Work Placement Blogs

From time to time we’re in a position to be able to help the next generation of Archivists get some work experience to help them obtain places on the postgraduate training. During June we hosted Razia and Felicity in Heritage Quay, both of whom already have some experience in archives already and are hoping to train within the next couple of years.

Razia’s Blog

Hi, I am working as a volunteer in the Heritage Quay Archives for two weeks. I have been working on several different projects and familiarizing myself with what the role of an archivist entails. I have been learning about how precision and accuracy is needed especially when listing catalogues including scores and manuscripts. During this fortnight I have also worked intensively in the strongroom and the bookstore cataloguing rare books from the Special Collections.  These have mainly been donated to Heritage Quay by public figures or institutions, for example, the theatre company called Mikron and also the prominent local conscientious objector Arthur Gardiner.

Gardiner was a prominent member of the Huddersfield Socialist party and refused to take up arms in the military. This is all well documented in the archives. In later years, he became a popular Labour figure and Mayor of Huddersfield. His estate donated his large library collection to the archives and part of my duties  here included cataloguing each book.

Photograph of Arthur Gardiner c.WWI

His book collection mirrored his political views as the vast majority of the collection was on socialist ideology, such as: Problems of a Socialist Government, Karl Marx, Social and Political Pioneer, Civilisation: Its Causes and Cure and Ethics and A Worker Looks at Economics. As well as these he also possessed a large number of well-known fiction titles, such as; Tess of the D’ubervilles, The Road the Wigan Pier, Works of Robert Browning, War and Peace, Robert Burns and the Common People, Madame Bovary and Shakespeare’s As You Like It.

His archives were wide and vast, embracing  both works of classical literature and non-fiction works on social reform.

Student Placements 2019 – Part Three

Our final second year placement student this year is English student Umayyah. Read about her experiences in the archive below:

Whilst taking part in a student work placement at Heritage Quay I have worked with two very different collections; the first involved carrying out a survey and research into the Kirklees Image Archives (KIA), and the second was cataloguing a small sub-section from the Colin Challen Archive (specifically his work with the North Yorkshire Country Labour Party, and the Vale of York Constituency Labour Party).

The majority of my placement involved my work with the KIA collection due to the fact that there were so many boxes and items in that collection. Straight away I was able to dive right into the boxes and identify and research a wide variety of items ranging from Primus magic lantern slides, to novelty cards and postcards, to a whole array of local images. The lanterns and cards were always entertaining and often humorous and, due to the humour and standards of the dates in which they were released (1900s), they were sometimes controversial or even downright unacceptable by today’s standards. Nonetheless it was definitely intriguing to see the stark differences between the popular trends back then, compared to modern day trends.

One collection that definitely stood out was a series of travel journals by two sisters who seemingly lived around Huddersfield in the mid-1900s and travelled around Europe on and off for 30 years and donated well-kept logs of everything they did on their holidays. These journals not only included photographs and diary entries, but ticket stubs and receipts so that you could see the varying prices in the countries in question during those times. They were definitely an interesting read.

I also explored a variety of local images, some of which were from the Huddersfield Examiner, some were street restoration programmes and progress reports, and some were of buildings and streets that had been demolished or renovated. This gave me the opportunity to see the gradual development of Huddersfield (and surrounding areas) from the 1800’s to modern day and see for myself some of the iconic events that took place; royal visits, sports tournaments, weddings, street parties and more.

I was able to identify and survey boxes from approximately 60 shelves as part of the KIA collection and each one was filled with some new and exciting information which sometimes required research into certain companies, events, or people so that they could be fully understood.

The Challen collection was starkly different to the KIA collection, as they were all professional and political documents. The majority of content in these three boxes were financial records and promotional materials for the Labour Party (those which had been entrusted to Challen). In my exploration and cataloguing of these boxes I was given an insight into how funding worked in a political party scenario, how a party’s membership scheme is run, and how the Labour party specifically wanted to represent themselves to their constituents. I was also able to browse through some of the correspondences and meeting minutes to see what kind of local issues were discussed.

Overall I am grateful to Heritage Quay for giving me the opportunity to experience working in an archive and the understanding of how to find, record, and catalogue specific items.

Student Placements 2019 – Part Two

James is also a 2nd year History student and was working on the archive of conductor and musician Howard Rogerson.

My name is James Watmough and I am doing my student placement at Heritage Quay Archive as part of my second year as a history student at Huddersfield University. I have been working with the Howard Rogerson archive, Howard is a musician and composer across several musical organisations including Opera North as well as collaborating with the BBC for ‘Songs of Praise.’

