Mother’s Day Surprise!

Still looking for that perfect gift for Mother’s Day?  How about the parish register that shows the baptism or wedding of her ancestors?  Or a map of the area she grew up in, or the admission register of the school she went to? Perhaps she loves dancing, walking, trains, cooking, gardening, sport or art? Why not have a look at our Adopt A Piece Of History scheme and give her the chance to help protect her own and Derbyshire’s history.

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And because it’s such a special occasion, we’ll waive our usual delivery times – just send through your order for any type of certificate and pay for it by noon on Friday 24th March, and your personalised certificate will be in your inbox by noon on Saturday 25th March.

 

That special Christmas present

If you’re planning to surprise someone this Christmas by letting them adopt a piece of history from our collections, don’t wait too long to place your order through our Adopt a Piece of History page.  We guarantee delivery by 23 December for any order placed by Friday 16 December and for all orders from our list of Favourites placed by Thursday 22 December.

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Our Favourites include our oldest document dating from 1115, a notebook with a recipe for Bakewell Pudding from 1837, the plan of the railway line to Mapperley Colliery, a letter written by Florence Nightingale, a Victorian shirt printed by Edmund Potter and many others – see the full list here.  Or choose any item from our catalogue with our Unique option to give them something more personal, such as the parish register that includes their ancestors or a logbook of the school they went to.

And of course there’s our Become a Part of Derbyshire’s History scheme, whereby you don’t only choose any item from our collections for your loved one to adopt, you also tell us the reason why.  Their name and yours, as well as the reason for the adoption, will be added to our Register of Adopters, an official Derbyshire Record Office document which will be kept as part of our archive for future generations to see.

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Find out all the details and how to order on the Support Us pages of our blog.

 

 

 

Adopt a Piece of History

Would you like to help look after Derbyshire’s rich history? Through our Adopt a Piece of History scheme you can adopt any item from our collections, in the knowledge that your contribution will directly support our work to keep Derbyshire’s history safe for the future.

If you’reaph-certificate looking for a truly unique gift, why not let someone else adopt a piece of history? Whether they love sport, art, gardening or trains, there is something in our collections they would be proud to help look after too. And with different options and prices, this could be just the surprise you’ve been looking for.

Adopt a piece of history for £20
Choose an item from the list of favourites on our blog and get a personalised e-certificate. Our favourites include suggestions for keen ramblers, bakers, dancers, engineers and many more.

Adopt a unique piece of history for £35
Choose your own favourite from our collections to make a truly personal gift. You might want to adopt the parish register that shows the marriage of two of your ancestors, a map of the area they grew up in or that document that made all the hours of searching worthwhile.

Become a part of Derbyshire’s history for £100
To celebrate a special occasion or commemorate a loved one, choose your own favourite from our collections and tell us why it’s important to you. The recipient’s name and adoption details will be entered into our official Register of Adopters and be kept as part of the archive for ever. Your adoption will also be visible on our online catalogue and the recipient will receive a special invitation to our annual Open Day to visit their adoptee.

You can see all the details about the scheme and fill in an order form on our Adopt a Piece of History page. And do take a look at the other pages on our Support Us tab, which give details about our volunteering opportunities.

 

Preserving Your Past at DRO tomorrow

As part of the Derwent Valley World Heritage Site Discovery Days festival, I will be holding a talk at the Record Office tomorrow to explain how you can protect your family’s photographs, letters, diaries, etc. so they will survive to be enjoyed by generations to come.  You’re welcome to stay on after the talk for individual advice.

Place: Derbyshire Record Office, Matlock

Date: Tuesday 25 October

Time: 2pm to 3.30pm

There are still a few places available; the event is free, but booking is essential – call the Discovery Days booking number,  01629 536831.

Come along and prevent your precious memories being destroyed by insects or mould:

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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

Preserving Your Past at Chesterfield Museum on 11 August

If you’re in Chesterfield tomorrow (Thursday 11 August), why not pop in to Chesterfield Museum and find out how to look after your old family letters and photographs?  My Preserving your Past talk starts at 1.00pm and explains how our treasured possessions can get damaged and what you can do to ensure they’ll survive for future generations to enjoy.  Feel free to bring along letters, books and photographs if you would like some specific advice after the talk – I’ll be there till the museum closes at 4.00pm.

 

 

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.

 

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Needling out the repair

 

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Laying the repair in its place

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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The repaired sections

 

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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:

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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.

Free talk: Preserving Your Past

Many of us have our own little (or even quite large) archive at home: letters, photographs, diaries and other treasures that remind us where we’ve come from and bring us close to loved ones who aren’t around anymore. If you’d like to find out how best to care for these unique family heirlooms, do come along to the Derby Family History Festival on Wednesday 8 June at Derby Central Library, where I will be delivering a talk at 12.30 entitled ‘Preserving Your Past’.  I’ll explain how paper and other records get damaged and what you can do to protect your archive, so you can pass it on safely to future generations.

