Repackaging heritage textiles

Here in the archives we work hard to give all the records the best possibly chance of survival in the future. We repackage into acid-free boxes, follow careful handling guidelines – and even wear the white gloves so beloved by television historians from time to time!

This week we’ve been working with the Rugby League, whose collection is deposited here at the University Archives, to provide advice on handling and packaging a collection that they have recently purchased as part of their heritage work.

As the Rugby League’s new collection includes a lot of shirts (so fans of heritage shirts should watch this space for news of exhibitions!) we spent some time developing a packaging system which would follow good practice guidelines for packaging textiles, but also allow the shirts to fit in the collection’s standard boxes. After a little experimentation we came up with a method which is reasonably straightforward to carry out, using acid-free tissue and a series of folds that ensure that a layer of tissue is placed between all of the folds in the shirt. We then created a step by step photo guide to allow the heritage project assistant to carry out the repackaging unsupervised.

From this...
From this…

To this!

To this!

Tour de France 1936!

This week we’ll see the Tour de France come to Huddersfield – but in November 1936 Huddersfield Rugby League Club went on their own ‘Tour in France’!

Tour in France programme, 1936











The Huddersfield Rugby Football League Club (then known as Huddersfield Cricket and Athletic Club) was one of several teams that went across the Channel in the 1930s to help establish and build support for rugby league in France.

This programme of events shows the Huddersfield team played two matches on their 1936 trip; one versus Paris, and one versus Bordeaux. According to newspaper reports the Bordeaux match took place in bitterly cold and wet weather but, despite only being the second season of rugby league in France, still managed to attract 8,000 spectators!

Rugby League on Film

Last week we had leading rugby league historian Professor Tony Collins visiting the archive to discuss rugby league in the First World War with a team from BBC Look North.

The recording can be seen on Look North East Yorkshire and Lincolnshire in early August… but here’s a behind-the-scenes photograph of the filming here at the University of Huddersfield Archives and Special Collections!

Look North visit the archives


Break a leg (or arm!) for International Archives Day!

Today is International Archives Day, giving us all a chance to celebrate the rich variety of archives held in collections around the world. Archives can be a wonderful opportunity to reminisce and revisit the past – and if you look closely every letter, document, report and object has a story to tell.

Working on the Rugby League Archive today we found this rugby ball.

Prescott's match ball 1958

From the leather stitched style of the ball we could guess (most objects aren’t labelled with date and background information, so accompanying documents are vitally important) that it was quite old (today’s balls are synthetic); but then a bit of further research found that in fact this ball embodies a tale of stoic heroism, and victory in the face of unfavourable odds…

In 1958 the Great Britain rugby league team toured Australia for a series of test matches, they were defeated in the first test but went on to complete the tour undefeated – but this was not a foregone conclusion. In the second test against a strong Brisbane team Great Britain was down to eight fit players on the pitch (substitutions weren’t allowed in rugby league until 1964) including injury in the fourth minute of play to the captain, Alan Prescott, who broke his arm. Undeterred, Prescott played on for the remaining 77 minutes, leading the team to a 25-18 victory! The match has justly gone down in history as ‘Prescott’s Match’.

The Ernest Parker Collection

Some exciting items have recently been returned to the Rugby League Archive after a long period on loan. The Ernest Parker Collection is a small but important collection within the archive and contains some of the oldest items in the collection.

Wakefield Trinity was founded in 1873 and was formed via the Holy Trinity Church in Wakefield; it went on to become one of the original 22 founding members of the Northern Union (later known as the Rugby Football League) who broke away from the Rugby Football Union in 1895.

Ernest Parker was an important figure in Wakefield Trinity’s early history, supporting the team through the years before and after the break from Rugby Union, and later becoming the club’s treasurer for several years.

The Ernest Parker Collection includes reports and accounts for Wakefield, scorebooks, programmes, guidebooks, and several decades of season tickets. This one from the 1890-1891 season was presented as a booklet – each page had a ticket for a specific match which that could be easily removed using the pre-punched perforations.

Wakefield Trinity season ticket, 1890-1891


Wakefield Trinity season ticket (interior), 1890-1891

New Game, New Rules

Rugby league was initially born out of a desire to pay its players fair compensation if they took time off work to play – something which the strictly amateur code that the group of northern teams broke away from would not allow.

However, the new organisation quickly began to evolve and develop new rules to create a game which, over time, allowed for more open play, less domination by scrums, and a more exciting visual event for spectators.

The many rules and their evolution can be daunting to spectators, like myself, who are new to the game…fortunately rugby league fans are very friendly and will happily explain the ‘play the ball’ rule to you as the game is in play!

For those who are looking for a full and detailed understanding of the rules then the laws of the game can today be found online, but in the past could be purchased in booklets issued by the Rugby Football League. These provided explanations, definitions and illustrations, and a number of them can be viewed here at the University of Huddersfield Archives and Special Collections – this illustrated 1950 guide was designed as a straightforward and entertaining guide for younger players.


Know the Game booklet, c1950


Let’s hear it for the users!

In our last post we explained why cataloguing is an important and exciting part of an archivist’s work but in this post we’ll be handing over to some of our researchers who explain what they get out of using archives:

David Gronow is a historian of Rugby League, a lifelong supporter of Huddersfield, and also does a huge amount of voluntary work on the detailed listing of the Rugby League records:

As historian of Huddersfield Giants Rugby League Club, plus the fact I am on the Steering Committee of the Huddersfield RL Heritage Project, visiting the University Archive has given me a great advantage in gleaming out information on Huddersfield Rugby League that probably no one else has seen …I have unearthed unique items from the early 1900s…documents/photographs/programmes relating to the early history of the Huddersfield club, plus some great memorabilia applicable to the 1946 ‘Idomitables’ Tour to Australia by the England team…fascinating stuff!

And Roger Pugh had the following to report on his experience of using the Rugby League archives:

“Whilst researching for the book I’m writing, the RL archives at Huddersfield University enabled me to access a huge amount of unique material that I’d never have seen otherwise – old Players Registers, notes of the RL sub-committees and the old scrapbooks, for example. Apart from factual information, I got a real insight into what the game was like and how it was run in the early post war period. And the staff at the University have been really helpful!!”

Comments like these are a constant source of inspiration – we want everyone to get as much out of using archives as David and Roger do!

For the love of catalogues…

Cataloguing is rarely seen as a particularly glamorous or exciting part of working in an archive service, but it underpins a lot of what we do as a whole. Creating a good catalogue is one of the most enduring ways to make a collection usable to a wide range of audiences … if you can’t find something then you can’t use it!

A catalogue should be useful and usable to someone who is using an archive for the first time, and to a seasoned user who is an expert in their subject.

Making catalogues that work for experts and beginners alike is a challenge, but that is what we are working to achieve – so we are building catalogue structures that will be accessible electronically, that link to online sources of information like Wikipedia, and that are intuitive and easy to use.

It is very exciting to know that the cataloguing work that is going on now will enable many different people to use the archives here at the University of Huddersfield – if you’re reading this then hopefully you’ll be one of them!