Repairing the Richardson letters

In our Franklin collection is an album containing about a hundred letters, mainly written by Sir John Franklin (1786-1847) to his good friend and fellow arctic explorer, Sir John Richardson (1787-1865). The letters had been stuck into the album with a shiny, translucent tape, which had also been used to carry out repairs. In order to ensure the long-term survival of these letters we decided to remove them from the album: many were loose already and at risk of falling out, and the tape was causing further damage to the paper.

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We carried out a few tests on the repair tape and found that the adhesive was water soluble. The inks used were stable in water, so we were able to wash the letters and remove all remnants of the tape this way. An additional benefit to having washed the letters is that it has flushed out all kinds of dirt and degradation that had become ingrained in the paper, and it has re-invigorated the paper fibres, making the letters feel stronger again.

All the letters have now been repaired with handmade conservation repair paper and wheat starch paste. Here are some examples of letters before, during and after the process:

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In case you were wondering, if in a few hundred years’ time one of our successors wants to remove these repairs in order to treat the letters with whatever amazing technique that may be available then, all they will need to do is wash them again and all our repairs will simply float off.

We have of course saved the original album as part of the collection – if you would like to see it and the letters, just pop in and ask for D8760/F/FJR/1/1/1-92. Or have a look on our catalogue for a description of their contents, as they are full of fascinating information about Franklin’s expeditions, his time in Tasmania, and his home life. But as we are in Matlock, my favourite snippet has to be this from 13 June 1823:

D8760 F FJR 1 1 5 Matlock

‘I went up today to Matlock, and was much delighted with the scenery. I think it equals in richness and the picturesque anything I have seen – though it is not so grand as some we have beheld in America. Mrs Richardson will be gratified to learn that its prettiest parts reminded me of different spots in Scotland.’ (D8760/F/FJR/1/1/5)

Looking out of my window as I type this, with the tops of the hills shrouded in mist, I can only agree!

 

Historic Derbyshire maps available online

With the new Derbyshire Heritage Mapping Portal you can now see how the Derwent Valley from Derby to Matlock has changed over the last 200 years.  Featuring selected maps from the collections at the record office, the portal enables free access to digital copies of the maps and an “overlay” feature so you can see the present and the past at the same time:

1811 estate map (ref: D769/B/11/3) of Kedleston Road, Derby laid over current Ordnance Survey map

Watch this video to discover what you can find on the portal:

 

Although there only a handful of maps are available at the moment (out of the thousands in the collections), we hope that we will be able to add many more to eventually cover the whole county – so something to look forward to for 2020 and beyond!

The biggest map in the collection is over 4.5 metres long and over 3 metres wide (ref: D1564/3)

The portal was made possible with funding from Heritage Fund and the Arts Council, with the tremendous effort and support of Derbyshire County Council’s GIS Officer, the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site Co-ordinator and several volunteers who helped to identify the maps for digitisation, and provide additional descriptive information for the online catalogue.

Thanks must also go to the creators and benefactors of the original maps, not only for their existence in the first place, but also for the detail and accuracy with which they surveyed the land and produced the maps – the success of the overlaid images is entirely credit to their incredible skills.

 

Canadian Red Cross Special Hospital Buxton 1915 – 1919

A hundred years ago this year, the building that now houses Buxton Museum was just winding up as a military hospital for Canadian First World War servicemen. Buxton Museum have just posted some fascinating new research about the museum’s hospital years.

Buxton Museum and Art Gallery

The building that Buxton Museum and Art Gallery is housed in has a varied past, beginning its existence as a spa hotel in the 1800s before becoming a museum in the 1920s. It also had a brief lesser-known role as a war hospital. Derbyshire Museums Manager Ros Westwood sheds light on this dim chapter of Peak Building’s history:

We are often asked about the role of this building in the First World War.

Peak Buildings

The museum was built in about 1875 as a hydropathic hotel, offering cold water treatments. By 1915 the Peak Hotel was (again) up for sale. The Canadian Red Cross Society secured a lease to establish the Canadian Red Cross Convalescent Hospital, No 2, Buxton

The Canadian Red Cross Hospital, Buxton opened in May 1916, under the command of Lt. Col. H.D. Johnson C.A.M.C.  He would soon be relieved by Major F. Guest (later Lt. Col.) and in…

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Opening hours consultation

Between 11 November and 22 December 2019, we will be consulting about reducing our opening hours from 30 to 22.5 hours a week.

Derbyshire County Council’s budget continues to face huge pressures, with greater demands on adult social care and services for vulnerable children.  The council’s budget for the coming year is around £500 million, with a savings target of £33.4 million.

At its meeting on 11 September 2019 our Cabinet agreed a new Five Year Financial Plan
for the County Council and this included a range of budget savings proposals. One of the areas identified was a review of opening hours and staffing levels at the Record Office to achieve savings of £60,000.

We are now consulting over proposals to reduce the opening hours by a day a week. There is no proposal to change the current pattern of Saturday opening.

Please make sure you have your say, either by filling in a paper consultation form at the Record Office or online at: www.derbyshire.gov.uk/recordofficeconsultation before the closing date of 22 December 2019.

 

Did You Know?

Before July 1912, the original copyright holder was the creator of the photo, i.e. the photographer. Surely not a surprise.

However between July 1912 and July 1989, the original copyright holder was the owner of the material on which the image was taken, i.e. the negative. This could be a corporate body such as Magnum Photos. So the creativity in taking the photo no longer mattered!

Fortunately, for the photographer, since August 1989 copyright law again regarded them as the creators, and therefore the original copyright holders.

Copyright is never as simple as you think. If you don’t know the date of the photo, you might be trying to trace the wrong source for permission to reproduce the image.

