A week of work experience at Derbyshire Record Office

This post comes from Richard and Cara, who have been at Derbyshire Record Office all week on a work experience placement.  We are all agreed they have done really, really well.

Work experience this week has been fantastic. We’ve done multiple activities such as conservation; Picture the Past and the NUM Project work. We’ve learnt a lot here, and have also gained some experience of being in an amazing work environment such as the Derbyshire Record Office. Everyone here is extremely friendly; you can’t really see a bad side to anyone.

On the first day we both had a tour of the building lead by Paul Beattie. He walked us down into the huge archives, apparently with over five miles of shelve space. It was really interesting to see a deed of a grammar school from Queen Elizabeth I and also the earliest cook book with the recipe for a Bakewell tart. After lunch, we joined in with the NUM project work. This is a two year project where Paul, Emma and Hilary list over ten thousand miners from the county. They look into their births, deaths and any injuries they had during their work. This was really fun, as we got to go down into the archives and fetch some boxes for Paul Carlyle, the Project Manager.

The next day, we were both split up. Cara went to local studies, and Richard went to the search room. Cara looked at her family history and found that one of her ancestors was Scottish. She also learnt how to use the card catalogue. Richard, in the search room, went onto the computers and had a look at the online catalogue for all the documents in the archives. He ordered out two documents, one being a map of the area around where he lives, the other of some sales documents of his road. He found it quite interesting, as he saw that his house dates back to the mid-1700s. After lunch, we went to the computer room in Local Studies and met with Mark, who was looking after the enquiries. We answered some enquiries by using the card catalogue, which was interesting.

On Wednesday, we both swapped around. Cara went to the search room and Richard went to local studies. Cara had to look through all the reference numbers of previous documents because one had been misplaced. After that she answered some enquiries about schools in Derbyshire. Richard sorted out some order cards from previous documents, similar to what Cara was doing. He then looked on Ancestry.com and searched for his great great Grandad.   After lunch, we had a brief explanation of digitisation from Matthew. He explained how to scan a document, which is what he does in digitisation. After that we met with Nick, who explained ‘Picture the Past’. This is where he digitises historic pictures. He gave us the task to find locations of undescribed photos without a location.

On the Thursday, we had a short staff meeting with everyone at the record office. They just talked about the budgets and other important stuff we didn’t understand. We then wandered off towards Conservation where we met with Lien and Clare, who had given us the task to clean some documents from the 17th century. We both enjoyed that task. We had lunch around 12pm, and then went back to Lien and Clare and did some preservation work with ‘spider paper’ and a heat press. This was both very interesting and also fun. We repaired some mock documents which were classed as ‘ok’. Surprisingly, that was quite the compliment for what we had achieved. We tried to make some pouches for wax seals that were attached to a document. Cara did pretty well, Richard failed. (He hadn’t sewn for a long time!)

So after we left Lien and Clare, we met Paul at the search room and he given us the task to list different types of documents

Today (Friday), we did more of the project work until lunch, and managed to list 118 documents on the excel spreadsheet. We decided to go for lunch, and then went to Local Studies and met with Mark again. This is where we returned some books from the library and then sorted out cards from the card catalogue. Both of us then decided to write a blog, which is where we are now.  Later on we’re going to meet up with Paul and have a ‘review and evaluation’ of the whole week.   😀

This week has been both amazing and fun. All the staff members here are extremely friendly and they always bring in food. We would like to thank everyone for this great experience at the Derbyshire Record Office!

The Junction Arts story

One of my main preoccupations of 2016 was the Junction Arts archive collection – and a fine preoccupation it was too.  Now comes an opportunity to share some of that experience with you – in the form of a specially-commissioned film, The Junction Arts Story:

Derbyshire Record Office’s first encounter with Junction Arts was back in 2012 when they brought a group of young people to carry out some research as part of a farming heritage project called Combine. A couple of years later, Junction Arts let us know that they were applying to the Heritage Lottery Fund for a community-based project relating to their archive material, to celebrate their fortieth anniversary.  We were only too happy to support the JA40 project application, especially as the proposal involved the transfer of the Junction Arts archive to us.

