate our 100th anniversary of our membership of the University of London. When Birkbeck joined the University of London, it was on the condition that it should continue to provide evening teaching, and this remains our central mission.

The Library at Breams Building, Chancery Lane, Birkbeck Image Collection.
The Library at Breams Building, Chancery Lane, Birkbeck Image Collection.

As we move toward our 200th anniversary in 2023, part of the Birkbeck archive was rediscovered in an offsite storage facility. This has proved to be a rich source, not only providing insights not into our institutional history but also stories of both staff and students allowing us glimpses into their lives. We now find ourselves in the position of having two sections of the archive, each telling our story from different perspectives.

One section of the archive is held in the main Birkbeck building and is comprised of records pertaining to the history of Birkbeck from an organisational context, including minutes of various committees, published student journals and newsletters, annual reports, calendars, early student registers and staff information. 

Birkbeck College, Courses of Study front cover. Birkbeck Image Collection.
Birkbeck College, Courses of Study front cover. Birkbeck Image Collection.

The second section is held offsite and is made up of a range of material including; war correspondence, departmental papers, estates documents, all of which demonstrate Birkbeck’s unique aim and how that aim has held strong through changing political, economic and cultural times.

To date one Birkbeck academic, Professor Joanna Bourke, has explored this material, along with two of her PhD students. They have found it to be an excellent source for their research. One of the themes that runs through the archive is around trends in education such as educational policies and practices. This includes charting the life cycle of different academic disciplines as well as documenting different approaches to teaching and the broader aspects student life.

Art class at the Birkbeck Literary and Scientific Institution, Breams Buildings, circa 1915, Birkbeck, University of London. Birkbeck Image Collection.

Like many university archives, we have records of notable Birkbeckians who worked or studied with Birkbeck. We can now develop more of a picture of the lives of people such as; JD Bernal (Crystallography), Eric Hobsbawm (History), Nikolaus Pevsner (History of Art), Helen Gwynne-Vaughan (Botany). We can also learn more about those who were less well-known who studied here and made an impact like the playwright Arthur Wing Pinero and socialist, women’s rights activist Annie Besant. The library is creating an online timeline to highlight the life and work of various Birkbeck academics as part of the celebrations in the lead up to our 200th anniversary.

Helen Gwynne Vaughan in her Botany Laboratory with students circa 1923, Birkbeck, University of London. Birkbeck Image Collection.

In terms offering different perspectives, this part of the archive also holds accounts of the wider Birkbeck community, beyond the academic staff and students, those members of staff working in catering and hospitality roles, administrative staff, laboratory technicians. This provides an opportunity to explore social history through those lived experiences documented through various formats, such as letters and photographs.

It’s an exciting time at Birkbeck as we continue to uphold the ethos and pursue the central mission of providing access to education for all. Birkbeck is still London’s only specialist provider of part-time evening higher education as well as being a world-class research institution. The archive will continue to tell the story of Birkbeck as an institution as well as all those who work, study and research here. You can follow Birkbeck’s journey to its 200th anniversary.

Main Birkbeck Building, Birkbeck Image Collection.

Emma Illingworth
Subject Librarian for Science (Biological, Earth & Planetary, Psychological)
Library Services, Birkbeck, University of London

Related

Browse all Birkbeck Library Archives and Special Collections, University of London descriptions available to date on the Archives Hub.

All images copyright Birkbeck Library Archives and Special Collections, University of London. Reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.

Comic strips and seaside holidays: unexpected stories from the Save the Children Archive

Archives Hub feature for September 2020

The Save the Children (SCF) archive, held at the Cadbury Research Library, University of Birmingham, charts the development of the charity from its creation in 1919. The collection includes a wealth of material relating to the charity’s founder, Eglantyne Jebb, and these papers provide a fascinating insight into how SCF operated during the 1920s. They also highlight the personal stories of individuals associated with SCF.

Concertina comic strips

Illustrated concertina comic strip (ref: SCF/EJ/9/2).

One fascinating item is a wonderful illustrated concertina comic strip created by Corinne de Candole, documenting her first week working at the SCF office in April 1925. She dedicated the strip to ‘Miss Jebb who showed me how the New World is being built at the Office of the Save the Children Fund’. The strip depicts Corinne’s interview with a Mrs Beach, as well as the making of blue cloaks and flags and ‘planning for the new world’.

Travelling to Geneva (ref: SCF/EJ/9/2).

Another two comic strips reveal how Corinne travelled to Geneva for the summer school in 1925 and she also wrote two poems about this experience: ‘The Disobedient Lady who never got to the SCF Summer School’ and ‘The Obedient Lady who went to the SCF Summer School’. Through these documents we can sense the pride with which Corinne felt for working for SCF and her thoughts on how it was helping change the world.

Thank you letters

The overseas country papers in the Eglantyne Jebb series highlight the personal stories of those affected by the crisis in Europe after the First World War. The Horak family, from Hungary, wrote a letter of appreciation to SCF, offering thanks and remembering their benefactors.

