May was a busy month for our outreach team as this was the first year that the Record Office took part in the Derbyshire Literature Festival. This was the 7th Derbyshire Literature festival organised by Derbyshire County Council which takes place every two years, and this year’s programme was exciting as ever, with more than 65 events happening in libraries and other venues across the county.
The Record Office contributed 3 events to the programme:
‘Ask the Archivist’
An open day for those interested in historical research, whether it was advice on how to get started or how to get to the next step. We had a great display of original material from our collections for visitors to read and we were very keen, as in all our events, to give people the opportunity to get hands on with the documents. In this display we included material showing the range of material we hold, from prisoner records to a letter from Florence Nightingale, and our oldest records (we think!) a deed dating c. 1115.
‘Melbourne in the Archives’
An exhibition of historical records from the John Joseph Briggs collection (an author, poet, naturalist & historian from Melbourne) with the chance to read aloud from a selection of material from the exhibition and discuss and talk about the material.
The exhibition featured letters, extracts, books, poems & illustrations concerning Melbourne local history. The originals were on display and used during the read aloud session, which was enjoyed by all, and led to a relaxed and interesting group discussion.
We received some lovely comments:
‘Reading and Writing from the Archives with Sara Sheridan’
This session focused on how writers might use archive material as inspiration for creative writing and comprised of a full day of workshops, talks and activities. We took along a large amount of original material, which provided examples of how you might use archives for writing, whether that was for characters or events, for accuracy, or what was like to live at that time – archives enabling writers to be authentic and true to the period.
Participants were encouraged to use the documents to answer questions on how they might use the material and how to interpret them. We also had activities including guessing a mystery document, and using images from Picture the Past to inspire ideas for stories or poems.
Following the Record Office session we had a workshop by the author Sara Sheridan who had come down from Edinburgh for the event. Sara gave an extremely engaging talk on how she used archive material in her writing, and gave advice to the participants (most of whom were writing their own works) about how to write effectively for publication.
More information about Sara’s writing can be found on her website: http://www.sarasheridan.com/