Derbyshire Heritage Awards Success!

Our Mining the Archives project won the Behind the scenes at the museum category of the 2016  Derbyshire Heritage Awards!  A big thank you to the judges for appreciating the quality of the work, to the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust for their funding and to Clare Mosley, Madeleine Marshall and Ian Maver for their hard work and expertise.

 

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Lien Gyles and Sarah Chubb receiving the award

 

Congratulations also to our colleagues at Buxton Museum, who won the Young people in heritage category, and to all organisations who entered projects. The evening highlighted the imagination, creativity, determination and enthusiasm that thrives throughout the heritage sector in Derbyshire – a full list of winners and highly commended projects is on the Facebook page of the Derbyshire Museums and Heritage Forum.

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All the winners and Highly Recommended projects

A busy week with some interesting finds

As you may know we are constantly adding “new” material to our collections (some of it new, i.e. recent, especially in local studies, and some of it much older). It is rare to go more than 3 or 4 days without accessioning new material, this was a little exceptional though with 7 new and additional  archive deposits and gifts in just 2 days.

Some of this was fairly typical of the material we take in on a regular basis, for example, late 20th and early 21st century school governors minutes. Some was was a little less typical and I got a little excitable as I looked through these new accessions to produce a summary for the official receipt and online catalogue.

One of the key professional duties of an archivist is to undertake an initial assessment of material that is being offered (whether it is being offered as a donation or a deposit, where the organisation offering the records remains the owner and the Record Office acts acts the custodian). We then summarise and describe the records and record in our database where the material has come from. This is known as as the accessioning process, and also involves assigning a running number to each new accession in addition to giving it a catalogue collection number. If we already have other records relating to the same collection (for example, in the case of a parish, school or business), we use the existing “D” reference number. If this is the first accession of material for a particular collection it is also assigned the next “D” reference (we have almost reached D8000 by the way).

Once we have entered all the necessary information into the database (which may also include information about access restrictions and copyright, amongst other things), we produce an Accession Receipt for the donor/depositor to sign along with the duty archivist. Both parties then each have a copy of the receipt.

Screenshot of our internal database for recording accessions and catalogues, showing list of accessions received on 14 July 2016

The next stage is to add information about the new accession to our online catalogue so that people know what we have. Very occasionally, if the new accession is quite small and individual records easily identified, we can add individual catalogue entries for each record and assign it a unique reference number. I was actually able able to do this on two occasions this week, for new material that came in from the Parish of Draycott and a separate accession from Ilkeston St Marys Mothers’ Union.

When it is not possible for this to happen a summary of the new accession is added under ‘Description’ at home collection level entry on the catalogue until full cataloguing and number if can take place in the future. This is what I have done with the rest of the new accessions received last week.

So what new accessions did we receive this week? Can you guess which ones I was particularly excited about?

On Monday, two boxes of governors records arrived from Aston-on-Trent Primary School (ref: D6701) this was by far the largest deposit and contained a large number of documents that are not required or considered appropriate for permanent preservation in the archives. I undertook an initial assessment of which files contained archive material, returning those that didn’t to the school this week. The remaining files have now gone to be processed by our Records Assistants, checked, boxed and added to our archive strongrooms. However, as only the initial assessment has yet been completed, further appraisal will be required to identify other material within the files not appropriate for permanent preservation – for example there are a number of duplicates of items and publications from other bodies that do not relate to the school.

On Thursday, the first to arrive were were the minutes and reports from the Ilkeston St Marys Mothers’ Union, which sadly disbanded earlier this year. This material has already been fully catalogued and added to the existing collection under the reference D4603. Two deposits were received from the Parish of Wilne with Draycott, including an original Register of Apprentices for Draycott, 1804-1816 (ref: D2513/5), an apparently very comprehensive survey and valuation of the whole of Draycott, including names of owners and occupiers, produced by William Cox in 1810 (ref: D2513/6) – see images below.

The deposit for Wilne (the mother church to Draycott) was much larger and generally much more recent, including for example, Parochial Church Council minutes 1993-2004, inspection reports, inventories of 1908 and 1935 and papers relating to various works and improvements undertaken between the 1950s and 2000s  (although these latter files will be appraised further as part of the cataloguing process – see my post in February “to keep or not to keep”) – ref: D2513. The star of the accession was undoubtedly the addition of the parish copy of the Wilne Tithe Map and Award of 1847-1848. Although we already hold the Diocesan copy of these important and incredibly useful records, Wilne was one of the few Derbyshire parishes for which we were not also protecting and preserving the parish copy. Nevertheless, the parish had clearly been taking good care of it as it is in very good condition:

Parish copy of the Wilne Tithe Map and Award 1847-1848 (D2513)

We also took in a small collection of printed items (see picture above), with a couple of photographs and news cuttings, relating to William Rhodes Junior School (later, and now, Primary School), donated by a friend and former colleague of the teacher who collected them during her employment there from the late 1960s to her retirement in 1983. Although not yet fully catalogued this material has been added to collection D5234, which also includes log books and admission registers for the infants and juniors from the 1930s.