The Horak family letter with typed translation, 1922 (ref: SCF/EJ/1/17/1).

‘From the bottom of our hearts sending our Christmas Greetings and very best wishes [and] we are always thinking gratefully of those who helped to get homes for us poor war invalids and widows with our families. May you be as happy as you have made us […] The little cottage means also a new life to us, making us forget our sufferings and losses. We beg the Almighty to pour his blessing over you and your family and give long life and happiness to those who provided us with a home. This will be our prayer on this holy Christmas eve.’

The letter is accompanied by a photograph of the Horak family (ref: SCF/EJ/1/17/1).

In a letter to Miss Vulliamy, who was leading SCF funded projects in Poland, Vera Staack describes how her mother, and herself, had to flee Russia due to the Bolsheviks:  ‘But why are they frightened, why do I read such terror in their eyes? I shall explain you the reason. The red banner flashes, and on it the black words which make everybody tremble. “Death to the bourgeois.”…..The fathers or mothers are taken from their children, children are torn from their parents sides. And so everybody tries to hide quickly.’

‘The picture of the past rises involuntary before me. Christmas Eve! It was our last Christmas Eve in our native land-in far off Moscow. An enormous Christmas-tree made dazzlingly brilliant by quantities of electric lamps and brilliant ornaments and many, many presents…..And all this has been taken from me by the Bolsheviks. Dear Miss Vulliamy, and I shall have no more Christmas-trees or Christmas Eves, and mother is always very cross now, cries often, and wishes to speak to no one. She was quite different before.’

Letter from Vera Staack, 1921 (ref: SCF/EJ/1/22/7).

‘And now good-bye, my dear, dear English friend. I hug you very hard and remain your very respectful and unhappy little Domby friend

She ends ‘P.S. Why are men so wicked, dear Miss Vulliamy.’

A seaside holiday

Another example can be found in a report entitled ‘A seaside holiday’, written by M. Brown, where we learn of the impact that a trip to the beach had for a group of young children: ‘“Who pushes the sea?” Is water never still?” “Does sand bite?” […] even the Ukrainian student was among the unbelievers who doubted whether the sea was salt, and made a wild dash to stoop down and taste it to make quite sure that he was not being deceived.’

The children then share their stories of the horrors that they have been through: ‘that was a long time ago…my mama died in the truck on the way from Russia. She died of hunger my mama did not live long after my daddy was killed by the Bolshevists. I wouldn’t believe it at first when the doctor came round and bent down and listened to her heart and said that mam was dead.’

‘A seaside holiday’ report, 1922 (ref: SCF/EJ/1/22/8).

‘All the children have their own sad story, and all have lived through strange and dreadful times, and in all their young faces can be read the tragedy of the homeless and the outcast. It is to build up their energy for the life struggle before them that Miss Vulliamy inaugurated the Children’s Holiday Home at Danzig in 1922.’

These archives offer a glimpse into the traumatic events which children and families faced in the aftermath of the First World War, the attempts by SCF to help and the appreciation that this generated.

Matthew Goodwin
Save the Children Project Archivist
Cadbury Research Library, University of Birmingham

Related

Browse all Cadbury Research Library, University of Birmingham descriptions available to date on the Archives Hub.

All images copyright Cadbury Research Library, University of Birmingham. Reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.

Fish are jumpin’ in the Archives

Archives Hub feature for August 2020

Summertime and the livin’ is easy...” ¹. Well, it’s a rather wet summer in the UK but all the better for exploring collections on the theme of fish!

Plotosus lineatus (Catfish). Copyright: Alain Feulvarch (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Catfish_Plotosus_lineatus.jpg). Creative Commons 2.0 license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en
Plotosus lineatus (Catfish). Copyright: Alain Feulvarch (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Catfish_Plotosus_lineatus.jpg). Creative Commons 2.0 license.

We’ve trawled the Archives Hub (sorry, couldn’t resist!) to bring you a selection of the wonderful, and sometimes surprising, collections relating to fish, ranging across research, expeditions, fisheries, the fishing industry and river authorities – not forgetting a fish and chip shop, a theatre and several appropriately named individuals.

Research and Expeditions

Fishes Collected by Darwin, 1842. 300 pages of notes on the fish collected by Darwin on the Beagle, compiled by Leonard Jenyns (1800-1893), a clergyman and naturalist; Jenyns changed his name to Leonard Blomefield in 1871. Held by the Museum of Zoology Archives, University of Cambridge https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb433-jenynsdarwin.

C Tate Regan collection, 1912-1913. Charles Tate Regan (born in 1878) was keeper of zoology at the British Museum. He worked on the scientific results of the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition, 1902-1904 (leader William Speirs Bruce) and the British Antarctic Expedition, 1910-1913 (leader Robert Falcon Scott). He died in 1948. Published work includes ‘Antarctic fishes of the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition’ in the Reports of the scientific results of the voyage of the steam yacht Scotia and ‘Fishes’ and ‘Larval and post larval fishes’ published in the zoology reports of the British Antarctic Expedition, 1910-1913. Held by the Scott Polar Research Institute Archives, University of Cambridge https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb15-charlestateregan.

