Thursday, 26 November 2015

150th Anniversary of Alice in Wonderland

This year marks the 150th anniversary of Lewis Caroll’s children’s book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. There have been numerous events throughout the year marking the occasion, and last week saw the launch of the Alice in Wonderland exhibition at the British Library

The imagination of generations of adults and children alike have been captivated by Alice’s adventures down the rabbit hole to a fantasy world populated by weird and wonderful creatures, such as the Mock Turtle and the Gryphon, the Mad Hatter and the March Hare, and who could forget the menacing Queen of Hearts whose catchphrase “off with her head” echoes in memories of childhoods past. The popularity of the book can be seen in the many adaptations created over the years.

Wildridge’s interpretation of Alice, The Hatter and The March Hare [C DML/2/1] 
The story of Alice’s adventures has been a personal favourite of mine since childhood so I was excited to discover when sorting through some uncatalogued materials held in the Local Studies Library a small collection of postcards depicting various scenes from Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Alice through the looking glass. The picture postcard set comprises six illustrated postcards created from original drawings by Thomas Tindall Wildridge.
Thomas Tindall Wildridge (1858-1928), was a records clerk, antiquarian, author, and an artist. He often included sketches in his own publications and a number of his paintings are held in the Hull Museum’s collections. Inspired by the works of Lewis Carroll, Wildridge created “a unique collection of original oil paintings, water colours, pen and ink and other drawings” for an exhibition that formed part of the Lewis Carroll Pageant. The packet of six postcards were published at the exhibition and could be purchased at the time for sixpence.

Wildridge’s interpretation of characters from Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland [C DML/2/1]

The postcards have now been catalogued and form part of a small collection relating to Thomas Tindall Wildridge. The collection includes two letters from Wildridge to Dr. Wilson-Barkworth regarding the Hull Grammar School, and a number of prints of sketches by Wildridge. The collection is held at reference C DML and can be viewed in the archives searchroom at the History Centre.

Hull History Centre

Thursday, 19 November 2015

The National Archives - Base Camp Week

This last week I had the privilege of attending my Base Camp week as a part of my Transforming Archives Traineeship, it was held at The National Archives in Kew where I met with eighteen of the other trainees from all over the UK

The National Archives

The National ArchivesThe first thing that struck me about The National Archives was the sheer scale, it dwarfs anything I am used to in almost every from way staffing to physical space. As a result there are some aspects of work that TNA does quite differently, the most obvious of which was an electronic tracking system that they utilise. A request to see a particular record is tracked every step of the way, with it being checked in and out of every location using a barcode scanner. That way if for some reason an item is out in limbo they can bring up the system and check the last place that it had been seen.
The employees also used small vehicles in order to move documents around because of the number of requests and the distance needed to travel, these were either small flatbed trucks or in the case of some areas they had newly acquired electric trikes. This was incredibly surreal to see people riding around on.


Strange to see archivists riding around on these!
Picture courtesy of  @Jessabellion
The storerooms themselves were on a whole other scale in comparison, I'm pretty certain the Hull History Centre archive could have fit into a third of one floor and the TNA had over four floors worth. There was even one room that was closed even to other archivists except for a handful with select permission. This is where some of the rarest documents that the TNA holds were kept, including the Jack the Rippers letters and five copies of the American Declaration of Independence.

Basic Archive Skills Training/Skills for the Future
Contents of restricted archive
Wasn't allowed inside but these are pictures of some of the
documents inside the strongroom.
A lot of our time was spent covering the kind of skills and roles in a modern archive workplace. This was covered in a variety of ways from having a session where we got to meet a number of the different employees at TNA all from different areas to a more academic lecture on various archival skills (accessioning, archival description, etc.).

There was also quite a large focus on making sure that you are continuing to improve your skills, we has talks about the CAIS modules, Basic Archive Skills Training by the Archive-Skills Consultancy and also from Skills for the Future itself. This seems to rapidly be becoming a focal point in archives that the skills required are varied and need constant updating, often in areas that are not immediately obvious. The whole purpose behind Skills for the Future is trying to get people interested in archives from a non-traditional background to gain new insight and points of view. As one of my fellow cohort’s jokingly tweeted if there’s anything to take away from basecamp week it is to be always developing your skills, and also archivists love cake!

London Metropolitan Archive (LMA) – No Colour Bar
I was also given the opportunity to attend the London Metropolitan Archive and discuss their various outreach programmes. I was very interesting to see how another archive has approach the problem of getting people to use the services. LMA have definitely gone above and beyond with an absolutely full calendar and activities from teaching sessions to a book club. A defining aspect of each teaching sessions is that they are always tailor made for the class attending with archives relevant to their age group and school being brought out.

No Colour Bar Exhibition
No Colour Bar exhibition at the
Guildhall Art Gallery, London
Picture courtesy of @mm_archives
I was also hugely impressed that the LMA has worked with the Guildhall Art Gallery and the Friends of the Huntley Archives to use the archives that they have on the Huntleys and the Bogle L’Ouverture press and bookshop to help produce the No Colour Bar exhibition. This included a reproduction of the bookshop and copies of the original letters and photographs digitised and put on display. It was very interesting to see how closely the archive had worked with the Gallery in order to help promote the event and make the archives feel like a part of the display. I definitely recommend the exhibition!

Overall it was a fantastic week, both educational and incredibly enjoyable. It was great to meet all the other Cohorts again after the very brief introduction during DCDC15 as well as meeting the Opening Up Scotland’s Archives trainees for the first time. I don’t believe that I am the only trainee writing about my experiences during Base Camp week so if you follow the hashtags #TransformingArchives or #Skillsforthefuture then you should see the other blog posts when they go up.