Finally, we had two donations via the British Cave Research Association Library in Ashbourne. The first consisted of the only collection of material specifically relating to the Peak Forest Mining Company, including letter books and accounts from the late 19th century (ref: D7981). This material had once been in the possession of a past member of the Association (formerly the British Speleological Association), Mr Peter Crabtree, who passed away in 2003. And it was the research and other papers of Mr Crabtree that complete our list of new accessions received  (ref: D7982).

Mining the Archives Project – Conservation finished

For those of you who followed Clare’s posts about the work she was doing on our two very badly damaged lead mining account books: the conservation is now finished.  Clare went on maternity leave a few months ago (a boy!), but we were lucky enough to be able to recruit newly qualified paper conservator Madeleine Marshall to finish off the project.  Clare’s last post described how she washed all the pages of the 18th century volume, so let me explain what happened next…

Once all the pages were clean, they needed to be repaired so they would be safe to be handled again.  You can see in the photographs how Madeleine carefully needles out infills for the missing areas – basically we put new hand made paper where the original paper has crumbled away. We also sandwich the page between two sheets of very thin tissue, made from manila fibres, which gives it extra strength without obscuring the writing.  To stick it all together we make up our own adhesive, wheat starch paste, so we don’t add any potentially damaging chemicals to the documents.

 

D307 B 19 1 Maddie repairs 03

Needling out the repair

 

D307 B 19 1 Maddie repairs 01

Laying the repair in its place

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The repaired pages are then re-assembled in their book sections and re-sewn:

D307 B 19 1 repaired sections trimmed 02

The repaired sections

 

D307 B 19 1 re-sewing

Sewing the textblock

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once we have our textblock we attach new boards:

D307 B 19 1 re-binding

Then we cover the book in book cloth:

D307 B 19 1 boards covered 01

The newly covered book drying out under weights

 

 

During the project we managed to turn this jigsaw puzzle

D7925 puzzling the pieces

Clare puzzling the pieces

 

into these readable sheets

D7925 after repairs

Fragments we couldn’t place with 100% certainty have been encapsulated, so they can still be examined

 

and this disintegrating book

D307 B 19 1 volume before repairs

into this readable one

D307 B 19 1 rebound

If you’d like to see either the actual volumes or their digitised images, ask for D7925 (the 19th century former jigsaw puzzle) and D307/B/19/1 (the 18th century rebound volume).

We remain grateful to the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust for their funding.

Nellie Kirkham: archives of busy local historian

It was in November this year that we heard from Dave Williams of the Peak District Mines Historical Society, to say that the Society had recently taken on responsibility for the papers of the historian, artist and writer Nellie Kirkham (1896-1979).  Dave, and other active members of PDMHS, were anxious to find a permanent home for the papers, lest the information contained in Kirkham’s research notes be lost to future generations.

Dave brought in box-files, folders, and index cards at regular intervals over subsequent weeks.  The final lot of material came in metal trays that had been removed from a filing cabinet:

Empty trays Two trays

I then began the process of transferring the papers to our own folders.  I shouldn’t really have used the acid-free folders until the papers had gone through our quarantine procedures, but they were all I could lay hands on at the time!  They may well be replaced by custom-built packages later on.  Here’s Dave standing next to some of the last batch of material:

Dave Williams of PDMHS

When we accept collections of personal papers, we like to furnish the catalogue with basic biographical information in the Administrative History section, so I have done a bit of digging.  I started out with an obituary penned by Douglas Nash for the October 1979 issue of the PDMHS Bulletin.  I recommend following the link embedded in the previous sentence if you want to know more about her working life – but be warned that the date of publication appears on the top of the page as October 1978, when it should say 1979.  Note the assertion that some of Nellie Kirkham’s best stuff never made it into print: this is precisely why the archive is so valuable – although how easy it will be to retrieve information from it remains to be seen!  Her published output also was very considerable: if you look for Nellie Kirkham’s works on Amazon, you will find a large number of titles – but most of them out of print.  Happily, however, there is a large number of Nellie Kirkham books on the library catalogue, which makes them very accessible.

Mr Nash also makes mention of Nellie Kirkham’s work as an artist and illustrator in the 1920s.  If you want to see some examples of her artistic works, you can see them on the Bonhams website, from an old auction catalogue.  They are rather lovely, and very evocative of their time.