Cuthbertson drawing of an Atlantic lizardfish. Copyright the National Museums Scotland Library.
Cuthbertson drawing of an Atlantic lizardfish. Copyright the National Museums Scotland Library (adapted from the full image included in the William Speirs Bruce Archive feature, August 2017).

Winifred E. Frost collection, 1930s-1960s. Frost was an authority on the natural history of fish in the Lake District. Research includes work on euphausids with professor James Johnstone at Liverpool university and she worked for the fisheries branch at Dublin investigating trout in the River Lifey. She was appointed to the Freshwater Biological Association in 1938 and was awarded a D.S.c. by Liverpool University for her published papers. She wrote The Trout with Margaret E.Brown (Varley) published in 1967 that took 21 years to prepare. She was a member of the Council of the Salmon and trout association, and president of the Windermere and District angling association, also travelling to international scientific meetings and undertaking investigation of eels in Africa. Held by the Freshwater Biological Association Archives https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb986-frow.

Notes towards a dictionary of fish names, by Paul Barbier (C20th). Barbier was Professor of French Language and Literature at the University of Leeds, 1903-1938. The collection comprises 8 boxes of notes prepared in the course of research for an unpublished dictionary of names of fishes. Held by University of Leeds Special Collections https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb206-ms125.

Solenostomus paradoxus - Harlequin Ghost Pipefish. © Steve Childs (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Solenostomus_paradoxus_-_Harlequin_Ghost_Pipefish.jpg). Creative Commons 2.0 license https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en.
Solenostomus paradoxus – Harlequin Ghost Pipefish. © Steve Childs (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Solenostomus_paradoxus_-_Harlequin_Ghost_Pipefish.jpg). Creative Commons 2.0 license.

Rosemary Lowe-McConnell Collection, 1934-1947. Lowe-McConnell was a pioneer in tropical fish ecology. She was born in Liverpool, and graduated from the university. She worked at the Freshwater Biological Association studying the migration of silver eels. In 1993 Michael N. Bruton interviewed Lowe-Connell on the personal reasons behind her choice of work, and her personal influences, and experiences of being a woman in a male dominated world. Initially she wanted to be an explorer/naturalist, with the reply being ‘never mind dear, perhaps you can teach’.  When applying for the colonial services in 1945, to be an entomologist, they would not employ a female one, but the tropical fisheries department was new, and not considered as important. Despite her being forced to resign in 1954 when the marriage bar was in place, she was more interested in pursuing her findings than concerned with job status, and she believed that the fact she had been offered the directorship at the Joint Fisheries Research organisation in central Africa (which she rejected) showed her that she was accepted despite being female. Held by Freshwater Biological Association Archives
https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb986-lowr.

Journal of John Walsh’s Visit to France in 1772. John Walsh (1726-1795) was elected to the Royal Society in 1770, and became known for his work on the electric ray, Torpedo marmorata. In 1769 Edward Banfield proved that the electric eel emitted electric shocks, and Walsh set out to confirm that the ray had a similar power. In this he was encouraged by Benjamin Franklin, whose American colleagues were undertaking similar investigations. With his nephew Arthur Fowkes he spent the summer of 1772 at La Rochelle, where the ray was often captured. The fish could survive many hours out of water, and Walsh was able to conduct experiments ashore and successfully proved that the ray’s shocks were caused by electricity. His findings were published in the Royal Society’s Philosophical Transactions, vol. 63 (1773), pp. 461-77, and the Royal Society awarded him the Copley medal for his achievement. Held by University of Manchester Library https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb133-engms724.

Fisheries and the Fishing industry

Records of Aberdeen Fish Curers and Merchants Association, 1888-1947. The association was established in May 1888, as Aberdeen Fish Trade Association, and was incorporated with its present title in 1944. It began in response to the introduction of sales by auction in the late nineteenth century, its first achievement being an agreement amongst fish sellers to provide discounts for cash sales to accredited buyers. Membership was open to wholesale fish merchants and fish curers carrying on a business in Aberdeen, and in 1980 stood at more than 200. Held by University of Aberdeen Special Collections https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb231-ms3054.

Records of the Berwick Salmon Fisheries Co Ltd, salmon fishers, Berwick upon Tweed, England, 1562-1964 (predominant 1860-1964). The Old Shipping Co, shipping traders and salmon fishers, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland, England, was established at some point prior to 1766 by a group of local men, mainly coopers, who held shares in a small sailing fleet engaged in the London, coastal and foreign trade. As commodities included salmon, the company leased fishing rights on the river Tweed. The shipping vessels were sold off in 1869 as business had become unprofitable and the company’s name changed to Berwick Salmon Fisheries Co Ltd in 1872. Held by University of Glasgow Archive Services  https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb248-ugd245.

