Thursday, 23 June 2016

Archive Visits: M&S and ITV

Last Monday, Dave and I went on an Archive Trainees Group visit to the M&S Company Archive and the ITV Archive in Leeds.

The Michael Marks Building

The afternoon started with a presentation at the M&S Company Archive. The presentation covered a brief history of M&S, which began in 1884 as a market stall in Leeds, and the type of archives held by the company. As a business archives, the collections are very different to those held by Hull University and cover everything from the usual paper documentation, through photographs and marketing material, to M&S homeware, food packaging and clothing. In fact, because the archive contains such a significant mixture of paper archives and objects, the staff have to be fluent in the different descriptive standards used by both archives (ISAD(g)) and museums (SPECTRUM). M&S are clearly proud of their archival collections and actively use the material to support the brand. Recently, the collections have been used to inspire a new clothing line by Alexa Chung and old marketing images have been reproduced on homeware items, such as tea towels, to capitalise on the growing trend for anything retro. To increase internal use of the material, the archives have also created a bespoke online catalogue to cater for non-archival users and regularly respond to requests for images and information for immediate business needs.

WW2 fashions

Although, predominantly focused on supporting M&S needs and internal users, the archives also provides access to outside researchers (by appointment only) and operates a significant outreach programme. The programme incorporates school visits and workshops, group tours and reminiscence sessions for dementia sufferers. There is also an exhibition which changes every six months, of which we were given a tour, and a small shop. The exhibition is particularly impressive and contains some lovely examples of M&S clothing through the decades, TV advertising and audio material. There are also children’s activities available and an emphasis on interactivity.

M&S were the first to transport fresh refrigerated chicken dishes

During the visit, it was clear that the archives are particularly proactive in their collecting, ensuring that it is closely aligned to key company achievements. Collecting is focussed upon innovative items (e.g. use of new technologies), bestsellers, iconic pieces and weaker areas within the collection (apparently vintage menswear is difficult to acquire!). The archive also maintains ‘Archive Ambassadors’ in departments across the company, who regularly retain material for eventual deposit. As such, it appears that the archive is viewed as a positive addition to the company, an area that can help generate greater brand awareness, and not an unnecessary use of profits. Moreover, the building itself, named after M&S founder Michael Marks, has been designed to be as environmentally friendly as possible, in line with the company’s ‘Plan A’ to reduce waste and help protect the planet.

Having said goodbye to the M&S team, we walked the 20 minutes to the ITV Archive on Kirkstall Road, also home to some of the interior sets for Emmerdale. Although another example of a business archive with similar general priorities to M&S, the set up is very different, with the archive established as part of the wider Content Management and Rights Team.

Dusty bin anyone?

The visit began with a presentation covering the various sections that come under the wider team, with a focus on content and rights issues. Owing to its nature as a television broadcaster, ITV needs to be clear on which rights it owns or has use of, and the financial implications of those rights. In all, there are 6 different teams, working on similar but distinct areas of rights management, and the intricacies and complexities involved did sound a little overwhelming at times! However, their work is supported by a well-maintained, bespoke content management system, which is available to all ITV staff and includes entries relating to archival material. Such work is vital to the running of the business and involves a lot of short turn-around times!

The presentation was followed by a tour of the archives: an impressive run of storage rooms filled to the rafters with tapes, videos and film reels. In total, the archive holds approximately 240,000+ hours of film on 1.2m assets. There is a master and safety copy of every film and a significant amount of production material including rushes. However, owing to a need to create more space, some of the rushes are currently being sorted and disposed of, with only high value production material (e.g. bloopers) retained.

Some of ITV's thousands of films

Other ongoing projects include the installation of flood defences after a recent flood (which thankfully didn’t damage any material) and the consolidation of film reels obtained from different production companies under the ITV umbrella. Dealing with issues such as technological obsolescence is also a constant demand on resources and staff time and, with many other archives at the moment, ITV are taking their first steps into digital preservation.

All-in-all, the visits proved hugely interesting and provided fascinating insights into the different demands upon and priorities of business archives compared to university archives, such as Hull. And finally, of potential local interest: ITV are the proud custodians of the Rank Film Collection, which contains the original copies of many of Rank’s best known titles including the Carry On films!

