Tuesday, 28 February 2017

LGBT History Month

February has been LGBT History Month and the theme for 2017 is PHSE, Citizenship and Law. 

2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, which decriminalised homosexual acts in private in England and Wales, so I decided to look through the archive of Liberty (formerly the National Council for Civil Liberties) to see whether we hold any relevant material.
I discovered a file of press cuttings from the 1950s and 1960s (reference U DCL/178/10) which proved fascinating reading, as they demonstrate attitudes and viewpoints which seem archaic and sometimes horrifying to a modern reader. The Observer reported, in a February 1954 article, that:
Modern psychology taught us that homosexuality was a form of illness – physical as well as mental – which might be cured, and not a crime, which must be punished.
This argument was frequently cited in the press as a reason for law reform. The risk of blackmail was another, as a piece in The Times from May 1954 illustrates:
[The current law] unintentionally creates conditions favourable to blackmail. The man who fears exposure for adultery or some other legally unpunishable deed is equally liable to blackmail. But he, unlike the sexual invert, can put the police on to the blackmailer without fearing that he will himself be punished.
It was announced later in 1954 that an enquiry would be set up to investigate the laws.

Times, 9 July 1954

Following the Wolfenden Report in 1957, which recommended reform of the law, the government was unprepared to act but there were some attempts by members of Parliament and campaign groups to push for reform.
Daily Worker, 7 May 1965

It was not until 1965, however, that momentum began to really build, as Lord Arran in the House of Lords and Leo Abse in the House of Commons began the process of change. Although many in Parliament supported reform, that did not mean that they viewed homosexuality in the way society does today. The Sun reported on 13 May 1965, “17 out of 22 peers who took part in a Lords debate had spoken in favour of this reform”; it went on to record that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Michael Ramsey, supported reform although “[he] said homosexuality was a sin, but all sins did not have to be treated as crimes.”
On 24 May 1965 the House of Lords debated a Bill to reform the law. One of the strongest voices against reform was Field-Marshal Viscount Montgomery, whose opinion as reported in The Sun was:
To condone unnatural practices seems to me wholly wrong. One might just as well condone the Devil and all his works.
The voices in favour of reform included Lord Arran, who introduced the Bill, who said “Was it right a man should be persecuted and prosecuted for what he was born to be?” He went on to say, “I pray… that this House may show itself to be the place I believe it to be – a place of progress and compassion.” The Marquess of Queensbury said, “When my children grow up they will be amazed that laws of this sort could exist in the middle of the 20th century.”
The 1965 Bill in the House of Lords was not adopted by the government, but in 1966 Leo Abse introduced the Sexual Offences Bill in the House of Commons. He spoke at its second reading, demonstrating again that even supporters of reform used language which seems, shall we say, unhelpful to today’s ears. The Guardian reported:
Mr Leo Abse (Lab. Pontypool) said that the law offered homosexuals the “brutal choice” of either celibacy or criminality with nothing in between. … [Mr Abse said] “We are dealing with large numbers of people who apart from this particular aberration, are totally law-abiding.”
This time the reformers were successful, and the Act was passed. In the years since there have been arguments and debates about its merits and failings, but it’s surely worth commemorating as a step on the road to equality.

Guardian, 20 December 1966

Sarah Pymer, Assistant Archivist (HUA)

Monday, 13 February 2017

Made in Hull: A 'Sensational' Hull Romance

It's the month of love with Valentines Day happening on the 14th February, so what better reason is there to look at the history of chocolate and sweet making in our city!

Needler's letterhead paper

For those of you who didn’t already know, Needler's was a Hull-based sweet manufacturer. It was founded in 1886 by 18 year old Frederick Needler when he bought a small confectionery business near Paragon Station. He would later move the business to Anne Street, where he employed two staff - a sugar boiler and a boy named Watson. 

By 1900, the business had grown and the now 10 female and 23 male employees could make around ten tons of confectionery per week, resulting in a turnover for Needler of £15,000. Over two hundred different products, mainly boiled sweets and toffees, were being made. This meant that by 1906 larger premises were required, and a new building was erected on Bournemouth Street, off Sculcoates Lane. This is the factory that many people will remember and associate with Needlers. It was demolished in the early 2000’s and the land redeveloped as a housing estate. A nod to the land's previous status can be found in the estate's name, 'Needler's Way'.

Ariel photograph of the Bournemouth Street factory, 1920s

By 1912 Needler’s were producing 576 lines, 74 of which were chocolate, and by 1920 the company was making 650 tons of chocolate and 1,500 tons of sweets per year resulting in a turnover of £664,000. Sweet wrappers were introduced in the early 1920s and, interestingly, this process was undertaken by hand until the first wrapping machines were introduced in 1928.

By 1920, there were 1,700 permanent employees, most of whom were female. The company had a reputation for treating employees well. The staff dining room was often the scene of wedding gift presentations to former and current employees about to get married. In the summer 1936 issue of a journal published by Needler's, ‘Quality’, Percival Needler emphasized what a loss to the firm it was when 'valued servants’ left to set up their own homes and families. He also stated that he believed their Needler's training would ‘stand them in good stead in their home life' and that 'running a home was no easy matter', but that 'habits of punctuality, tidiness, cleanliness and the general discipline' gained whilst employed at Needler's should prove an excellent foundation on which to build [L.664.1]. On 29 July 1922 the Hull Times ran an article titled ‘A Romance of Local Industry’ which focused on the ‘sweet’ girls of Hull’, and which observed the excellent welfare and social provisions for workers. Profit sharing had been introduced as early as 1911, the company provided good social and sports facilities, as well as a sick and benefit society, and a full time attendant nurse was employed for the use of staff.