Volume containing two copies of a printed register relating to Netherlands herring fisheries, 1749: entitled Naamlyst der boekhouders, schepen, en stuurluiden van de haring-shepen, in’t Yaar 1749, van Enchisen en de Ryp, ter haring-shepen uitgevaren (Jan von Guissen, Enkhuisen, 1749), giving details of the ships, owners and captains of the fleets of Enkhuisen and De Rijp. Added in manuscript are details of the total catch for 1749, and the catch for individual ships on various voyages. Held by Senate House Library Archives, University of London 
https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb96-ms115.

Women Fish Sellers - from Hamilton, Robert (1866) British Fishes, Part II, Naturalist's Library, vol. 37, London: Chatto and Windus. Image in the public domain (photograph from the Freshwater and Marine Image Bank at the University of Washington).
Women Fish Sellers – from Hamilton, Robert (1866) British Fishes, Part II, Naturalist’s Library, vol. 37, London: Chatto and Windus. Image in the public domain (photograph from the Freshwater and Marine Image Bank at the University of Washington).

Grimsby Steam and Diesel Fishing Vessels’ Engineers’ and Firemen’s Union, 1897-1987. The Grimsby Steam Fishing Vessels’ Engineers’ and Firemen’s Union was founded in 1896. It changed its name to the Grimsby Steam and Diesel Fishing Vessels’ Engineers’ and Firemen’s Union in 1961. In 1976 it transferred engagements to the Transport and General Workers’ Union, becoming 10/3c Branch. Held by Modern Records Centre, University of Warwick https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb152-gsf.

The business records of Shippam’s Ltd, 1853-1995. The Shippam’s business first started in 1786, when Charles Shippam established a grocery store in Westgate, Chichester. In 1886 they began food manufacturing and in 1894 launched a wide range of potted meat and fish pastes, for which Shippam’s was to become internationally famous. Held by West Sussex Record Office https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb182-shippam’s.

Fish and Chips

Fish and chips on the seafront at Hunstanton, Norfolk UK (in this instance the fish is deep fried plaice). © Andrew Dunn, http://www.andrewdunnphoto.com/. Creative license https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en.
Fish and chips on the seafront at Hunstanton, Norfolk UK (in this instance the fish is deep fried plaice). © Andrew Dunn, http://www.andrewdunnphoto.com/. Creative Commons  2.0 license.

Records of Pesci Bros Fish and Chip Shop, 1920-1994. The Pesci family, originally from Bardi in Italy, came to Barking from Wales in 1934, and went on to open a fish and chip shop at 15 Broadway. Only a few years later the shop was compulsorily purchased by Barking Borough Council so that the site could be used for the building of the new Town Hall. After a long search for a new premises, the family finally re-opened at 26 Ripple Road in 1939. The business flourished for nearly 60 years. Held by Barking and Dagenham Archive and Local Studies Centre https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb350-bd76.

River authorities

Records of the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, Benarth Road, Conwy, 1916-1994. In December 1999 the Conwy Laboratory closed after approximately ninety years of pioneering research and development into fish and shellfish aquaculture. The laboratory’s foundation came about following the building of mussel purification tanks by Conwy Corporation in 1913, in an attempt to improve the quality of Conwy mussels, which had been at the centre of several serious infections. The collection is of scientific importance in documenting experiments of international significance. Additionally, it reflects the traditional activities of the mussel fishermen themselves. Held by Gwasanaeth Archifau Conwy / Conwy Archive Service https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb2008-cd3.

Environment Agency Collection, 1786-2010. The collection consists of reports, surveys, data records, maps, administrative records and other material relating to the work of the Environment Agency (and of its predecessor organisations the various River Boards, River Authorities, Water Authorities and the National Rivers Authority). A few documents date back to the 19th century and earlier, the majority spans the 1930s to the 1990s. Most of the collection relates to the Agency’s monitoring and management of the area’s river and lake catchments, with an emphasis on fisheries, biodiversity, constructions such as fish passes, weirs and fish traps, fish diseases, water quality and pollution. Included are papers relating to the Agency’s corporate, strategy and public affairs, as well as information on regional and national byelaws, net limitation orders and historic fishery rights. Held by Freshwater Biological Association Archives https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb986-enva.

A Different Kettle of Fish

Records relating to Ada Fish, First World War munitions worker at Pembrey, 1918-1919. Held by West Glamorgan Archive Service https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb216-d/dz969.

Fisher Theatre, Bungay, 1790-1886. The Fisher theatre at Bungay, Suffolk, opened in February 1828. Built by David Fisher I, the theatre was one of a dozen serving the circuit of Fisher’s company, The Norfolk and Suffolk Company of Comedians and seasons of performances were produced on a two-year cycle. The theatre was sold by the Fishers in 1844 and was used subsequently as a corn hall, furniture store, steam laundry, cinema, and textile warehouse. In 2000 the building was acquired by the Bungay Arts Trust. After extensive renovations the building was re-opened in 2006 as a community theatre and arts centre which is also licensed for wedding and civil ceremonies. Held by the University of East Anglia Archives https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb1187-ftb.

