Being Human is the UK’s only national festival of the humanities. The festival showcases how humanities researchers work every day on issues that shape the world that we live in.
The 7th annual Being Human Festival takes place between 12-22 November with the theme of ‘New Worlds’, perfectly timed to reflect on the radical global changes of 2020. The festival is led by the School of Advanced Study, University of London, in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the British Academy.
This year sees Derby as a festival hub. As a festival hub the University of Derby is hosting a series of online events celebrating Derbyshire’s rich heritage as a global industrial powerhouse. The University of Derby‘s hub programme is rooted in partnerships with museums, archives and schools, and will include digital illustrated talks, ‘draw-along’s, public performances and ‘citizen curating’ of some of Derbyshire’s collections. The record office is delighted to be taking part in some of these events. See the University of Derby’s website for more information on this year’s festival events
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.
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.
In our Franklin collection we’ve come across this scrapbook:
It was most likely put together by Lady Jane Franklin herself, although we don’t know whether she gave it the rather fabulous title of ‘Arctic scraps’. It is full of newspaper cuttings, prints, and other material related to the efforts to find the missing expedition.
It also includes posters offering rewards for helping in the search: Lady Jane herself offered £3000 to whaling ships willing to take part and the UK government even offered £20,000. The National Archives has a handy currency converter, which tells us that this equates to approximately £240,500 and £1,6 million in today’s money!
We don’t have a £20,000 reward on offer, but we do have a selection of rewards for you to choose from if you donate to our crowdfunding campaign. And if you choose the Behind the Scenes Tour, we’ll even add in a cup of tea and some nice biscuits…
Within the collection of objects that we’ve called ‘Lady Jane’s Museum’ there are three beautiful fans which may have belonged to Lady Jane Franklin or to the Gell family from Hopton Hall. According to an expert at The Fan Museum in Greenwich, the oldest one dates from the seventeenth century:
In the earlier part of the seventeenth century the most commonly used fans were ‘fixed’ and consisted of feathers set into a handle. Later on in the century folded, hand-painted fans, such as the one above, gained in popularity; by the end of the century the folded fans had completely superseded the fixed ones.
Next is an early eighteenth century fan; by this time folding fans were very popular and were being made all over Europe and imported from the Far East:
The third fan dates from around 1805-1810 and is a brisé ivory fan. This type of fan consists only of decorative sticks, with no pleated fabric attached:
The sticks of brisé fans are usually intricately carved and held together with a ribbon which is either glued to each stick, or – as in this case- threaded through pierced openings. The carvings were meant to give the illusion of filigree or lace.
Our fabulous fans are in great condition considering their age and we’ll heed the Fan Museum’s advice by storing them closed in museum boxes. If you’d like to help us look after them, as well as the other objects in Lady Jane’s Museum, you can donate on our crowdfunding page or call our reception on 01629 538347.
A week and a half into our crowdfunding campaign we’ve already raised £565! Every little nudge that will get us closer to our £1000 goal is much appreciated.
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.
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.
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).
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…
Lady Jane Franklin has inspired us to try something new – can you guess from our teaser what it is?
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?
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.
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 latest exhibition on display at the record office throws light on some of the most important people in life of Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin, each with their own fascinating story.
Jane Griffin, later to be Lady Jane Franklin, drawn by Amelie Romilly while on holiday in Geneva in 1816
Keskarrah and Green Stockings, from John Franklin’s “A Journey to the Shores of the Polar Sea”, published 1823
There are his two wives, the poetic Eleanor, who died tragically young, and the formidable Jane, Lady Franklin, one of the celebrities of the Victorian age. There is also his daughter Eleanor, together with her clergyman husband John Philip Gell and their talented children.
There are also his friends and colleagues, noted explorers in their own right, such as Sir Edward Parry, Sir John Ross and Sir Leopold McClintock and John Rae, as well as people who briefly but spectacularly crossed his path such as the native North American known as Miss Green Stockings.
Items on display include (possibly) one of the last letters written by John Franklin, dated 6 July 1845. 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.
Visit us to see this and many more items associated with this fascinating individual and his incredible story.
This free exhibition runs from 23rd May – 13th September.
Derbyshire Record Office