Verity Minniti

Archives Assistant

Monday, 6 June 2016

History Bakers: Plum Bread

May’s recipe for Plum Bread comes from the Ada Hartley collection [C DIMH/1/3]. Ada Hartley was a teacher for 47 years within the East Riding of Yorkshire, 33 of those years spent at Hessle C.E. Infants School where she rose to be Headmistress. Her other interests included amateur dramatics, volunteering with the St. John's Ambulance Society and cooking.

Recipe book from the Ada Hartley Collection [C DIMH/1/3]

The recipe book is a collection of handwritten recipes and recipes cut out and collected from magazines from circa 1910 to 1970, the volume is dated Feb 1946 at the front.

¾ lb sugar
½ lb lard
¼ lb butter
2 lbs flour
½ lb currants
½ lb raisins
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder or baking soda

Ingredients needed for plum plums though....

As you can see, despite being called plum bread, no plums are listed in the ingredients. Perhaps the dried fruit are offered as an alternative.

·         Mix fairly soft
·         Bake in two tins for about 2 hours

The method is somewhat lacking in detail so the following is my interpretation. As the ingredients were for two loaves I halved the amount listed in order to make just the one loaf. Although instead of using just one medium egg I added two small eggs.

Mix the sugar, lard and butter together until one mixture. Add all of the other ingredients and mix together. It was fairly difficult to mix until soft, and was certainly a workout for the arms! Then put into a greased loaf tin and bake. Again, although the recipe suggests baking time should be 2 hours this seemed a little too long and so I removed the loaf from the oven after just 1 hour 25 minutes, once it was lightly golden in colour.

The finished bake!

Here are some of my colleagues’ comments:
Claire: Lovely and fruity scone-like texture
Dave: Really sweet and crumbly
Verity: Tasty and very scone-like
Elaine: Lovely, very crumbly - an excuse to eat a few more crumbs!
Alex: Crumbly, lovely and fruity
Christine: An unexpected surprise, as it tastes like a very large fruit scone and a scraping of butter would make it taste even better.

Laura Wilson, Archivist

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Using the Archives Hub and Archives Portal Europe

If you’re looking for archives which are not held here at Hull History Centre – an incredible thought I know, but it could happen – you might like to try searching on the Archives Hub (for collections in the UK) or Archives Portal Europe (APE) (for collections held across Europe, including the UK).

What are these Hubs and Portals?
The Archives Hub and APE contain descriptions of archives held by different institutions; there are over 280 contributors to the Hub and over 6700 contributors to APE. The majority of contributors are universities and specialist repositories. They provide copies of their catalogues in a format called Encoded Archival Description [EAD], which is machine-readable and therefore allows the user to search across catalogues from a large number of repositories at once. Catalogues from Hull University Archives, one of the partners in Hull History Centre, appear on both the Archives Hub and APE.

This is what EAD looks like behind the scenes:

and how it appears on your screen:

What will I find on the Archives Hub and APE?
Both of these websites contain descriptions of archive collections relating to thousands of individuals, families, businesses and organisations. You can browse by repository or index term, or search for a particular person, organisation or subject. This makes them particularly useful if you’re searching for primary sources for a thesis or dissertation, or if you’re not sure where the papers of a particular person or organisation might be. Bear in mind when searching on APE that archive catalogues from institutions outside the UK probably won’t be available in English.

What won’t I find on the Archives Hub and APE?
As most of the contributors are university and specialist repositories, the largest group of UK archives which you won’t find described are those which are usually held by local record offices. This would include for example parish records, court records, council and hospital records. This means that for a lot of family history research you may be better off using local record offices’ own catalogues or trying The National Archives’ Discovery catalogue ( You won’t find digitised copies of archives – the websites contain catalogues only.

How do I get started?
Both the Archives Hub and APE websites contain lots of help on searching, and they also have featured items if you want to have a browse. The Hub website is and the APE website is

Sarah Pymer, Assistant Archivist (HUA)