Papers of Robert Salmon Hutton, 1897-1970. Hutton was born in 1876 in London. His family owned a silversmiths in Sheffield. Hutton pursued his research interests in electro-metallurgy with Professor Arthur Schuster at Manchester and Henri Moissan in Paris. From 1900-1908 he was a lecturer in electro-chemistry at the University of Manchester, where he carried out pioneering work on electric furnace technology, seeing its value for commercial metallurgy. In 1903 he perfected a method for the mass production of fused silica. Hutton had a great interest in research and development, and he was aware of failings in this area by British metallurgical industries. A great believer in the value of technical libraries, he was a founder of the Association of Scientific Libraries Information Bureau (ASLIB) in 1924. Held by University of Manchester Library https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb133-hut.

Engraving of Anthias Anthias at that time called Anthias Sacer. The Author ran out of resources while issuing this book and therefore every engraving had its own sponsor. This one has been sponsored by Sigmund Zois Freiherr von Edelstein. Author: Bloch, Marcus Elieser, 1723-1799. Item/Page/Plate: Pl. 315, opp. p. 86. Image in the Public Domain(https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/deed.en; PD-US), courtesy of The New York Public Library, www.nypl.org.
Engraving of Anthias Anthias at that time called Anthias Sacer. The Author ran out of resources while issuing this book and therefore every engraving had its own sponsor. This one has been sponsored by Sigmund Zois Freiherr von Edelstein. Author: Bloch, Marcus Elieser, 1723-1799. Item/Page/Plate: Pl. 315, opp. p. 86. Image in the Public Domain (https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/deed.en; PD-US, courtesy of The New York Public Library).

Herring, Thomas (1693-1757). Papers of Thomas Herring, Archbishop of Canterbury 1747-57. 4 volumes, held by Lambeth Palace Library https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb109-herring.

Papers of George Gordon Hake, 1891-1904. Hake was born in 1847. He spent thirteen years from 1891 working in South Africa, initially with the British South Africa Company and later with the Tanganyika Telegraph Service during 1889 and 1903 in the Mashonaland area. He died in 1903 and was buried at Port Herald. Hake was closely connected to the Rossetti family in their later years, acting as a ‘minder’ to Dante Gabriel Rossetti during one of their family holidays. Christina Rossetti was also godmother to his daughter Ursula. Held by School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) Archives, University of London https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb102-ppms40.

Henry Guppy (1861-1948) was librarian of the John Rylands Library from 1900-1948. Held by University of Manchester Library https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb133-tft/tft/1/459.

Declaration of Trust of Leasehold Property in Breams Buildings, Chancery Lane, London, 1888. Lease for the Breams Building, which was the main Birkbeck site from 1888-1952. The lease is in the form of a soft cover book, written over several velum pages, with wax seals on the last page. Held by Birkbeck Library Archives and Special Collections, University of London https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb1832-bbk/bbk/6/1.

John Whiting Archive, 1917-1963. Whiting, a playwright and actor, was born in 1917 Salisbury, UK. He received his education at Taunton School and then later trained as an actor at Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. After his time in the army Whiting had some success as an actor and then went onto write numerous plays, short stories and plays for radio. Whiting also took up theatre criticism during the last few years of his life for ‘London Magazine’, some of his work can be found in the ‘The Art of Dramatist’ (1970). Held by V&A Theatre and Performance Collections https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb71-thm/222.

Roe Manuscripts, 10th-17th century. Sir Thomas Roe was born in 1580 or 1581, and matriculated at Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1593, but took no degree. In 1605 he was knighted, and in 1614 began his official journeys to the East which made him famous. From that year to 1618 he was Ambassador to Jehngr, the Mogul emperor of Hindustan, and from 1621 to 1628 to the Turkish Court. In 1640 Roe was elected a burgess of the University in Parliament, and died in 1644. The manuscript collection comprises:  27 Greek, one Hebrew, one Arabic, and one Latin. Held by the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb161-mss.roe1-17,18a-b,19-29.

A "tornado" of schooling barracudas at Sanganeb Reef, Sudan. Copyright: Robin Hughes (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Barracuda_Tornado.jpg). Creative Commons 2.0 license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en.
A “tornado” of schooling barracudas at Sanganeb Reef, Sudan. Copyright: Robin Hughes (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Barracuda_Tornado.jpg). Creative Commons 2.0 license.

Rocket assisted take off by a Barracuda, 1945 – on HMS Trumpeter. 2 photos, held by Gwasanaeth Archifau Conwy / Conwy Archive Service https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb2008-cp1727/cp1727/4/1/40.