Needler's Van, 1918

Unfortunately, Needler's was badly hit by the economic depression of the 1930s, with turnover being nearly half what it had been just a decade earlier. At the same time, Frederick Needler's health was deteriorating, and he died on 30 September 1932 aged 67. He was immediately succeeded by his son, A. Percival Needler. Interestingly, the son was a published poet of some local repute. In 1958, he published a book of poems called ‘The Chiming Hours’ [L. 821]. It contains two love poems, ‘Love was a Rose’ and ‘Amberieux Revisited’...

Advertisement for Needler's products

Amberieux Revisited

And if two lovers sometimes meet
At blue of evening near my tree,
A corpse most happy I shall be
Their youth and grace to greet;

Holding hands I see them come,
Wrapped in dreams that need no speech,
Smiling softly each to each,
And pause beside my tomb.

“Dear poet who no malice bore,”
I hear them say in voices low,
“Here he rests were flowers blow
And wanders now no more.”

And in their innocence and bliss,
Beneath the stars that watch and wait
I hope that they will celebrate
My memory with a kiss.

The advancement of supermarkets in the 1970s and 1980s led to the eventual decline of small, privately owned sweet shops that no longer placed orders with Needlers to any great volume and so in 1986, the company was bought out. Anyone with a ‘hunger’ to find out more about Needlers after this ‘sweetener’ is welcome to come into Hull History Centre or search our online catalogue (Link)

Elspeth, Archivist and Librarian

Friday, 10 February 2017

Religion and Heritage on Display

Last week I had the chance to attend the “Religion and Heritage on Display” conference held at the Institute of Archaeology at the UCL in London. How do people practice religion? The term “religion” covers a wide range of thoughts and beliefs, and museums are places where religious artefacts become lifeless objects. That was the main subject behind this conference which gathered a wide range of speakers and professionals from the Heritage and Religion sector.

Marion Browman -
Museum of World Religions project, Birmingham
After the usual coffee and biscuits session, the conference opened up with a magisterial introduction from  Marion Bowman - Museum of World Religions project, Birmingham. She spoke about the importance of religious objects and how these can engage with audiences and faith groups. Marion is also one of the investigators on the “Pilgrimage and England's cathedrals”, a project which studies the interaction between the cathedrals in England and the people who visit them.

Lucy Trench – V&A and Science Museum
Lucy Trench – V&A and Science Museum spoke about the challenges to display religious objects in a very small exhibition space. She had to confront this problem in “Europe 1600 – 1815”, an exhibition which comprises works from 17th to 18th centuries of European art and design.

Another real challenge was to show the diversity of faiths across Europe during those years, for example, how can you mention the Ottoman Empire and Constantinople if the V&A lacks objects from that period?

How a museum should approach religion when museums are not places of worship and veneration. In her new project, she is working with the Welcome Collection and the Science Museum for an exhibition that is going to compare the similarities between how people display faith in religion and science.

I think all the speakers made a good understanding of how we should use religious objects in museums and how we can find new ways to engage with new audiences and religious groups.

I am looking forward to learning more about displaying religious objects in future projects!

Francisco Castanon, 
Transforming Archives trainee

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

What I Wish I Knew Before I Started...

Senate House Library, the venue for the day
Last month we attended What I Wish I Knew Before I Started: The DPC Student Conference in London. This event is held annually by the Digital Preservation Coalition to give archive students and new professionals advice about working in digital preservation, the art of storing computer files to the same quality as we would with paper documents in an archive. 

Digital preservation is a fairly new area of archival studies but an increasingly vital one, as more and more “born digital” content starts to be collected by archives around the world.

The day consisted of two sessions of talks by sector experts. The first session was advice on getting started with digital preservation projects from the perspective of the information managers and technologists responsible for delivering the schemes. The talks covered various subjects, such as how to set up preservation projects, the best places to look for advice, beginners courses and how to keep up to date with the latest developments in the field.

Technologists perspective - Matthew Addis
Matthew Addis - Arkivum told us about the importance to keep the content active and how essential is to managing data overtime and even more how software preservation can preserve an original experience.

The second session was given by practising digital archivists who discussed what their day-to-day job entails, what kinds of challenges they face on a regular basis and what are the most important lessons they could give to anyone starting out in the field.

Open data was another discussion topic touched by Adrian Brown, Director of the Parliamentary Archives. In his presentation, he spoke about the importance of having a simple metadata and filing system and how significant is preserving the accessibility of useful information in a record office, which holds several million historical records relating to Parliament.

But every archive or museum is different, Glenn Cumiskey - The British Museum left a question for the audience: What does digital mean in the context of your organisation? There is a unique meaning for every organisation. He also recommend us few titles to take a look: Practical Digital Preservation by Adrian Brown, Personal Digital Archiving by Gabriela Redwine.

The DCC Lifecycle model - this was
recommended by one of the speakers
The last speaker of the afternoon was Dave Thompson - Digital Curator of the Wellcome Collection. He emphasised that preservation is about access and how understanding our users and can help us to preserve our archives and libraries.

The final session was a roundtable session with all the speakers answering questions from the audience. One important subject that was discussed here was the state of digital preservation in ten years’ time. Many of the experts felt that as more and more digital content begins to move into archives then the idea of digital preservation will become embedded into the concept of curation and records management.

At end of the conference we got the idea that the digital preservation community is open to help people working on similar projects. So, don’t be afraid to ask around for advice, because there’s probably someone out there who’s had exactly the same problem as you have!

Francisco Castanon and Tom Dealey, Transforming Archives trainees