The application was successful. The unprocessed archive of four decades was passed into our care, and a team was assembled to set to work on appraising it and helping to catalogue it.  The team included present and former staff, trustees, academics, artists, and members of the public who had participated in Junction Arts projects over the years.  Also assisting were some pupils from Highfields School in Matlock who were taking part in a Prince’s Trust Excel course.

The project also commissioned original work from an artist in residence, composer Paul Lovatt Cooper, who visited us at the record office and spent an afternoon finding out more about the history of Junction Arts and looking through its archive material. His reflections on four decades of local artistic activity resulted in a piece of music called Valiants Arise, arranged for brass band with samba band.  Its first performance was at the Bolsover Lantern Parade in November 2016, very ably played by Whitwell Brass Band and Handmade Samba.

So how did the film come about? As part of the project, Junction Arts commissioned a film-maker, Chris Bevan, to produce a 20-minute documentary about the charity’s history, which saw its first public showing last December.  More recently, the film has been shown at the International Community Arts Festival in Rotterdam.

I have really enjoyed working with such a rich and varied archive collection. To quote from Junction Arts’s website: “The archive will be a great resource for the public and artists, and we have already had requests from artists to access the archive. The archive is unique in that this isn’t a body of work by one artist or one group. It is a myriad of artefacts and it represents the creative expression of hundreds and hundreds of local people. It tells the stories of people and communities that have experience so much change over the last 40 years through ‘art’ and this is incredibly rare”.

Most of the photographs and documents that illustrate the film come from the Junction Arts archive collection held here – if you would like find out more, you can always have a look at the catalogue of the collection.

Coming up this summer: Ashbourne Treasures

Ashbourne Library, St Oswald’s Church and the Ashbourne Heritage Centre are to host what promises to be an informative and inspiring exhibition during July, August and September of this year.  The exhibits in “Ashbourne Treasures” are all of vital importance to the history of the town, and they include the original charter of Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School, of which we are the proud custodians.  Go and see the treasures if you can.  While you are at it, you could book yourself a ticket for one of the associated events, running throughout the summer, such as Dan Cruickshank’s talk on Georgian Towns.  More information is available at www.ashbournetreasures.com.

Weather history and parish registers

We have some pleasantly summery weather in Derbyshire just now.  If it should get too warm and you wish to be transported to cooler climes, you could always try reading a new article by the University of Nottingham’s Lucy Veale and others, entitled “‘Instead of fetching flowers, the youths brought in flakes of snow’: exploring extreme weather history through English parish registers”.  It features a reproduction of a descriptive ‘Memorial to the great snow’ of 1615 which can be found inscribed in the Winster parish register.

Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus…

… Or: Never Tickle A Sleeping Dragon.  It is twenty years since the publication of the first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.  I admit that this anniversary has little to do with archives – if it were the anniversary of The Order of the Phoenix, we could argue that what went on in the Hall of Prophecies is a classic illustration of why delicate records need appropriate storage facilities – but it does give us another excuse to show off some more cartoons by George Woodward (1760-1809).  Here’s a 1785 drawing of a magician, with something of the Dumbledore about him:

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And here’s an 1813 print showing a pair of witches in a hayloft, complete with some fantastic beasts:

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For more about the Woodward collection, have a look at some of our previous Woodward posts.