Previous features relating to Fish

Silt, sluices and smelt fishing – The Eau Brink Cut and the Bedford Level Corporation Archive

Silt, sluices and smelt fishing – The Eau Brink Cut and the Bedford Level Corporation Archive

William Speirs Bruce Archive in the National Museums Scotland Library

William Speirs Bruce Archive in the National Museums Scotland Library

1. George Gershwin – Summertime lyrics: https://www.stlyrics.com/songs/g/georgegershwin8836/summertime299720.html

Here’s a riddle: how can you work in an Archive Centre when you can’t work in an Archive Centre?

Archives Hub feature for July 2020

It’s a dilemma in this strange and worrying time. The collections are there, you know this. You know they are safe. For the time being, for you to remain safe, for all of us to remain safe, you can’t go near them. But this is your job, and much more than that – a passion. We know that archives are stories, solidified memories of individuals, groups, institutions. Many have been around a lot longer than us, and will be there after we’re gone. But at this point of their long, interesting history, we are their gatekeepers, their tenders. Donors from all walks of life have entrusted us with their stories, letting go of the physical, holding only to the ephemeral, and yet now…now we too are distanced from the physical. So, again, how do we work in an Archive Centre when we can’t work in an Archive Centre?

Blythe Duff is a Scottish actress born in East Kilbride on 25 November 1962.  She has worked continuously since her debut as part of the Scottish Youth Festival in 1984. Though she has gone on to ply her trade mainly in theatre, she is perhaps best known for her role as Detective Sergeant Jackie Reid in the long-running Glasgow-based crime series Taggart. In 2011 she was awarded an honorary doctorate from Glasgow Caledonian University for services to the performing arts and in 2012 was made a cultural fellow of GCU.

It was in this guise that in 2018 she generously donated her decades-worth of accumulated Taggart artefacts to GCU Archive Centre. It is a rich, fascinating and rewarding resource for fans of the show both die-hard and casual, for aspiring scriptwriters, those with an interest in television production, and indeed for anyone with even a passing interest in Glasgow through the lens of British popular culture.

I’ve been thinking about this collection in these fast and slow days, weeks, and months of lockdown, as I adjust to this new, remote set-up. Once the working day is done, the laptop shut for the evening, I find myself, like so many, at a loose end. With so much temporarily closed, the question has become not so much what do I do, as what do I watch?

Blythe Duff and John Michie standing side by side between shelves of archive boxes and materials. Each is looking into camera and holding several scripts.
Blythe Duff and fellow Taggart star John Michie in GCU Archive Centre at the launch of her papers on 24th October 2018.

With this in mind the Blythe Duff Taggart papers are a fascinating insight into the televisual process of the late 20th century. As a scriptwriting graduate, I am particularly enthralled by the variety of artefacts on offer. There are 138 individual scripts contained in the collection, spanning from Blythe’s debut on the show in 1990 all the way to 2010. Researchers will find a mixture of rehearsal scripts and shooting scripts, a fantastic insight into the malleable nature of the production process. Particularly poignant is the two versions of 1994’s two-parter ‘Legends’. Mark McManus, the titular Taggart, tragically died before production had finished. The two versions, one featuring Detective Chief Inspector Jim Taggart, and the other re-written without, offer a glimpse into what could have been, as well as the embryonic steps of the show of which Taggart was to become.

It is the little details in the collection that draw me back to it – the scribbled notes on the pages, the inside jokes of the cast. Though the collection is currently uncatalogued, researchers will find Blythe’s personalised chair cover, a monogrammed Taggart jacket, along with a photo of Blythe in character in full police uniform. There are books as well; 25 Years of Taggart and Taggart’s Glasgow.  Other artefacts include Taggart wrap party flyers, postcards of different actors from the show – one signed by cast members. There’s even a Taggart Mystery Jigsaw Puzzle game!

Selection of photographs, artefacts, all from television show Taggart, artfully laid on black backdrop.
Selected Taggart treasures from the Blythe Duff papers.

Since becoming available to researchers, it is one of the collections at GCU Archive Centre that has proved most popular with a wide range of visitors. Almost as soon as it was publicised with a visit to the Archive Centre by Blythe and fellow cast member John Michie, we’ve had members of the public – some of whom had never been in an archive before – pop their head into the reading room and ask if they could read an episode. We’ve had a family of fanatics all the way from Australia, a couple from England where the husband surprised his super-fan wife for a special birthday, and many more besides.

It’s also a particularly relevant resource for the University’s learning and teaching as GCU has offered a Masters course in Television Fiction Writing since 2010, the first of its kind in the UK. One of the course leaders, Chris Dolan, was previously a writer for Taggart. Students of the course have examined the scripts, seeing how they’re structured, potentially being inspired in their own work.

Close up photo of cover page of script for episode of Taggart. ‘Blythe’ handwritten in top corner.
Cover page of one of Blythe’s scripts.

