Collecting stories

That was what this was about. There are people out there with stories that will never be heard and this project was a way to tell them, a chance to be a part of something bigger in the long run.Emily for blog

There was uncertainty when this project began, a sense of unknowing, what we would do? Where it would take us? Who would be involved? We kept going. There were three of us to begin with, the three musketeers if you will, students of Highfields School, yet it gradually decreased to one, me. Three had gone down to Derbyshire Record Office, were introduced to the project, some of the people involved, it was interesting.

Wirksworth was the first event, a chapter covering two days. Placed on the vicarage lawn, tents housing a storyteller, dramatizing a mother’s opinion of her lady’s maid daughter’s letters from France, on how she hated the country, the food and the people. Another housed documents linking to the church and the town and the intrepid people who were faced with the task of deciphering the swirling handwriting. The sun shined over the people that day, but the wind bit the people within.

That day was the door to a wider space, one that would allow us to expand what we were trying to achieve, a collection of stories.

The second chapter was a car boot. One place where there was a greater sense of unknowing. There was a Lady of the Car Boot, collecting bits and bobs, nicks and knacks. There was cake and objects that people could find fascinating. One story told was that of the man who asked “what was being sold?” and in return was “records” to end with “have you got any Elvis”… what a day!

Next chapter was Ripley Music Festival. People of different backgrounds, professions and ages converged together to witness local music. Some visited our bright yellow tent near the playground opposite the stage, a tent that you could see from the end of the street. Filled with documents, maps, performers and archivists that wanted to hear your stories about the man that lived in the butchers at the end of the street from where you lived or that strange women that collected tins of sweets or even about how your cat escaped. It was fascinating. Everyone had a story to tell, most heart-warming of all was a man who had found a relative, one that he knew of but had never seen documentation of and a child who kept coming back for more with the promise of taking our accordion player on Britain’s Got Talent with her!

That day gave us the push that was needed to go into new places.

The final chapter was that of Gamesley. A place that was so closely intermingled yet so far apart. A divide between the new and the old, an estate so close that you could sneeze on one side to be offered a tissue at the other. There was a bucking bronco, barbecue, animals fluffy and feathered gathered together with this bright yellow tent placed in the centre. Stories collected there were intriguing, a man who remembered as a child playing on the tips, collecting circuit boards and taking them home to later in life becoming an electrician in New Zealand. Another of a man who as a boy played in an old hospital for diseases and turned to his mother when realisation kicked in to question “why?!” This was the last of the Amazing Pop Up Archives adventures, but one that rounded everything together. The efforts of the Musician, Storyteller, Poet, Student, Archivist, Photographers and Lecturer joined together to complete a story within its own right.

To end this story, there is the beginning of a new one. One that has become bigger than it was, one that would involve more people, collecting more tales and objects to have a place in history. Wirksworth was the beginning and Gamesley was an end.

But was it really?

We collected stories.

We gained knowledge.

We learned something new.

It’s the beginning of something more….

 

Emily Atkin,

Volunteer, the Amazing Pop Up Archives Project

 

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Dronfield 1917 (in 2017)

Last night, while others spending an evening at school may have been watching the typical (or less typical) Christmas nativity, I was privileged to attend Stonelow Junior School to see the year 6 give a dramatic presentation for Dronfield 2017: Stories from the First World War.

For the last 12 months, the pupils have been researching the history of their town and it’s people, including some of soldiers who fought in the war. With funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and led by the brilliant Gertie and Paul Whitfield from Whitworks Adventures in Theatre, pupils visited different museums, businesses and organisations. In Feb 2017, I visited the school taking a selection of old Dronfield records, photographs and history books to help the pupils with their research.

Posters created by the pupils to show information found from Record Office sources

Informed and inspired by diaries, letters, newspapers, service records, church registers and many other sources, the pupils brought their local “ancestors” to life with poems, songs, a silent movie re-enactment, imagined postcards and letters and recollections from the past. Remembering facts and figures, stories and feelings, it was a fantastic way to present what they had learned – including a verse of Silent Night in the original German.

I couldn’t help but read the pupils project diaries and see what they thought of the Record Office visit…

“… it was a fascinating day I learnt a lot and hope she comes again” – Chloe

“When I was reading I noticed that the writing was squiggly in the log books” – Alexander

“My personal favourite is the church record book. It had in it all the names, birth and their jobs. I felt so privled [?privileged] and excited  to find out what jobs were in 1917. The writing kept going column after column and the writing was big and scary but some of it was so fancy”

You can soon see a copy of the book produced as part of the project in our Local Studies collection and in Dronfield Library.