This was my first experience working in an archive, luckily the collection was well organised before I approached it which instead allowed for me to do some research and familiarise myself with the items within the collection. The collection ranges from Howards youth where he studied at institutions such as the Huddersfield school of music and the Royal Manchester College of Music, all the way up until the present day to his orchestral work in Morecambe. The collection features a wide range of content including programmes from a massive amount of performances to correspondence with potential clients and organisations wishing to see a performance. Opera North was a huge part of the collection, there is a variety of colourful programmes from their many years of performances. Howard was a founding member of the orchestra and worked for them for 10 years (and freelanced for 12 years). There are several larger items such as a signed programme from opera singer Josephine Barstow (See Image) and sheet music from Christopher Beardsley’s ‘Striding Dales’.

One of the biggest challenges for me was the spreadsheet process and trying to create a useful referencing system in order for people to navigate the collection with ease. I decided to section each of the organisations that Howard had worked with into boxes and also have separate boxes for personal and biographical information as well as a box which contains tapes and CD’s of his music. I think that this was successful as it did not meddle much with the order that Howard and his wife had delivered the collection in. The process involved a lot of planning and I was constantly going back and changing my references to try and make everything as efficient as possible as the collection has lots of research potential. I was constantly aware of this factor so I think it was important to make sure that the collection was accessible for everyone, regardless of their knowledge of Opera and orchestras.

Overall, the cataloguing process was a fascinating challenge which allowed me to see the other side of the archival process and the steps that have to be taken in order to make a collection available for viewing. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about a subject that I otherwise probably never would have researched about and getting to interact with the items gave me a unique perspective on the subject as well as a brief look into Howards remarkable musical career. I am very grateful for the opportunity to get to catalogue a collection and further satisfy my curiosity of working in an archive and the heritage sector as a whole. 

Student Placements 2019 – Part One

Katie – a 2nd year History student worked on part of the Colin Challen Archive.

As part of a student work experience placement scheme, I have been looking at and cataloguing part of the Colin Challen collection for Heritage Quay. This contains material regarding Yorkshire Constituency Labour Parties, a particular focus being the Labour Party in Leeds from 1960 to 2006, and you can view the listings here.

Initially, the sheer amount of material appeared overwhelming, but once I had conducted a closer inspection of the material, I was able to start to file the items accordingly into appropriate categories and folders. I also had to conduct some research into Leeds’ constituencies so that I could understand their Municipal Election process.

The collection is interesting as through correspondence from notable local Councillors D.B. Matthews and Colin Challen, an insight can be gained regarding the inner-workings of the Labour Party Council in Leeds, as well as exploring how Municipal Elections were run and organised. The collection also contains material relating to controversial events and decisions within the local party reacting to national policies and leadership, which pits local vs national politics in an interesting way.

The material that particularly caught my attention was the campaign material for local elections in Leeds. It was interesting to see what policies the different parties had used to try to encourage people to vote for them, and also to see how the images that the party wanted to present of candidates has changed over the years. Whilst the public only get to see the glossy, final version of these leaflets and posters, the draft versions of these campaign posters and leaflets also showed the thought process behind why something was presented or written in a certain way on the end product.

Overall, I have found working on this collection an enjoyable experience. Not only has it allowed me to explore some fascinating material, but has also helped me understand and appreciate the amount of effort required to correctly sort through material, organise it and then categorise it to the high standard that archives require.

Following the creative processes in archive collections (new staff introductions – Part Two!)

My name is Rachael and this is my first blog as one of the new Archive Assistants at Heritage Quay. My duties include processing collections that have arrived at the archive to ensure they will be accessible to researchers, and one of the main tasks relating to this is cataloguing. This means data about the records is input into our database, which you can try browsing through yourself through our online catalogue here:

In this blog I wanted to focus on one of the joys of working with archives- getting to study the creative process. I recently catalogued composer Catherine Kiernan’s papers which primarily includes musical scores (you can view the listing here). However, the item that caught my eye was a script and score for a play named ‘The Clan’. This file contains draft versions allowing you to see how the script was adapted as the play developed. The script features handwritten notes. For example, one note proposes where a song might be played and crossing out delineates where lines have been changed. These adaptations tell the story of how the play was adapted as the creators continued to work and provides insight into their evaluation process as they edit.

Extracts from the Catherine Kiernan Archive (CKN)

There is a handwritten description of costumes, including the style and material that needs to be adorned for a Scottish clansman look. A note at the bottom explains that whoever wrote this did research about traditional Scottish dress by reading Peter Cochrane’s Scottish Military Dress. This is informative about the research process by highlighting what resources might be used as the play is being prepared. Clearly this individual found a history book valuable as inspiration for the costume design. This also tells us that historical accuracy was important for the creators and that they were trying to reproduce authenticity through the costumes.

Studying the unpublished archival items allows you to see a process, rather than just a final product. Providing a glimpse into how a work of art or literature transforms from an idea. Examining others creative processes can inspire artists own and provide greater insight into the creator, helping the researcher comprehend the artwork. Archives are one of the only places where these items, e.g. an artist’s sketchbook or a poet’s notebook, can be discovered and, thus, exploring the creative process is one of the many bonuses of working with archives.’