The frustration of not being able to go into the Archive Centre each day, not being able to see collections, or chat to team members with ease, is very real. Nonetheless, we have all adjusted to working from home. Team meetings still occur through the magic of MS Teams, projects are still ongoing, new challenges arise and are met. And in the thick of the unprecedented time we are in, if I think back to my initial question, I realise it is possible to work in an Archive Centre even if you can’t work there. For it is the collective knowledge we have, and our willingness to ensure collections are protected and as available to as many as possible that is the lifeblood of archival work. Archives are indeed stories, and at this juncture we’ve reached a twist worthy of Taggart himself. But the path we’re on, though long and difficult will lead us all back to where we want to be. It’s too tragic a time to call it a happy ending, but we’ve certainly had enough of cliff-hangers and will take a bittersweet conclusion.

David Ward
Archive Assistant
Glasgow Caledonian University Archive Centre – Sir Alex Ferguson Library

Related

Browse all Glasgow Caledonian University Archives and Special Collections descriptions available to date on the Archives Hub

All images copyright Glasgow Caledonian University. Reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.

Interconnected archives: cataloguing the Rossetti family letters at Leeds University Special Collections

Archives Hub feature for June 2020

Special Collections holds over 700 letters written by members of the Rossetti family. The collection includes letters from nearly all members of this storied family, with the bulk written by Dante Gabriel (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dante_Gabriel_Rossetti) and William Michael (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Michael_Rossetti), and a significant tranche from Christina Rossetti (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christina_Rossetti).  The letters are only a fraction of the full Rossetti family correspondence, which can be found in libraries and archives across the world.

The Rossetti Family by Lewis Carroll, albumen print, 7 October 1863 (Christina Georgina Rossetti, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Frances Mary Lavinia Rossetti (née Polidori) and William Michael Rossetti). NPG P56. © National Portrait Gallery, London. Creative Commons 3.0 licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

Many of the letters have been in Special Collections since the 1930s but were not catalogued in any detail. Some were represented by very brief index records, which did not convey the scope or context of the full collection, others were entirely uncatalogued. Although much of the Dante Gabriel and Christina Rossetti correspondence had been published in their respective Collected Letters ((The Correspondence of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, ed. William E. Fredeman, 2015 and The Letters of Christina Rossetti, https://rotunda.upress.virginia.edu/crossetti/), but the letters themselves remained inaccessible for research.

A 2019 project funded by the Strachey Trust enabled us to repackage and create item-level records for each letter in the collection. Catalogue records included basic ISAD(G) metadata, a brief synopsis of the letter’s contents, links to authority files for both sender and addressee and a reference for the published version of the letter, where one exists. The finished catalogue now describes the full extent of the Rossetti Collection at Leeds, ensuring that material is identifiable, accessible for research and secure in our holdings.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

Cataloguing gave us fascinating insight into the lives of the Rossettis. The largest group of letters in the collection were written by Dante Gabriel Rossetti and cover both the beginning and end of his career. Early letters reveal a humorous correspondent. One, written from a deluged Kent, describes him sketching ‘with my umbrella tied over my head to my buttonhole – a position which you will oblige me by remembering, I expressly desired should be selected for my statue. (N.B. Trousers turned up.)’

These are in direct contrast to later letters to Theodore Watts-Dunton (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodore_Watts-Dunton) who acted as Rossetti’s advisor. The volume and regularity of Rossetti’s letters to Watts-Dunton, their paranoia and requests for advice show Rossetti’s great dependence on his close friends in later years.

The collection includes 30 letters written by Christina Rossetti. Project work uncovered a previously unknown letter, written to her sister-in-law, Lucy Maddox Brown Rossetti (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucy_Madox_Brown). This brief letter gives Rossetti’s assessment of an unnamed poem: ‘The fact is I think it diabolical. Its degree of serene skill and finesse intensifies to me its horror…’

William Michael Rossetti

150 letters by William Michael Rossetti were also catalogued during this project, the majority of which are unpublished. His letters include a long series addressed to John Lucas Tupper (https://sculpture.gla.ac.uk/view/person.php?id=msib7_1220373335), a close associate and contributor to ‘The Germ’, the journal of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. The letters to Tupper, whose writing and career he promoted, highlight professional opportunities and networks of editors and journals available during this period. They give an interesting glimpse of the kind of life afforded to a literary Victorian gentleman employed by the Civil Service. During certain periods of his life, Rossetti travelled abroad, visiting the continent and even Australia. Having been robbed on one occasion in Italy, he discusses the advisability of carrying a pistol with Tupper, who travelled with him in 1869. Other letters cover wide-ranging topics, from discussions of Ruskin and Browning to the politics of the day, spiritualism, and lycanthropy.

Alongside revealing individual letters, the catalogue records now allow researchers to explore Rossetti family networks in some detail.  A good example of this is correspondence relating to the artist Frederic Shields (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederic_Shields), who was a regular subject of Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s letters to Watts-Dunton. Later letters from William Michael Rossetti to Shields describe the hours before his brother’s death with great tenderness, passing on a last message to Shields. Subsequent letters from Christina Rossetti are concerned with Shields’ work on a memorial for Dante Gabriel Rossetti. These intertwined relationships would not be easily discoverable from published letters alone but can be usefully explored through this catalogue.