Adopt A Piece of History discount extended

We’re extending the 50% off discount for our Adopt A Piece of History scheme to Thursday 14 December, so there are still two weeks left to choose that perfect gift. Our Treasures include our oldest document from 1115, a delicious Bakewell Pudding recipe from 1837, an artist’s tool roll, the Eyam Parish Register, a medieval dance notebook (as seen on the example certificate below), a railway plan and many, many more.  And each one of our other records is available for adoption via the Unique and Become a Part of History options – have a look on our catalogue and search for a place, person, date, parish, school or any subject you can think of to see what gems we hold!

Christmas delivery deadlines:

  • Thursday 14 December for Unique Certificates and Become a Part of History
  • Thursday 21 December for one of the Treasures

aph-certificate

 

 

Arch I’ve Conserved

Join us here at the Record Office on Thursday 23 November from 10.30 to 12.00 to celebrate Explore Your Archives week with a talk and demonstration on how we repair paper and parchment documents.  It’s a free event, but with limited places, so booking is essential. The easiest way to book a place is via our Eventbrite page, or call us on 01629 538347.

Please be aware that although the talk will be delivered in a room accessible via a lift,  the conservation studio – where the practical demonstration will be held – is on the second floor and can only be reached via stairs.

Arch poster

 

Christmas shopping made easy

Have you started shopping for presents yet?  It’s that time of year again when we’re all racking our brains, trying to come up with something original for loved ones who already seem to have everything.  To help you be super-organised, we’re offering 50% off our Adopt A Piece of History scheme throughout November. That means that during November:

  • You can adopt any one of our 50 Treasures for only £10.00. They include our oldest record from 1115, a railway plan, a gardening book, a parish register, a beautifully hand-drawn map, ramblers guides, a Rolls Royce photograph, an artist’s tools and many more (see the full list on our 50 Treasures page).  Simply fill in the form, tell us whose name to put on the certificate and we’ll email it to you.

aph-certificate

  • You can adopt anything at all from our collections for only £17.50. The parish register that mentions great-great-grandparents, an old map of a well-loved area, your favourite of our Woodward cartoons, an old school log book – feel free to browse our catalogue for inspiration.  Again, simply fill in the form giving us the reference number and a brief description of the item, as well as the name to put on the certificate, and we’ll email it to you.

 

  • You can let someone become a part of Derbyshire’s history for only £50.00.  Choose any item from our collections and tell us the reason for the adoption.  We will add your reason to the certificate and the adoption itself will be recorded in our official Register of Adopters, thereby immortalising the recipient, you and the reason for the adoption.

aph-cert-100

Full details of the scheme are on our Adopt A Piece of History page.

 

Stitching the Wars

Stitching the Wars was a two-year collaboration between older people in Derbyshire and arts organisation arthur+martha. It is the story of a community that survived two world wars and harsh poverty. It is a kind of documentary, constructed with recollection, poetry and the art of stitching. The project was led by artist Lois Blackburn, who met with local people to devise and stitch two quilts and gather reminiscence. Poet Phillip Davenport then worked with the groups to write poems from these reminiscences. Within the quilts many people speak, in voices rich with experience and feeling. In a sense their work is a history, and these quilts are the page on which it is written.

Stiching the wars

The quilt ‘A Bomber’s Moon’ describes the transforming effect of the First and Second World Wars on rural life. An ancient world of horses and humans is invaded by machines. The quilt is an aerial view of fields and hillsides, perhaps the view from the bomber of the title. Into this ‘landscape’ are sewn words and phrases which link to reminiscences and poems. Most participants were British, but a few were German and they contributed their own war memories. In this way the quilt speaks from both sides of the conflict, reaching towards a common human experience. Maybe this stitching helped to mend a few wounds.

The quilt ‘Fresh Air and Poverty’, describes a quieter war, the struggle everyday people made to keep their families fed and clothed in the years before, during and after the two World Wars. Here we find tramps on the march, children sleeping top to toe in crowded beds, and scrimping and saving is everywhere. But we also find delight in one another’s company; human warmth despite the cold.