Photographer

Inspired by Franklin…

The hidden talents of the Record Office team have been stirred… inspired by the Sir John Franklin story some of our staff members have specially recorded some traditional music to accompany our new online exhibition for Google Arts and Culture.

The tradition of singing, or chanting, of sea shanties and ballads aboard ships flourished during the 19th century. Long journeys at sea and repetitive hard work were alleviated by the singing of hauling and working songs, alongside tales of tragedy and loves lost documented in tunes and laments. ‘Handsome Molly’ is an old-time banjo and fiddle tune with a maritime theme, and this fantastic version has been recorded for us by ukulele player and singer Mark Psmith (our records manager!).

‘I wish I was in Londond3311drawing03-copy
Or some other seaport town
I’d set my foot on a steamboat
And sail the ocean round

While sailing around the ocean
While sailing around the sea
I think of Handsome Molly
Wherever she may be’

 

 

Folk music has long taken inspiration from historical tales, and what better than a story that meets such a haunting end as that of Franklin and his crew. ‘Lady Franklin’s lament’ is a traditional folk ballad, which first appeared as a broadside ballad around 1850. It speaks from the perspective of a sailor on board a ship, who dreams about Lady Franklin and her plight to find her lost husband.

Franklin

‘We were homeward bound one night on the deep
Swinging in my hammock I fell asleep
I dreamed a dream and I thought it true
Concerning Franklin and his gallant crew

With a hundred seamen he sailed away
To the frozen ocean in the month of May
To seek a passage around the pole
Where we poor sailors do sometimes go’

 

This version was recorded by folk singer and musician Ewan D Rodgers and features vocals and whistle playing by Clare (our assistant conservator!).

 

 

 

Discovering Franklin catalogue online

Three cheers!  The brand new catalogue of our material relating to Sir John Franklin, his family and friends, can now be viewed on our online catalogue in collection D8760.

discovering franklin

Archives Revealed funding and the help of volunteers has enabled us to catalogue in much greater detail than we normally would.  This means there are now four times more catalogue entries than there were before!    That’s a lot to browse through, so if you’d like to search the Franklin material instead, click on ‘Search our catalogue’, put ‘D8760*’ (don’t forget the asterisk at the end) into the ‘Reference number’ box, and then add your keywords into the ‘Any Text’ box at the top.  You can also add a date range to narrow down your search.

Over 1000 letters have also been exported into a spreadsheet.  If you are interested in Franklin, or just 19th century letters in general, the spreadsheet enables you to keyword search all the letters at once, or sort and filter them as you like.  You can download this as a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet here: Derbyshire Record Office D8760 letters with transcriptions.

Many thanks go to Neil Bettridge, our project archivist, and the volunteers who put so much hard work into this project.  Although the cataloguing project has now technically finished, we still have volunteers transcribing the letters and will continue adding to and improving the catalogue with more transcriptions and indexing as we have the time.

There are lots more stories to tell from the collection so this won’t be the last you hear about Franklin from us!  And don’t forget that you can also view some of the Franklin items and a couple of online exhibitions about them on Google Arts and Culture.

New online exhibitions

We’re excited to announce that Derbyshire Record Office has partnered with Google Arts and Culture to showcase highlights from our collections on the Google Arts and Culture website.  If you weren’t aware of Google Arts and Culture before, it features art works, objects and documents from over 1200 museums and archives around the world.

On the Derbyshire Record Office Google Arts and Culture page you can see 175 images that show off the huge variety of items that we hold.  There are also three online exhibitions to enjoy:

Franklin exhibit snip crop

The Last Voyage of Sir John Franklin links with our ‘Discovering Franklin’ project and tells the story of Franklin’s 1845 expedition to the Arctic which ended in tragedy.

 

 

Lady Jane exhibit snip crop

In Lady Jane’s Museum you can see all the objects which formed part of our recent crowdfunding project to package and photograph the objects in the Gell / Franklin family collection.

 

 

Treasures exhibit snip crop

And finally, you can take a look at A Selection of Derbyshire Treasures which gives a closer view of a few of the 50 treasures that have previously featured on this blog.

 

 

We have lots of ideas for more exhibitions and images to add to Google Arts and Culture so our content will continue to grow.  If you have any ideas for what you’d like to see added, let us know in the comments below.

 

Weird Derbyshire and Peakland

If you’re interested in Derbyshire customs and folklore then take a trip to Buxton Museum and Art Gallery this autumn, where a free exhibition called ‘Weird Derbyshire and Peakland’ is on until 9 November. The exhibition features photographs by Richard Bradley, author of ‘Secret Chesterfield’ and ‘Secret Matlock and Matlock Bath’ so if you’re inspired to find out more, you can pick up the books at your local library.

Buxton Museum and Art Gallery

Derbyshire – and the Peak District, which spills over into the neighbouring counties of Cheshire, Staffordshire, Greater Manchester and South and West Yorkshire – has one of the highest concentrations of calendar customs in the UK. These encompass everything from rituals of very ancient (possibly Pagan) origin like the well dressings and the Castleton Garland Ceremony; to more modern alternative annual sporting contests dreamed up over a pint or three down the local pub. Examples of the latter include Bonsall Hen Racing, the Mappleton Bridge Jump, the Great Kinder Beer Barrel Challenge and the World Championship Toe Wrestling Championships.

DSCF0980 copyright Richard Bradley

The area is peppered with ancient stone circles such as Arbor Low and the Nine Ladies, which provide a strong ritual focus into the 21st Century, drawing visitors from around the world seeking answers to their own individual questions. In addition, a number of unusual old carvings…

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