Cataloguing also gave us the chance to research the provenance of groups of letters in the collection. This revealed connections between material previously considered separate: the Swinburne manuscript collection (https://explore.library.leeds.ac.uk/special-collections-explore/8607) and substantial correspondence relating to Swinburne and Watts-Dunton (including Rossetti correspondence) were all acquired from the same source, Watts-Dunton’s estate. These letters and manuscripts had historically been treated as distinct collections, and the connections between them were not clear from catalogue records.

Image taken from one of the Rossetti family letters.

Cataloguing work on this small collection has emphasised the many levels of interconnectedness in which archives exist. Letters can show relationships between individuals, collections of letters show their wider networks, and collections themselves speak to other material both within a repository and in many other locations across the world.

The Rossetti family letters collection is now available for research (https://explore.library.leeds.ac.uk/special-collections-explore/7436).  This project would not have been possible without the support of the Strachey Trust, and Special Collections is grateful to it for its generosity in funding work on this significant collection.

Sarah Prescott
Literary Archivist
University of Leeds Special Collections

Related

Rossetti Family correspondence, 1843-1909

Browse all University of Leeds Special Collections descriptions on the Archives Hub

Explore more collections relating to the Rossetti family on the Archives Hub

Previous features on University of Leeds Special Collections:

“Gather them in” – the musical treasures of W.T. Freemantle

Sentimental Journey: a focus on travel in the archives

Recipes through the ages 

World War One

All images copyright University of Leeds Special Collections and National Portrait Gallery, London. Reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.

 

Online Resources: Explore archives in different ways

Archives Hub feature for May 2020

The Archives Hub includes descriptions called Online Resources.  These sit alongside Archive Collection descriptions and Repository descriptions.

screenshot hit list showing online resources on health
Online Resources on health

Online Resources are collections of resources, typically digitised content. They are often created as part of a project, and usually based on a specific theme. But the definition is purposely very loose. They are essentially any web sites that offer any kind of introduction, interpretation, or way into archives, other than the more traditional archival descriptions for individual collections.

All Online Resources point to a website, but that doesn’t mean that they only represent digital materials. The website may provide narrative and context for physical collections.  A good example of this is War Child. The site is a story about the Evacuee Archive – how it came into being, the man who created it, what he has experienced.

screenshot of War Child site homepage
War Child

It aims to explore and document the life of this archive. The archive is largely paper-based, and includes some recordings and artefacts.  War Child provides a wonderful, creative experience, thinking about how people engage with archives and how individuals are shaped by archives.

Many Online Resources do represent digital collections, and frequently they showcase collaborations. Windows on Genius is a project by the University of Cambridge and University of Sussex that spans two digital collections, giving access to the works of Sir Isaac Newton.  Other Online Resources are materials within one institution, brought together by topic, such as Selected Sources on Healthcare, at the University of Warwick. This is a selection of primary sources relating to British healthcare before the foundation of the National Health Service.

screenshot of map showing endangered languages
Map showing endangered languages

Some Resources are ‘artificial collections’ that have been brought together to aid researchers, such as Endangered Languages – a digital repository created by SOAS, specialising in preserving and publishing endangered language documentation materials from around the world.

 

 

Quite often Online Resources provide help with interpretation and using sources for teaching, such as the Pre-Raphaelite resource, which provides teaching materials and allows for personal collections to be created.

screenshot showing link to teaching resources on the Pre-Raphaelite website
Pre-Raphaelite Illustrations learning resource

Something like this is a wonderful introduction to a subject for a new researcher.

Some of the resources are simply digital collections. Potentially they could also be described simply as Archive Collections.

screenshot of BT digital archive website
The BT Digital Archive

For example the BT Digital Archives Online Resource is an archive collection, and indeed, we do have this collection listed as The BT Digital Archives collection. However, the Online Resource takes the user to the full catalogue, and it provides further context and showcases highlights from the collection.

Our rationale for having Online Resources is more about servicing the end user than the strict definition of what an archive collection is and whether it can be described as an online resource. We want to make sure people find the materials, and we also want to promote any added value that they can get through narrative, context and interpretation that the holding institution provides.

We aim to increase the descriptions of Online Resources – we create them ourselves when we find good resources, and our current contributors can also create them quickly and easily. If an Online Resource is offered by a non-contributor, we can create it for them, or provide a specific type of access to our cataloguing tool, to allow them to create the entry.  It provides another discovery channel, so for the short amount of time it takes to write a short entry, it may be found by a researcher who would otherwise never have known about it.

These digital collections and physical archives and websites for learning, teaching, and research include a wealth of materials from many institutions across the UK. From fashion to photography, dance to Darwin, soldiers to Shakespeare, these websites represent a whole range of archival resources, often with strong visual themes that can be used for research, learning and teaching.  Explore the Online Resources, and do get in touch if you have any suggestions for additions to our catalogue!