Some of the quilt-makers were people with dementia, and it was noticed that stitching in a group, alongside reminiscence conversations, had a rewarding and beneficial effect. Using creativity, colour, touch and companionship to work to an ambitious goal, participants discovered the joy in remembering their early lives. These quilts are a communal act of remembering, a history made by community.

And it tells us: we are all made of this.

An exhibition of the quilts, poetry and reminiscences created throughout the project will be on show at the record office from Wednesday 4th October 2017 to Friday 4th January 2018 (normal opening hours apply).

(Image: Garry Lomas)

The Perils of the Miners’ Pit Head Baths

Among our work, we have been creating a database from Derbyshire National Union of Mineworkers’ tribunal cases relating to illness and injury.  Among the many injuries, illnesses and diseases, were those caused by visits to and working in the pithead baths.

Before the construction of pithead baths at collieries, miners would travel to and from work in dirty, damp clothes. Pithead baths were first discussed by the Mineworkers Federation of Great Britain at its annual conference in 1910 but for many reasons, ranging from worry over illnesses to a proposed charge for using the baths, there was difficulty in persuading miners that pithead baths were needed.

The first baths in Derbyshire were opened at Grassmoor colliery in December 1929. By the late 1930s ten of the county’s collieries, including Markham colliery, had pithead baths. In the late 1940s the Ministry of Fuel and Power decided that every pithead bath should have an attached medical centre. By the beginning of 1947 pithead baths had been built at 366 collieries across the UK with provision for 450,000 men.

The main two groups of injuries and diseases that we have come across resulting from pithead bath use have been slipping and/or falling and skin diseases such as dermatitis and athlete’s foot.

There were strict rules about using the baths (picture courtesy of National Coal Mining Museum for England):Pithead Bath Rules - compressed

Each colliery might have their own set of rules, too.  This is from the Markham Collieries: ‘The Bather’s Handbook’ [1935-1939] (our ref D1920):
a476_7-the-bathers-handbook-markham-colliery-1935x1939

These next two photographs were taken at the National Coal Mining Museum for England near Wakefield, a highly recommended visit.
The pithead baths at this Colliery (no longer in use of course!) certainly put the accidents suffered by both the staff and bath attendants and the miners themselves into context.
lockers

The pithead bath locker rooms could be dangerous places if the miners were eager to get home after their shift!

 

No Money No Soap

A very clear message!

A Happy Adoption

We had a visit from one of our adopters recently, who adopted a parish register last year.  She was thrilled to be able to handle her adopted record and commented on how lovely the certificate is and how wonderful it is to have that extra connection with her past.

aph-certificate

 

If you’d like to adopt one of our fifty treasures or anything else from our collection, either for yourself or as a gift, place your order on our Adopt A Piece of History page.

 

Digitising History

Have you ever worried that your old letters, certificates, photographs, maps and diaries are getting damaged whenever you handle them?  You want to share them with the family, give everyone the opportunity to connect with long-gone relatives, but you can see creases gradually turning into tears. And what about those framed photographs hanging on the walls?  They are fading in the light, changing gradually, getting irrevocably damaged.  The best way to keep all these treasures safe, is to make copies: this allows you to store the originals out of harm’s way, while the copies can be handled and displayed. With a digital copy you can even print off as many duplicates as you like, as often as you need them.

We have been copying our records in order to protect them for a long time, and I’m pleased to say that we’ve opened up our copying service to everyone, from individuals to heritage organisations: we can now digitise your history for you.

Digitising history image

Our experienced staff, using the same equipment they use for all the historic records we hold, are able to digitise:

  • diaries, journals and other bound volumes
  • letters, certificates and other documents
  • photographs
  • maps and plans
  • drawings, watercolours and prints

What are the advantages of trusting Derbyshire Record Office with your family’s history?

  • We have a state of the art digitisation system, including a book cradle for safely copying bound volumes.
  • Our staff are highly trained in handling delicate historic records.
  • Whilst in our care, you records will be kept safe in one of our secure archive stores.
  • We provide high quality images of at least 300 pixels per inch (ppi).
  • We give you the choice between TIFF files, which have a very high resolution but take up a lot of space and can be slow to open, or Jpegs, which have a smaller resolution, but take up a lot less space.
  • We put the images on a CD for you for free, or for a small charge on a USB stick

To ask for a quote, simply fill in a Digitising History quote request form on our website.