Monday, 19 November 2018

Explore Your Archives 2018

This week we are celebrating ‘Explore Your Archive 2018’. This national campaign is designed to raise awareness of archives and to encourage everyone to use them.

You don’t have to be an academic or a professional researcher to use archives. People come to us every day to look into an endless number of different questions they might have.

We’ve had it all: ‘Can I find out where my grandfather was buried?’; ‘When was my house built and who used to live there?’; ‘What businesses were there on Holderness Road in the 1920s’?; ‘What did the old town walls look like?’; ‘What was it like in Hull during the Blitz?’; along with any number of other questions.

Recipe for medicine against the plague, 1665 [C DIAM/1]

Whatever aspect of local history you might be interested in, archives can help you explore it. So to help you get started, this installment of the blog will guide you through the process of searching for archives. We hope it is helpful.

How can I explore archives?

The best place to start is with our online catalogue. You can access the catalogue from the comfort of your own home (or phone) and it can be used to search descriptions of what we have. If you find something that looks interesting and you want to see it, make a note of the reference number as we will need this information to find it for you when you visit us.

If you can’t find anything on the online catalogue, or you are having trouble getting started, the best thing to do is pop in to see us. Staff can advise you on the resources available to help you answer whatever your research question might be. Before you come, have some specific questions in mind and allow yourself a good amount of time to get lost in what you might find.

What’s in the library area?

Library area containing part of the local studies collection

You can of course just wander around the library area and see what you can find. There are loads of interesting book titles amongst the open access collection on everything from architecture to zepplins. We have microfilmed copies of the local newspapers going back to the late 18th century, which can be browsed at leisure or used to look up a specific date. OS maps are available for various dates from the mid-19th century through to the 1960s and these can show you how the town has changed over the decades. Monumental inscriptions can be consulted for the municipal cemeteries, and burial records can be searched on microfilm, allowing you to look for deaths of ancestors. There are also electoral registers for the town and other family history resources such as FindMyPast and Ancestry, which can be accessed for free.

What’s in the searchroom?

Using archives in the searchroom

Whilst you need a ticket to use our searchroom, this ticket is free and it opens up a world of historical records to you. We have court papers including testimonies from witnesses and statements made by the accused, which can help you discover whether there are any black sheep in the family. There are personal diaries which document every-day life during some of the most significant moments of history including WWI and WWII. The letters of local personalities such as Philip Larkin, Winifred Holtby, and Stevie Smith can be read by anyone, and give insight into the inner thoughts of these figures. Photographs document the changing look of the town since the late 19th century, you might even be able to find old images of your own house or street. We also have building plans which allow you to see how individual buildings have changed over time, is your childhood home amongst them? Of course, this is just a very small selection of the over 2800 collections.

Section of a map of Hull showing German bomb drop locations during an air-raid in 1942

As well as all of the above, don’t forget the annual trade directories dating from the late 18th century which can tell you who was living at a particular address in Hull; or the historic maps dating back to the 1580s which show the old town walls and fortifications. These can be browsed in the searchroom without having to request us to get them out of storage for you.

Is there any further information?

The History Centre’s website contains further guides to collections held at the History Centre, which comprises the University of Hull Archives and Hull City Archives and Local Studies. There are also further thematically arranged guides available on Hull University Archives’ Libguides pages. And don’t forget the History Centre’s own online catalogue.

So now you are all experts, why not come down to the History Centre to see what you can find…

Claire Weatherall, Assistant Archivist (Hull University Archives)

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