In this blog post, I will take you on a journey through my transformative internship experience at Hull University Archives. Stepping into the hallowed halls of the archives, I was transported back in time, surrounded by unique records, rare books and the scent of old paper. During my internship, I had the unique opportunity to contribute to the preservation of my alma mater's history by digitizing historical records dating back to the university's inception in 1927. Through this process, I gained a deeper appreciation for the importance of preserving historical records for future generations. The task at hand was both fascinating and daunting to digitize historical records catalogues spanning nearly a century. I invite you to join me on this captivating adventure through the annals of the University of Hull’s history as we explore the impact of digitizing historical record catalogues and the role they play in preserving the legacy of this esteemed institution.
|Programme recording first graduations at University College Hull, held 11 Feb 1950|
The Digitisation Process
During the digitisation process, I was responsible for creating high-resolution images of a series of 61 programs. To achieve this, I meticulously scanned each page of the catalogues and transformed them into high-quality image files, this step required precision ensuring that no details were left behind. The next step was to convert these images into both PDF and JPEG formats, making them easily accessible for research, inquiries, and outreach purposes. All the individual PDFs were then merged into a single access PDF, enabling future researchers to navigate the entire journey of the university with ease. However, the work did not stop there. Using Excel, I organised a repository of information by meticulously entering data related to scanned issues into spreadsheets. Each entry documented the who, what, when, and where of every program. This information will be used to enhance online catalogue descriptions so that researchers can more easily discover these records. The meticulous digitisation process was not just about converting physical records into digital files but about preserving the history and making it accessible to a broader audience. The stories hidden within those aged pages will continue to inspire and educate generations to come.
|Me scanning one of the congregation programmes|
Overview of the records
The records I was asked to work on are historical congregation programs created to record the conferment of degrees since 1949, chronicling various events and activities associated with the university. These records contain a wealth of information, including comprehensive event details, such as dates, times, and locations of graduations, as well as the order of proceedings and ceremonial aspects of events. They also contain the names of graduates, their degrees, and degree classifications, as well as notable achievements of honorary degree recipients, students, and faculty members. While the older programmes do not have photographs, there is a separate collection of photographs of graduates, faculty, and ceremonies, offering a visual record of the university's history. The newer catalogues contain the same basic information but offer wider coverage, including statements from the Chancellor, the university's coat of arms, and biographies and photographs of honorary graduates.
The records offer a wealth of information and insights waiting to be uncovered. Researchers can use these programs to track the university's evolution over time and examine changes in ceremony formats, academic trends, and notable events. For individuals researching their family history, these programs can provide information about relatives who graduated from the university, including their names and graduation dates. Additionally, the programs can serve as educational resources and be integrated into educational materials to provide students with a tangible connection to historical events and figures.
|Example of a programme, showing my own graduation in July 2023!|
Overview of the ceremonies
Various locations have been utilised for the ceremonies over the years, with Hull City Hall being the most commonly used venue. This is due to its capacity and historical significance, making it perfect for larger ceremonies. On the other hand, Middleton Hall is reserved for smaller ceremonies or those that are closely associated with the university community. Additionally, some ceremonies are held at Assembly Hall the University and Lincoln Cathedral.
|Photographs showing the first graduation ceremony, held 11 Feb 1950|
The ceremonies at the University of Hull are very structured and typically begin with a procession of university officials, faculty members, and sometimes special guests. This procession marks the formal beginning of the event. After that, the Welcome Address is usually delivered, which sets the tone for the ceremony and expresses gratitude to attendees. Graduates are then presented with their degree certificates, symbolizing their academic achievements. Degree certificates are typically presented by university officials, such as the Vice-Chancellor, Dean of the Faculty, or other university dignitaries. In some cases, special guests or honorary degree recipients may also have the honor of presenting certificates. The ceremonies may also feature keynote speeches from notable individuals, which can provide inspiration and insight for graduates and attendees. Music often accompanies ceremonies, adding to the ambiance and creating memorable moments. The ceremony concludes with a recessional, where participants exit in a formal procession, marking the end of the event.
|Page showing the order of proceedings at the first ever graduation ceremony held as the University of Hull, 1955|
Chancellors of Universities often serve as ceremonial heads and are typically prominent figures in academia, politics, or the community. It's interesting to note that chancellors can change over time, and their terms are usually limited. At the University of Hull, the lineage of chancellors starts with Lord Middleton in 1955, who marked the inception of a tradition that continues to this day. This was followed by Lord Cohen of Birkenhead in 1970, whose unique perspective coincided with a period of growth and change for the university. Lord Wilberforce assumed the position of Chancellor in 1978, and his service aligns with an era of innovation and development. Lord Armstrong's presence and contributions in 1994 left an enduring impact on the institution. Baroness Bottomley became the first female Chancellor in 2005, adding a new dimension to the university's history with her leadership and dedication. Baroness Bottomley was a trailblaser, she was a member of parliament in the House of Commons then became a member of House of Lords. Alan Johnson, the current chancellor, reflects the university's commitment to excellence and its link to the community, having previously served as a member of parliament for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle. The line of chancellors at the University of Hull is truly impressive, representing a rich tapestry of academic leadership, community involvement, and visionary thinking. Each chancellor has left a lasting impact on the institution, contributing to its growth and shaping its journey through time. When we explore the historical programs and records of the university, we can see the lasting impact of each chancellor's contribution. They have conducted ceremonies, conferred degrees, and added their unique touch to the academic and cultural traditions of the University of Hull. Their contributions are truly remarkable and continue to be celebrated, serving as a testament to the enduring connection between the past and the present at this venerable institution.