Treasure 39: Florence Nightingale’s letters to C B N Dunn

Today is Florence Nightingale’s 197th birthday, and (not coincidentally) also International Nurses Day – to mark the occasion, here is one of our 50 Treasures posts, about the Florence Nightingale correspondence held here. You can read any of the letters at Boston University’s very user-friendly website, http://archives.bu.edu/web/florence-nightingale

Derbyshire Record Office

Florence Nightingale’s letters to Crich surgeon C B N Dunn are a fascinating read, for their social history content as well as for the insights they can provide into the life of their author.  You can find out more about them in some of our previous blog posts.  In this example (D2546/ZZ/54), Nightingale tells Dunn of candidates for membership of the local Women’s Club – not a recreational club, but a benefit society, which provided a form of insurance against sickness and death.  It was hoped that Dunn could “pass” people as being in good health on joining the club. Collection D1575 (deriving from the Nightingale family’s estates) includes the rules of Lea Friendly Society dated 1832 – this society may well have been the forerunner of the Women’s Club mentioned in the letter.

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50 Treasures – an easier way to explore

A few weeks ago, we finished blogging about Derbyshire Record Office’s “50 Treasures” series of documents, specially selected to illustrate the depth and variety of our archives and local studies material. It’s a project that began back in 2012, as the record office celebrated its 50th anniversary. All 50 posts can be found by searching the blog in the usual ways, but you might like to know that it is now possible to get a bird’s eye view of the full project from our new 50 Treasures page. It is also now possible to adopt your favourite – have a look at the Adopt A Piece Of History page for details.

The Alan Turner Opera Company’s eye-catching archives

Last month, Derbyshire Record Office was delighted to accept the donation of five rather extraordinary albums of photographs and news-cuttings (D8089) assembled by Alan Turner (1902-1965).  Turner was Managing Director of the Ernest Turner group, which included the Spa Lane Mills in Derby.  However, the principal focus of the collection is not textile production, but theatrical productions.  Alan Turner’s eponymous Opera Society/Company put on numerous performances in London in the 1920s and 1930s, before relocating to Derby in later years.  Here is a sample of some of the fantastic photographs and ephemera in the first volume:

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It wasn’t just opera, though Continue reading

Texting U in the 19th century

This is a bit of fun – and a promising start for the new blog from Hampshire Archives and Local Studies

Hampshire Archives and Local Studies

Letter writing is seen as a dying art in the twenty first century as most people now phone, text, tweet, facebook or email. Before all of these inventions, letter writing was the main form of communication, particularly among ladies of the upper classes who were well educated and had plenty of time to write to their often copious relatives and friends. Young ladies in particular often enjoyed combining their drawing skills with that of writing a letter, as can be seen in the example below, which also resulted in an enjoyable puzzle for the recipient to resolve.

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I love it when a plan comes together…

… with the original survey book alongside which it was created.

Plans and survey books are easily separated.  They are superficially very different: a survey may look like a standard hardback of several pages, and the plan that goes with it may be a single sheet, rolled up or folded.  The difference in size and shape means the pair of items are unlikely to be stored on the same shelf or in the same box.  In fact, each might be so useful on its own that from time to time, their custodians forget that they two items were designed to complement one another.

Here’s how they work together.  See the plot numbered 358 on this poor rate plan of Brimington dating from 1827? I have highlighted it with a black arrow.

D177 A PC 37

If I want to find out more about it, I can look at the survey book, and see that it was a Blacksmith’s shop and hovel, owned and occupied by George Richards, amounting to three perches in area.

D636 A PO 1

When Brimington Parish Council was created, as a consequence of the Local Government Act of 1894, the civil functions of Brimington parish began to be administered under a separate authority for the first time.  The church parish, meanwhile, retained its ecclesiastical duties.  In the division of assets, whether by accident or design, the new parish council got to keep the book, while the church held on to the plan.  Come the 1960s, each of these bodies began to deposit its historic records here, so that the survey and plan ended up in separate collections.

Today I added a cross-reference to the catalogue, and I believe it was the first time that anyone at our end had linked the two things together – although I gather from a researcher who visited today that both documents are mentioned by Philip J Cousins in his “Brimington : the changing face of a Derbyshire village”, published to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the parish council.

If you ever want to visit us to use the documents in our search room, or order a paid search of their contents, here are the all-important reference numbers: the book is D636/A/PO/1, and the plan is D177/A/PC/37.