Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Jewish project - a brief update

Work is still progressing on our Jewish project. Material within the collections has been identified and photographs and captions for the exhibition are due to be finalised within the next few weeks. The success of our current World War Two Exhibition Wardens, Welfare & Victory: The Unbroken Spirit of the Hull Blitz. has spurred us on. We are using the same graphic designer, Ian, and hope to present the information in a similar way.

The work on the oral histories is almost complete with only 2 interviews left to transcribe. Our team of dedicated volunteers have worked very hard to produce accurate transcriptions and have learnt a lot of fascinating facts along the way.

Elspeth has been researching the theme of Jewish culture and leisure. She has recently been able to help her daughter do some RE homework, designing a Jewish menu, as a result of her research into the Jewish diet.

Hull Jewish Community enjoying food together (Ref C DJC/4/2/24)
Another fascinating aspect of the Jewish culture that Elspeth has learnt more about is the whole concept of the Mikvah (occasionally spelt mikveh); a Jewish ritual immersion bath. We will look at what a mikvah is, and the history of the mikvah in Hull in a future blog so watch this space.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Rebuilding Marvell’s Hull with Minecraft

The Hull History Centre will be Rebuilding Marvell’s Hull with Minecraft, as part of Being Human 2015, the UK’s only national festival of the humanities. This will combine Dr Stewart Mottram’s research into Andrew Marvell and 17th-century Hull with the History Centre’s ongoing use of the popular video game Minecraft to help bring history alive for younger audiences. 
Following a successful application, Hull History Centre has been awarded funding to hold the event during the festival week, 12–22 November. The Rebuilding Marvell’s Hull with Minecraft event will champion the excellence of humanities research being undertaken in Yorkshire and help to demonstrate the vitality and relevance of this today. Forty-one grants have been awarded to universities and cultural organisations across the UK to participate in the festival.
Being Human pocket preview, badge and sticker on Hollar's map of Hull -
this will be a key source for the Minecrafters 
The grant will help the Hull History Centre bring together researchers and local communities to engage with the humanities. The event will be part of an 11 day national programme of big ideas, big debates and engaging activities for all ages. The festival will inform, extend and ignite contemporary thinking and imagination around the humanities. 
Minecraft experts will be on-hand to help participants build four key landmarks from Andrew Marvell’s Hull – Beverley Gate, Holy Trinity Church, Hull Grammar School and the Hull Charterhouse – using plans, maps, and other historical material in the History Centre’s collections to help visualise the appearance of the buildings around the time of the English Civil War. The completed buildings will be showcased on the HullCraft website.
The event has been made possible by a grant from the festival organisers, the School of Advanced Study, University of London. Now in its second year, BeingHuman is supported by the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC), and the British Academy (BA) with support from the Wellcome Trust.
Dr Stewart Mottram at the University of Hull said “Minecraft offers an exciting opportunity to engage new audiences with my research into Andrew Marvell and 17th-century Hull, for these landmarks to be built in Minecraft but informed by history is fantastic”.
The 2015 festival programme promises to be exciting, entertaining and thought-provoking, with something for everyone in our diverse communities.

Monday, 8 June 2015

The Art of Describing Archives

How do you describe an item so those who cannot see it will want to visit the Hull History Centre to see the real thing?

I have recently been working on the illustrated notes of Victor Weisz (U DX165) the political cartoonist who worked under the name Vicky. My task has been to write a description for all 269 personal notes which he wrote to his fourth wife Ingelein “Inge” Lew (daughter of Mrs. Weltsch) c.1962- 1966.

These notes are very different to his usual political satires and provide deep, and sometimes touching, insights into the workings of Vicky’s mind and his feelings for Inge during the four years before his suicide on 22nd February 1966. He suffered from insomnia and depression and many of these cartoons portray his frustrations and how it affected his relationship with Inge. They also depict some of his happier moments such as his veneration of Inge, their days out together and his mischievous sense of humour which can have you laughing out loud.

Describing all 269 of them has been quite a journey, each one of them very different and containing handwritten text by Vicky, ranging from brief to cryptic.My natural approach with Vicky’s illustrations would be to put my art-history hat on and write a psychoanalytical analysis asking why he has caricaturised himself that particular way, or what the cartoon says about his relationship with Inge. However, this analytical approach is not necessary. The aim of the online catalogue is to make it easy for people to discover material they don't necessarily know that you have to allow people to decide whether looking at the originals would be relevant to them.

Detail from Vicky illustration (U DX165/7)
If we have a look at the detail on one of my favourite Vicky cartoons (U DX165/7) you can see that it is quite a complex illustration to describe.

The approach I have adopted has been to recognise both their literal and possible symbolic meaning. My first step was to objectively describe what he has drawn within the note, including objects, clothing, environment and colours (Vicky always colours the area around his mouth in blue).

I would then write a brief summary of any handwritten text, taking particular notice of key words or phrases that users may search for. I also check to see if there are any details on the reverse of the note. 

Using this method I described his illustration as following:                                               
Victor has drawn himself and Inge sat in the nude within what appears to be a colourful Garden of Eden scene. They are surrounded by butterflies and foliage, sat next to a palm tree and a house. Victor sits in discontent, his mouth area coloured in blue, whilst Inge engages happily with a butterfly. The whole scene is depicted within the base of a table lamp with a bright yellow shade. Victor writes to Inge thanking her for her last note and says how much this garden illustration depicts how he would like to spend his time with her. On the reverse, Victor writes "For Inge".
As none of these illustrated notes are titled I have created a false title for each based on a significant visual feature from the drawing, this one being “[Lamp Garden Scene]”.

Each of Vicky’s 269 illustrations to Inge are unique scenes and are full of hidden references, anthropomorphic caricatures and in-jokes making each one a fascinating challenge to describe. I’m hoping that my descriptions will be useful for those wanting to research Vicky, or simply to admire his artistry, as these illustrations are valuable windows into how Vicky perceived his personal life.

Hannah Rice
Transforming Archives Trainee

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Chemistry and Crystals

Are you ready for the next session of Lego lunacy and crafting craziness? If you love chemistry and science then our Chemistry and Crystals event is for you!

When you think of flat screen TVs, interactive phones, laptops and tablets do you ever think of Hull? Without the development of Liquid Crystal Display technology none of these gadgets would have been made possible.

This month we discover how research at the University Hull in the 1970s made LCD technology possible and by doing so changed out visual world! 

For the Lego lovers out there we will be recreating the university labs where this ground breaking research took place and we will be building LCD gadgets. 

We need the creative crafters amongst you to help us make a giant liquid crystal collage by creating your own individual pieces of artwork using photographs of actual liquid crystal.

And this month we also have some special visitors from the University of Hull who will be showing us how to model molecules with their fantastic molecular modelling kits. Our science team will also be on hand to help answer all your chemistry questions!

So join us this Saturday, 6th June, at the Hull History Centre. 

The fun starts at 9.30am but must end at 12.30 – don’t miss out!

 ‘History Makers’ Team