David Heelas
Transforming Archives Trainee

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Bring Your Own Device event

The Hull History Centre will be ‘Rebuilding Marvell’s Hull with Minecraft.
Saturday 21st November at the Hull History Centre 10-4

Book your free ticket on EventBrite.

(c) Ferens Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
(c) Ferens Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
This interactive workshop will combine research into Andrew Marvell and 17th-century Hull with  the popular game Minecraft to help bring history alive for younger audiences.
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. The completed buildings will be showcased on the HullCraft website.

This is a Bring Your Own Device event - you will need to bring their own device, whether it is a laptop or a tablet with their copy of Minecraft on. If you don't have a device with Minecraft on you will not be able to take part in this workshop - but we will be creating videos during the event for everybody to view afterwards.

Laptop users must also have their own Minecraft account username to log into the game. Please remember to bring any accessories like chargers with you!!
  • Our session is suitable for Minecrafters aged 14-19 year olds - under 16s please bring a responsible adult with you for the duration of the event.
  • There will be a simple buffet lunch but you are welcome to bring your own lunch or picnic!
  • The event will be held in the lecture theatre at the Hull History Centre, situated directly next to our glass arcade
  • We will be photographing the sessions for promotional use on the HullCraft website and as part of the Being Human festival. We will provide photography permission forms for parents to fill in at the event
  • Parents/guardians can join in with the crafting or can relax with refreshments
  • Please see the Hull History Centre website for more information about the location and directions.

Monday, 9 November 2015

November History Makers: Lest We Forget...

A big thank you to everyone who came to our History Makers session on Saturday 7th November. In spite of the horrible weather, lots of you ventured out to take part.

Field of poppies created out this month's History Makers session

Our theme for this month was Remembrance Day and the commemoration of World War I.
Much of the fighting that took place during World War I, happened in the fields of northern France and Flanders. By the end of the war these fields had been turned to wastelands by the fighting and very little would grow there. One of the only things to survive were bright red poppies. Very soon the battlefields of Europe, where so many people had fought and died, were transformed into beautiful poppy fields.

It is for this reason that the poppy became a symbol of remembrance. It was adopted by the British Royal Legion and has been used in their Poppy Appeal since the 1920s. Many people choose to wear a poppy in November to show that they remember the loss of life that occurs during big conflicts like World War I.

At our session, we showed our support for the Poppy Appeal. Many beautiful poppies were made by our crafters and our master builders and we collated them all into one huge poppy field. We also explored what it would have been like to live through World War I when we built Lego bunkers, tanks and trenches.

All of our efforts were to show that we remember those soldiers and people at home who lost their lives during World War I and all subsequent conflicts. Don't forget to follow us on Facebook to see more photographs from the session. These should be posted in the next few days...

‘History Makers’ Team

Friday, 6 November 2015

My First Month: Plater and Websites

It’s getting close to the end of my first month here at the Hull History Centre, and wow is there a lot to talk about. If I thought my first week did a lot for clearing away my preconceptions about archives then I had no idea what was coming next. What has definitely surprised me is the variety of tasks that I have done so far, no one day has been like another and I have a feeling that this is only going to continue.

Page from "Hull History Centre - Website Analysis"
showing Web Accessibility for the colour-blind
One area where I felt I could really contribute was to do an analysis of the Hull History Centre website. I was able to use my previous web development and computing experience in order to perform a critical review and in fact for once not having extensive archives knowledge was a benefit since it allowed me to look at the site from the point of view of a user. This helps when determining what functions well in a website and also identifying what could use some improvement. One of the biggest challenges was trying to understand the target audience of the Hull History Centre. My already brief time here has shown me that archives provide a service to a wide variety of people and it’s not always as simple as it first seems. All kinds of people use archives, and therefore all kinds of people need to be able to use the website. Whether they are academics, people interested in family history or local history, parents looking for something for their children to do (shameless History Makers plug) or sometimes even people just coming in off the street because they’re passing by!

This attitude towards welcoming anyone is reflected in other areas of the archive. For example I was very surprised to see that other than needing a form of photo ID anyone can simply head into the search room and request to see a document. I found this unusual because I think in my head I had this impression that getting to view archives in person was like asking to see a specific exhibit at a museum, it was something that needed permissions and to be requested in advance. But then most of these collections are open to the public, why shouldn't they be able to just walk in and see them? You'd never want to request things in advance at a library, you just want to walk in and look at the books.

Alan Plater's Radio Play "Tolpuddle" with accompanying letter
and music sheet
A collection I have spent a fair bit of time with so far is playwright and screenwriter Alan Plater’s, specifically his Radio plays. Quite a few of the plays only have a title and a physical description of the items (typescript, outline, etc.) and little else. If you don’t happen to know the name of the play you’re after then there is little chance of you being able to find it using the current information. That is why I have been adding descriptions to all of the radio plays so they can be found easier using the online catalogue. There is often no information about these plays online, so the only way usually is to scan through the play and write a short description myself but this needs to be done so that although it gives an outline of the story and what it is about it doesn't contain any plot spoilers!. This can prove to be awkward sometimes since Plater has a habit of writing plays were nothing appears to actually happen but that have enormous subtext which is difficult to describe without simply writing the entire script again. The idea of audience plays a big factor into this once more, since I don’t know who will actually be reading the descriptions that I write it is important to be as clear as possible in my use of language and in the style of writing I choose to use.

Overall it has been a very interesting first month, to be completely honest I can hardly believe how fast it has gone! And yet I feel a lot more comfortable around the archives then I was initially. Next week I should be heading down to Kew for the Base Camp week at The National Archives and I'm very much looking forward to that, as well as seeing my fellow Cohort 2’s again.

David Heelas
Transforming Archives Trainee (Cohort 2)