The obit gives Nellie’s married name as Mrs J H D Myatt, although she always published under her maiden name.  I found on www.freebmd.org.uk that a marriage between Nellie Kirkham and James H D Myatt was registered in the Stoke-on-Trent district in the second quarter of 1928.   Registration indexes also show that there was a James Harold Douglas Myatt, who was born on 9 December 1889 in the Stoke-on-Trent district, and whose death was registered in the same place in the first quarter of 1980.  On the 1911 census he appears as a 21-year old dental assistant, living with his parents on London Road in Stoke.  If anyone believes this to be the wrong J H D Myatt, please let me know!

The PDMHS obituary gives Nellie Kirkham’s date of death as 28 May 1979, from which I was able to find the relevant entry on the death index, which gives her date of birth as 28 August 1897.  However, her birth was actually registered in the final quarter of 1896, in the Stoke-on-Trent district.  (I’m grateful to Joan Fleet for spotting this: it’s an entry that does not reveal itself on Freebmd but does show up on Ancestry.)

The 1901 census shows only one really decent match for her, and that’s Nellie Kirkham, daughter of earthenware manufacturer Harold G. Kirkham and his wife Agnes, who lived at “Gladwyn”, Minton Place, Stoke.  It may be pure coincidence, but I note that the family had a servant by the name of Myatt!  The family is at the same address on the 1911 census.  One feature of this census which proves very useful to historians is that married couples were asked how many children they had ever had, and how many of those were still living.   In the case of the Kirkham household, we can see that they had only ever had two children, so Nellie’s only sibling was her sister Daphne.   Nellie herself was not at home on census night, but there is a Nellie Kirkham of the right age and birthplace at Queenwood Ladies’ College in Eastbourne.  At present, the list of notable former pupils to be found on Wikipedia includes only the one name, that of the actor Martita Hunt (1900-1969).  Hunt was not a contemporary of Kirkham, and can’t have stayed at Queenwood for long, as she apparently only arrived at the age of 20 – whereas on census night in 1911, the oldest pupil was 19.  If I knew enough about editing Wikipedia pages and had some spare time, I would be tempted to add Nellie Kirkham to the list, citing this very blog post as the requisite published source.  If you are an avid Wikipedian, feel free!

We already had a small Nellie Kirkham collection (D5675), which we accepted in 2002, so I arranged to allocate the same collection reference number to the incoming material.  I noticed that D5675 was unlisted, so added some rudimentary details to the catalogue – it comprised a bundle of her handwritten poems.  This leads me on to two final points:

  • I have been adding descriptions of the material to the catalogue each time a new accession comes in.  You can read the D5675 list straight away, but the material is still going through our quarantine procedures so may not be available immediately.  Contact us if you would like access to it.  The list will hopefully be fleshed out in the course of time, as it is very low on detail just now.
  • Dave did just the right thing by contacting us to discuss the possibility of passing this material on to us, and arranging an appointment each time there was a new accession to come in.  If you have something you want to let us have, please follow this fine example!  The process of accessioning new records is a time-consuming one, which must be fitted in around the other duties of busy day – a Duty Archivist’s heart sinks at the sight of a depositor arriving unannounced and laden with boxes and bags.

 

 

 

 

 

Mining the Archives exhibition

If you’ve been following Clare’s posts about the conservation work she’s been doing on lead mining related documents, you’ll be interested to know that our current exhibition features this project.  You can see how Clare has carried out repairs and we even have some of the pieces of 18th century lead we found tucked away in the pages of the account book on display.  The other half of the exhibition shows how the conservation team looks after our collections, making sure they don’t get eaten by pests, destroyed by mould or damaged in any other way while they’re in our care.

Clare was interviewed about the project and exhibition by Andy Potter from Radio Derby last week.  You can listen to the programme on the BBC website; the interview starts about 1 hour and 43 minutes into the show.

This free exhibition is on in our reception’s Vitrine Wall until Saturday 30 January, during normal opening hours.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mining the Archives Project – Talk

Mining the Archives Poster

As part of the Mining the Archives Project, I will be giving a talk at Derbyshire Record Office on Friday 30th October 10.30am-12.00noon, all about the conservation work I have done on the project so far.

If you would like to find out more about exactly how I’ve conserved and preserved these fantastic historical documents, and also see them in the flesh, then come along!