That Monday Feeling

“Amongst the 10,000 records in our nationally significant British Dance Band Collection are a number of unissued recordings including this one by the Nottingham=based band directed by Billy Merrin.   Most of the “top” bands  were London-based but Merrin managed to get a national following (and good recording contracts) without having to be based in the capital.   A photograph of his band (known as the Commanders) recently came to light and is included in this link to a sound-file of their 1933 recording of  an amusing little ditty entitled I’ve Got To Get Up And Go To Work…….”

Connecting with Collections (and new staff introductions! – Part One)

My name is Liz Pente and I am one of the new Archives Assistants at Heritage Quay. Having recently completed a PhD in History at the University of Huddersfield, I am delighted to join the archive team.  As a public historian, I am passionate about the value of preserving the past, so that it may be accessible to people in the present and future.

The collections at Heritage Quay are extensive – over 135 that are ready for researchers to explore! Getting to know these vast collections is part of my new role here. One of my favourite aspects of exploring the past is  encountering unexpected connections. Connections between the past and the present, connections between places, connections between documents and materials themselves, and even personal connections to archival materials.  This is a little story about one such connection…

I was doing some work on the Leonard Smith Collection related to Unitarianism.  According to The General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches, Unitarianism ‘is an open-minded and welcoming approach to faith that encourages individual freedom, equality for all and rational thought’. They highlight some prominent Unitarians including Elizabeth Gaskell, Charles Dickens, Thomas Jefferson and Joseph Priestly – who is the namesake of one of our buildings here at The University of Huddersfield!

The Leonard Smith Collection includes 323 volumes of printed books relating to Unitarianism from 1840-2013.  These are available to search in our catalogue here.

The materials I was working on included a later accession to the collection, the details of which have yet to be catalogued.  The materials are wide-ranging, from volumes of the Transactions of the Unitarian Society Journal, to Unitarian event programmes, church and congregation histories to lecture and sermon pamphlets.The dates of the materials range from the 1800s-2010s, but it was one item from 1986, which caught my eye.

Among the lecture pamphlets was an item from a series called Truth, Liberty, Religion – Essays Celebrating Two Hundred Years of Manchester College, edited by Barbara Smith. The booklet was the first in the series, titled 1. The Unitarian Background by R. K. Webb of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

‘Truth, Liberty and Religion’, (1893), ed. by Barbara Smith

Have you heard of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, otherwise known as UMBC? No? Well, not only have I heard of it, but it is where I completed my Master of Arts in Historical Studies, with a concentration in Public History. Not only that, but UMBC is where I had my first foray into archives, serving as an intern in the Albin O. Kuhn Library’s Special Collections department, working within the Center for Biological Sciences Archive

Robert K. Webb (1922–2012) was a distinguished American scholar of British history studying from the 1780s through to the nineteenth century,  focusing on ‘the relative stability of the British state during a period of revolution in France’ and religious dissent. Sandra Herbert, writing for the American  Historical Association  in November 2012, describes his work on the Unitarians:

‘In Webb’s subsequent work he explored the British tradition of religious dissent. He was interested in studying the British non-conformists on their own terms. He also saw their movement as providing a safety valve for releasing social tensions. In this Webb’s work was congruent with that of the French historian Élie Halévy. As an indication of his high regard for Halévy, Webb translated his Era of Tyrannies: Essays on Socialism and War into English (1966). Among the English nonconformists Bob Webb settled on the Unitarians for his own work. He was drawn to them by a shared sense of the value of rational enquiry and because he noted the prominence of Unitarians among social reformers in 19th-century Britain, as,for example, in the Martineau family.

Webb’s biography of one ofthe members of that family is still a standard work on the subject: Harriet Martineau: A Radical Victorian (1960).  Over the course of the next 40 years, Bob published extensively on the English Unitarians, including numerous individual contributions to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.  Bob’s last public lecture, again touching on the Unitarians, was a talk he gave in 2010 entitled “The Very Long Eighteenth Century: An Experiment in the History of Religion.” Bob’s contributions to the field of British history were honored in 1992 by the volume Religion and Irreligion in Victorian Society: Essays in Honor of R. K. Webb edited by R. W. Davis and R. J. Helmstadter.’

Webb was along-standing member of the UMBC community, and the university established the annual R.K.Webb Lecture, which I attended during my time there. This was quite an unexpected connection!

This pamphlet is just one of over 130 items being added to the Leonard Smith Collection, and this is one small connection between my experiences at those institutions, and learning more about Unitarianism through processing this collection, which I hope will help inform my knowledge of this type of collection more broadly.

I am excited to see what new connections emerge as I continue getting to know the remarkable collections here at Heritage Quay.  What connections will you make with our amazing collections?  Come explore, and see what you discover!

If, like me, you too have made an unexpected connection whilst conducting research in our archives, we would love to hear your story!  Tweet us @Heritage_Quay