A pattern book with a difference

While moving some of our outsize items to more suitable shelves last week (a seemingly endless job), I came across an unusually thick volume (D4984/11/1).  I don’t normally look at the records I’m moving – I would never get anything done if I did! – but occasionally I allow my curiosity to get the better of me and I removed the packaging:

D4984 11 1 pattern book

I’m sure you’ll agree it’s big!  When I opened a random page, it became clear that this is a pattern book, with some lovely fabric samples:

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We have other pattern books in our collection and they’re always a pleasure to look at, although most have a wider variety; the samples in this book are all very delicate and in pastel colours.  Looking at some other pages, I was surprised to find examples of metal fastenings and some kind of metal rods – definitely not something I’d come across before:

And then right at the back of the book it all goes very feminine again, with examples of pretty trims and bows:

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Intrigued, I looked in our catalogue when I got back to my office: it is indeed a pattern book, dating from the late nineteenth century, from an Ashbourne company called Richard Cooper and Co. Have you guessed what they made?

Corsets!

 

We’re in the news!

The Derbyshire Times has a big article about our crowdfunding campaign and did you catch us – very briefly – on East Midlands Today on Wednesday evening? Great to see so much interest!

And we’ve had another wonderful comment from a supporter:

‘Cultural history is very important and we should do everything necessary to preserve our knowledge of it’

Will you be next to help us preserve our cultural history?  Then support us on our crowdfunding page or by calling our reception on 01629 538 347.

 

Wonderful support!

Only a few days into our crowdfunding project and we’ve already reached nearly £200! A huge thank you to everyone who has supported us so far, and especially for the lovely comments you’ve left behind, such as:

‘Because the past is as important as the future.’

‘Real history is vital in the midst of meaningless memories. Support this venture for future generations.’

If you agree, then do have a look at our video and support us on our crowdfunding page.

Or you can call our reception on 01629 538 347 and donate over the phone.

 

Sir John Franklin’s Log Book

This log book from 1821-1822 records the last months of Sir John Franklin’s first independent land expedition to the Arctic (1819-1822), where he intended to travel from Hudson’s Bay to the mouth of the Coppermine River in Coronation Gulf.

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It took two years before the expedition came within sight of the sea and only a brief survey of the coast could be undertaken before the expedition had to return because of lack of supplies. Unfortunately, the group then found themselves stranded in the ‘Barren Lands’ west of Hudson’s Bay and were near death when they were rescued by an Indian Chief, Akaitcho. During the months covered by this log book, many members of the 34-strong expedition died of starvation.

 

 

We’re crowdfunding!

Did you get it from our teaser? It showed us having a go at shooting a video to go on our crowdfunding page. Yes, we’re diving into the 21st century and are starting a crowdfunding campaign for the objects in Lady Jane’s Museum.  As I’ve mentioned before, Lady Jane Franklin kept some of her most precious mementos in a small museum at her home, where she would show them to visitors. All these lovely objects came to us jumbled up in a box, together with objects kept by the Gell family from Hopton Hall (the family Eleanor Franklin, Lady Jane’s stepdaughter, married into).

D3311 OBJ all

Lying loose in a box isn’t very good for any of them, as they are moving about and damaging each other, so we want to package them in such a way that they are safe, but still together as one collection.  We’d also like to hire a professional photographer to take high quality photographs of them all, which we can then add to our online catalogue so everyone can see them. Through crowdfunding we want to give people from all over the world the chance to be a part of our Discovering Franklin project and help us look after this amazing collection.

There’s more information on our crowdfunding page, where you can watch that video and find out why we’re not asking for boats…

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Mathinna’s doll

When Sir John Franklin was Lieutenant Governor of Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania), he and Lady Jane adopted a local Aboriginal girl, Mathinna. By this time virtually all Tasmanian Aborigines had been removed from the main island, making Mathinna the only Aboriginal person, save for those at the Orphan School, still allowed to live there. Sir John’s daughter Eleanor was put in charge of Mathinna’s education, and a diary entry from Eleanor from 14 September 1841 suggests the two girls got on well, with Eleanor describing Mathinna as ‘affectionate and intelligent’.

The entry also mentions Mathinna had been given a doll with a petticoat – amazingly we have come across a small black doll in our Franklin collection that matches the description! Could this be Mathinna’s doll?

D3311 OBJ 03 front ruler

There is also a pincushion, neatly labelled as having been made by Mathinna, which was clearly part of Lady Jane’s Museum, alongside some other mementos from Tasmania.

D3311 OBJ 14 ruler

When the Franklins left Tasmania in 1843, they left Mathinna behind; apparently doctors were concerned that she wouldn’t survive the British climate. She was sent  to the Orphan School – perhaps she wasn’t allowed to take her doll? – and then back to Flinders Island.  Abandoned to a life of poverty, she lived at Oyster Cove, south of Hobart and died at a young age, the precise date of which is unknown.

Mathinna’s life has inspired literary works and dance productions in Australia, where she has come to symbolise the way colonists treated all Aboriginal people.

 

 

 

 

The – almost – last letter written by Sir John Franklin

Our project archivist discovered a letter in our Franklin Collection which he realised must have been one of the last ones Sir John Franklin ever wrote. It is dated 6 July 1845 and was written on Whale Fish Island:

close up date

Franklin and his expedition were last seen by Europeans only a few weeks later, on 26 July, after which they were never heard of again.  The touching letter is to his daughter, Eleanor, and he urges her and her Mama [Lady Franklin] not to be anxious if he does not return within 3 years, as they have stores and provisions enough to last that long.

close up text

We asked our Twitter friends on @FranklinArchive whether they knew of a later letter, and yes, around the same time Franklin wrote a lengthy letter to his wife, Lady Jane, the final part of which is dated 12 July.  That letter is not part of our collection, but perhaps one day the two can be reunited, as they presumably traveled to England together.

Franklin’s last letter to Eleanor is currently on display in our latest exhibition ‘Franklin’s People’, why not pop in and see it for yourself!

 

 

Packaging the packaging

When I carry out preservation training sessions, I always emphasize the importance of archival packaging: it protects our (and your) records from over-handling, keeps them out of light, provides a barrier for rodents, insects, mould and water, and stops them getting covered in layers of dust. The ‘archival’ bit matters, as that means the quality of the packaging is such that it won’t in itself cause damage to the documents through any chemicals that may have been used in the production process. Invariably this means that when we take in new records we discard the old, often damaging, packaging – I’m sure you’ll agree there’s no reason to keep these:

 

Of course, there are always exceptions to every rule, and sometimes the packaging is such an integral part of the history of the document, that we keep it as well. A prime example of this is D22/1, a large rolled document from 1764, which is still in its original leather-covered, wooden box:

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Beautiful, isn’t it? Both the parchment document and wax seal have survived in perfect condition in that box for the past 255 years, so I see no need to remove them.  However, the box itself is also made of organic material and therefore needs protection from light, insects, etc. This time it’s the original packaging that needs the archival kind.

We make our own archival packaging from various types of archival card and board; the first step in the process is measuring the length, width and height of the item as this determines the size of card we need. We then transfer our measurements on to the board and check whether the item will fit. The checking before cutting away the flaps is essential, as it’s very easy to end up with a box that’s just that little bit too tight or too loose. 

In order to make our new box a bit sturdier, I stuck a sheet of archival fluted board on the base – fluted (corrugated) board is very strong while also being lightweight, making it ideal to use if you want a stronger box that isn’t too heavy.

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Now we just need to fold over all the flaps and tie it all together with some unbleached cotton tape and our original box with contents is safe for the next 255 years!

D22 1 finished closed