|Programme recording the installation of Lord Middleton as the first Chancellor of the University of Hull, 1955|
The programme showcases the various honorary graduands and provides relevant information about them. By highlighting the achievements of these individuals, the university acknowledges and celebrates their exceptional contributions to different fields. It is a tradition that has been carried forward for years, making it an integral part of the university. The stories of these honorary graduands serve as a reminder of the power of human ingenuity and the pursuit of knowledge. I found the profiles of Katherine Bellingham and Dr Colin Michael Foale CBE particularly interesting from the earlier programmes. These two were conferred with honorary Doctor of Science degrees and they serve as an ongoing source of inspiration for students and the broader academic community. They have achieved remarkable success and recognition in their respective fields, making them exceptional role models for future generations. Their stories inspire others to explore the possibilities of science and space exploration, and encourage them to pursue their dreams with dedication and passion.
I came across the inspiring story of Katherine Bellingham while reviewing our historical programs. Kate Bellingham is a trailblazer in the field of science with an impressive background and diverse accomplishments. Her life journey is a testament to the power of hard work, learning, and embracing different roles. Kate's career has been varied and multifaceted, including work as a computer programmer, broadcast engineer, IV and radio presenter, math teacher, and National Careers Coordinator for STEM. Currently, she serves as the Director of STEM Innovation for the Gazelle Colleges Group, where she contributes significantly to the promotion of STEM education. Kate is a prime example of lifelong learning, as evidenced by her pursuit of an MSc in Electronic Communication Systems and Grade 8 Singing qualification in 2012. Apart from her professional life, Kate is an active member of her local community, participating in amateur theatre, choirs, and opera groups. Her passion for the arts and commitment to contributing to local cultural endeavors is admirable. Kate Bellingham's story is a source of inspiration, showcasing the remarkable potential of individuals to excel in diverse fields, promote STEM education, engage with the community, and continue learning throughout life.
|Extract from Summer 2014 programme showing a short biography of Kate Bellingham|
Dr. Mike Foale is a British-American an astrophysicist and former NASA astronaut who has made significant contributions to space exploration and STEM education. He holds a Ph.D. in laboratory astrophysics from Queens College, Cambridge, and has an impressive space career, having been a veteran of six space shuttle missions and a Soyuz mission. Dr. Foale commanded the International Space Station (ISS) and holds the distinction of being the first Briton to perform a spacewalk. During this mission, he replaced vital components required to repair the Hubble Space Telescope. He also established a new cumulative time-in-space record for a UK citizen, spending 374 days, 11 hours, and 19 minutes in space. After retiring from NASA in 2013, Dr. Foale was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in recognition of his significant and enduring contributions to space exploration. Dr. Foale's commitment to supporting STEM education is evident through his engagement with young people, sharing his experiences as a scientist in space to inspire the next generation of scientists and astronauts. The journey of Dr. Mike Foale serves as a testament to human achievement and the limitless possibilities of space exploration. His exceptional contributions to space, along with his dedication to STEM education, make him an inspiring figure and a valuable role model for aspiring scientists and explorers.
|Extract from Winter 2019 graduation programme showing a short biography of Mike Foale|
According to our records, the first honorary graduands were in 1956 and included Brian Westerdale Downs, who made an honorary Doctor of Letters, Harold Ivens Loten, who was awarded a Doctorate of Law, and S. Meggitt, who was conferred with a Master of Arts.
Our exploration through the historical programs of the University of Hull has been an enthralling journey into a rich and storied past. We've celebrated excellence, innovation, and inspiration, from the celebrated Chancellors who have graced the university's ceremonies to the remarkable individuals recognized as honorary graduands. These pages connect us with a legacy that is ever-evolving yet firmly anchored in the enduring values of education and exploration, bridging time to remind us of the importance of learning from the past. As we reflect on the history and traditions captured in these programs, we celebrate the legacy of the University of Hull, an institution that continues to shape the minds of future leaders and explorers. These programs serve as a bridge between the past, present, and future, reminding us of the enduring values of education, exploration, and the pursuit of knowledge.
My internship at Hull University Archives was more than just a job. It was a journey of rediscovery that deepened my connection to the university and its rich history. My task was not only to digitize these historical programs but also to make their content more accessible and discoverable to researchers. I approached this task with enthusiasm, using a range of techniques and tools to ensure that each catalogue entry became a treasure trove of historical information.
This internship taught me the importance of independent work and quick problem-solving, and it was a profound learning experience that honed my skills in the use of professional digitization equipment and software. At Hull History Centre, I discovered more than just an institution; I found a welcoming home and a family. The people here define the essence of this institution, with their warmth and kindness creating an environment where work flourishes. The staff here go above and beyond their administrative duties, their kindness knows no bounds, and their passion for preserving and sharing the past is infectious.
Montaha Abbas (Digitisation and Outreach Intern, 2023)