Its free, but you will need to book a place via our Eventbrite page by following this link: Eventbrite Mining the Archives Talk

or call the Record Office on 01629 538347

Mining the Archives Project – Conservation Update

I’ve been busy working away on the mining the archives project and thought I would give a quick update on what’s been happening to that volume we found all the lead deposits in…

The 18th Century account book of Robert Thornhill (D307/B/19/1) has now been dismantled and cleaned. The cleaning process was very delicate as the edges of the pages are very fragile. Each page has been lightly surface cleaned using a ‘smoke sponge’ which is designed especially for conservation cleaning, and then brushed gently with a very soft Japanese brush.

The next step in preparing the pages for repairs is to wash them… yes really! It may seem like a strange thing to do, but we actually give each page a bath in a tray of water! This removes damaging dirt and impurities, and also re-invigorates the paper fibres giving it additional strength. The inks are tested for solubility first, as we don’t want to lose any of the information. The pages are given support whilst they are in the water using insect netting, and with a bit of care can be handled easily when wet.

washing 1

Documents in a bath of water

washing 2

Insect netting supports the documents so they can be handled when wet

washing 4

Before and after washing

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Dirty water remains!

After a good soak, the pages are removed from the bath and are left to air dry individually on pieces of thick blotting paper. Once dry they are ready for repairs to be carried out.

Treasure 25: The John Wheatcroft Plan of the Hubberdale Possessions, 1840

This treasure has been suggested by one of our regulars, researcher Steve Thompson.  He is the author of the text which follows.

D3266/92 is a very fine lead mining plan indeed, entitled “Plan of the Pipes and Rakes in the Hubberdale Title Within the Townships of Taddington & Flagg in the Queens Field and Hundred of High Peak by John Wheatcroft in June 1840”.  This very large plan, a little over eight feet by six feet, is drawn on a scale of 1 inch to 50 yards (1:1800), and demonstrates a very high standard of draughtsmanship. Continue reading

Mining the Archives… Literally!

I never thought that during this project I would literally be mining the archives… until this week when I began work on dismantling the 18th Century account book of Robert Thornhill, and to my surprise, hidden between the pages, I discovered what appeared to be deposits of lead!

D307 B 19 1 Lead particles found in between pages (1)

D307 B 19 1 Lead particles found in between pages (5)

This caused quite a scare for our health and safety team – Lead is a highly poisonous metal, and if it is inhaled or swallowed it can cause serious damage to the nervous system or brain. This being so, I stopped working on the book immediately, and our health and safety manager rushed to the scene to advise us on how to proceed.

Lead is dangerous if it is inhaled or ingested, but to inhale it the particles must be very fine and dust-like. Luckily the particles of lead we found were relatively large, and there was no evidence of dust, so we were told we were safe to proceed with precautions – wearing a mask, gloves and protective clothing; hand washing and proper disposal of the gloves and masks; and ensuring that the work area is cleared of all debris with Hepa filter vacuum cleaner…

D307 B 19 1 dismantling and numbering sections (1)

…Panic over!

However, in the midst of all this excitement, we had a thought…  the discovery of lead in this account book might tell us something about its history – the environment in which it was written, and where the work was carried out. We have collected samples of the lead and debris from the guttering of the pages and are hoping to get these tested using Infrared Spectrometry, a method of analysing the samples to identify the substances present. The findings could give us more clues about the provenance of the book, and lead mining history in general, which would potentially be valuable information for researchers.

Who knew this long neglected account book would cause such a stir?!

 

 

 

Mining the Archives Project – Conservation Update

I have now completed the bulk of the conservation work on  D248: Barmaster’s Lot and Cope account books, 1831-1870. Here are some of the repaired pages:

IMG_8521

IMG_8522

It really has made such a difference to all those pages which were in many pieces, as they can now be handled safely. The final few pages we came across in this pack were slightly different in appearance and texture to the others, and we think there may have already been some historic conservation procedures carried out on them which now requires some extra special treatment.

Whilst we investigate and decide what to do with the above, in the meantime I have begun work on the next document identified as part of the project; D307/B/19/1: Account book/ledger of Robert Thornhill, 1768 – 1829.

book

This 18th Century account book is still in its original, parchment-covered binding, which has considerable damage from a damp storage environment.  The book has suffered extensively from damp penetration, leaving the edge of every page extremely fragile and crumbling away. In its current condition this item cannot be used by researchers, as turning the pages will result in significant loss of information.

D307 B 19 1 crumbling pages 1D307 B 19 1 back end leavesD307 B 19 1 text block edge damage close up 2

Before I can repair the pages, the first job is to very carefully take the whole book apart. Each page will then be cleaned and washed before repairs are carried out. The original binding is too badly damaged to be re-used, so it will be kept with the item as part of the collection, and the repaired pages will be re-bound in a new binding.

So… scalpel at the ready, I will update you on how dismantling it goes!