The Record Office will be there all day with a stall as well and there are lots of other talks and activities going on, as you can see on the poster:

 

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We hope to see you there!

 

To keep or not to keep – that is the question

One of the key professional responsibilities of the archivist is to decide which records to select for permanent preservation and which to dispose of. In fact, you could argue that the role of the archivist is not one of preservation but of “destruction” (though I’m not sure we would quite argue that).

Here at Derbyshire Record Office we typically receive several enquiries and deposits/donations a week. Each time the archivist will judge (often in discussion with colleagues) whether the item/s have sufficient historical and research value to justify permanent preservation. We must ask questions such as:

  • Is it archival? i.e. is it a record generated by the everyday activities of a corporate body (or family, or individual), no longer in current use and providing evidence of the past
  • What is the research value of the material? This requires the archivist to think about the actual content of the item/s, what else could be inferred from it about society, individual or place, what kind of historical research could the material support and whether it could be useful for more than one type of historical research (e.g. useful for family historians and social historians)
  • Does the material provide only information that is already available elsewhere?
  • Is the material legible and in suitable condition for preservation?

We also need to be sure it is of Derby or Derbyshire content or origin. It would be outside the collecting remit of Derbyshire Record Office to collect material that didn’t have some connection to the city and county, and their peoples.

Case Study: Moody and Woolley Solicitors of Derby
A couple of weeks ago, Mark and I with the support of Lien, DRO’s Senior Conservator, surveyed and appraised the records in “the dungeon” of former Derby legal firm Moody and Woolley. After nearly 170 years in business, the firm ceased trading in April 2015, and having returned records to clients where possible, offered the remaining records to us and to Derby Local Studies and Family History Library.

“The Dungeon” when we first visited

What we found were primarily of bundles of title deeds and related papers for properties and businesses across the city and county, executorship papers for deceased clients, probate copies of wills and a small number of business records for the firm from the 1990s to early 2000s. There were also a small number of boxes containing family artefacts and photo albums, mostly from the Victorian and Edwardian periods. Undoubtedly these items would have held some intrinsic value for descendants of their original owners, however the firm had been unable to identify who the items belonged to and so could not return them to living relatives. For the same reason, we also had to make the decision not to add such items to the collection as they were not identifiable and therefore had only very limited (if any) historical research value.

After four hours, much sifting, many puzzled looks, head scratches and a fair bit of dust and grime, we had selected a van load of material to be transported back to Matlock.

Other material “left behind” included the probate copies of post-1858 wills and the majority of executorship papers and ledgers. In the case of probate wills, although we do hold some examples of such wills already amongst family and estate collections, these particular wills are only the probate copy, i.e. not the original signed by the individual. The information available from the probate copy is the same as the copy that can be obtained from the Probate Registry – for which handy online indexes already exist on Ancestry and Gov.uk (the latter also includes a search and ordering facility). Therefore the use of such records at DRO would be extremely limited, if indeed they were used at all.

In a world of unlimited space and budgets we may have taken much more than we did. However, such limitations are not necessarily a bad thing. The sifting and selection undertaken by the archivists has the added benefit of saving customers and researchers some time in sifting through material. Another example in this case were the executorship papers: the probate copy of a will identifies the executors and the beneficiaries, the papers of the executors merely record the process of following through the wishes of the deceased. Where there are disputes it can be useful to retain such records; however, in most cases there is little added information and the frequency of use would be extremely low. There is no defined threshold for how often a record should be used to justify its preservation in the archives, but this is certainly one factor that is considered when appraisal and selection decisions are made.

The decisions and judgments we made have ensured that the enduring archive collection for the firm reflects the nature of the business undertaken (as far as was possible with the records presented to us). The final collection includes:

  • sampled business papers of the firm (e.g. a sample correspondence file relating to notarial transactions),
  • 18th-20th century title deeds and abstracts of title for property across Derby and Derbyshire including the Railway Tavern at Belper, mills and other businesses in Ripley, Shirland Park and Lodge, and
  • the personal papers of John Moody, the firm’s founding partner.

All the material is now in our quarantine room waiting to be assessed by our Conservation team and any necessary remedial action taken (including the removal of mould). It will be some time before a full catalogue is available for the collection, but in the meantime, you can access basic summary information through our online catalogue for the collection, reference D7935.

Ultimately, as archivists we must always make judgments about what to preserve and what to destroy with the knowledge that histories can only be written in the future using the evidence we have preserved. The material that isn’t preserved cannot act as evidence, therefore the first question we must always consider is how will this affect histories yet to be written. That is not to say the first responsibility of future history relies with the archivist, this first responsibility inevitably always lies with the creator of the records who may indeed destroy them before an archivist even knows they exist. Nevertheless, archivists do have a very important role to play and it is one that we take very great care over.

Postscript: The judgments we are required to make are likely to become even more important and difficult with digital records – but more on that another time.

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.