For this World Theatre Day, two images from our Woodward Collection showing the famous 18th century actress Sarah Siddons at the height of her success.
Here she is in 1782 as Euphrasia from the play The Grecian Daughter, by Arthur Murphy:
And here in her most famous role of Lady Macbeth, which she first performed on 2 February 1785. It was with this role that she bade farewell to the stage on 29 June 1812, when the audience refused to allow the play to continue after Lady Macbeth’s final scene, and Sarah Siddons returned to the stage to take her applause and give an emotional farewell speech.
There are many other Shakespeare drawings in our Woodward collection, and do remember that you’re welcome to adopt any one of them.
Going through the box of objects in our Franklin Archive, I’ve come across a piece of lace, sewn on to a pink piece of fabric. There is a dried flower sewn on to both as well.
In very neat writing it claims to be a Piece of hangings of the Princess of Wales boudoir, St George Chapel, March 10 1863.
The Princess of Wales in question was Alexandra of Denmark, but on that date she’d only just received the title, as this was her wedding day. On 10 March 1863 Alexandra married the eldest son of Queen Victoria, Albert, the Prince of Wales, who would become King Edward VII in 1901. It was the first royal wedding to take place at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle; there have been many more there since, most notably recently the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
The inscription is similar to those on other objects which belonged to Lady Jane Franklin, so it’s fair to assume this was also part of her private museum. The big question is: did she attend the wedding or was the lace given to her by someone who did? We know she was definitely in England at the time, but haven’t been able to place her at the wedding yet – do let us know if you have a list of royal wedding guests from 1863 lying around…
Lady Jane Franklin kept a museum display in her house with all kinds of mementos of her travels; some of these have come to us as part of the Franklin archive, which is how we’ve ended up with two pieces of mummy cloth from Thebes in our collection. Both are neatly labelled, presumably by Lady Jane for the benefit of her guests.
A little treat for Pancake Day, which apparently fell on Valentine Day in 1809: Eleanor Porden was sent an actual pancake as a Valentine gift, along with this accompanying note.
Eleanor would have been fourteen at the time – what more could a teenager wish for!
There are still a few places left for our Preserving Franklin talk in Matlock next Thursday, where I’ll explain the various ways in which the documents have been repaired. You’ll also be able to handle some of the repaired letters, as well as some of Lady Jane Franklin’s precious mementos.
Conservation work in progress
Book a free place via our Eventbrite page or call 01629 538347.
If you’re enjoying our updates and discoveries as part of the Discovering Franklin project, why not join Lien, our Senior Conservator, at the Record Office in Matlock on Thursday 7 March for a talk on the conservation and re-packaging work that’s going on. The talk is from 10.30 till 12.00 and is free, but places are limited so please do book through our Eventbrite page or by calling us on 01629 538347.
A treat from our Franklin collection: the Valentine poem Eleanor Porden wrote in 1823 for her fiancé, John Franklin. We’re very lucky to have two versions – here’s the original draft:
And here is the letter she sent him on 14 February 1823, with her handwriting ‘disguised’:
The symbols on the letter (presumably purporting to be Inuit) tie in with the mention of Coppermine River, the river in North Canada John Franklin had traveled down during his Coppermine Expedition of 1819 to 1822. Eleanor seems to be writing as if she is an Inuit woman – our project archivist has been delving deeper into the background to this poem and will reveal all soon…
Within the Franklin collection is a box of objects: precious mementos Lady Jane Franklin displayed in her house, reminders of the adventurous lives she and her husband, Sir John Franklin, had led. Included are two letters and small drawings, bundled together in a wrapper which says: Remains of Kalierua.
This refers to Erasmus Augustine Kallihirua, also known as Kalli, an Inuit from north-western Greenland who helped in the search for Sir John Franklin. In 1850 he joined the ship of Captain Erasmus Ommanney when it was in Cape York, Greenland, and worked as his guide and translator during his expedition to find Franklin’s ships. Kalli stayed with the ship as it traveled back to England, where he was sent to St Augustine’s College in Canterbury to train as a missionary. During his time in England Kalli must have met Sir John’s daughter Eleanor, who was by then Mrs Eleanor Gell, as he sent her at least two letters and three small drawings. We don’t know how many other letters Kalli sent to Eleanor, but someone has written on the one dated October 3rd 1855 ‘Kali’s last letter from St John’s Newfoundland’.
Kalli died on 14 June 1856 in St John’s, Newfoundland, having caught a chill while swimming. He was only twenty-four years old. A more detailed account of Kalli’s life is on the website of the Nunatsiaq News.
Next time you meet a paper conservator, just mention the words ‘self-adhesive tape’ and watch their struggle to retain some self-control. It is the bane of our profession, the tapes used by very well-meaning people, who were trying to look after or even save important, precious documents and ended up destroying them in the process. Two unrelated items came into the Conservation Studio yesterday, which show different ways in which self-adhesive tape has been used.
The first is a minute ‘book’ from the National Union of Mineworkers, dating from the mid nineteen eighties (D1920/1/1/39):
Each page consists of a backing sheet with a typed up page of minutes sellotaped to both sides of it. That’s two hundred backing sheets with four hundred pages of minutes:
In some cases the adhesive is no longer sticking to the backing sheet, leaving the minutes lying loose; in all cases it has migrated into the paper, causing significant discolouration and weakening of the paper. Removing each piece of sellotape will require a combination of heat, a sticky-stuff removing erasure and quite probably solvents, such as acetone and toluene. The problem is, you see, that in most cases the tape doesn’t come off cleanly, but leaves a little bit of sticky residue which also needs to be removed. So that’s one thousand six hundred pieces of sellotape to remove, at a very optimistic average of five minutes each: eight thousand minutes – or about 134 hours – of work. Obviously we can’t justify that amount of time spent on an item that can be studied in its current condition, so all we’ll be doing for now is give it some extra packaging so at least there’s no risk of pages tearing, and adding it to a list of jobs to consider in the future.
The second item is a sale catalogue from 1912 (D7108), which is in a far worse condition:In this case the kind person trying to mend the pages has used a combination of different self-adhesive tapes, even ordinary white labels:
Clearly this item isn’t safe to be handled or looked at, so we will be conserving it in 2019 and we’ll let you know how we get on…
After the disappearance of Sir John Franklin in 1845 his wife, Lady Jane Franklin, was inundated with requests for copies of his signature. She responded by cutting out his signatures from letters he’d sent and posting these to the grateful collectors. The damage this did is immediately obvious in this example, a letter Sir John wrote to his sister, Hannah Booth, in 1833:
The severity of the damage however only becomes apparent when you view the letter on a light box:
All the sharp cuts show where a knife went through the paper – we can’t be sure these slashes were made when the signature was removed, but as they don’t occur on any of the other letters it’s reasonable to assume the two are linked.
The letter has now been repaired and is ready for one of our volunteers to read.