Archives hold the key for teachers: Discuss!

Remember the debate surrounding the new history curriculum when it was unveiled back in 2014? Some of the more exciting elements got a bit lost in the furore about pre-history and the chronological approach to teaching. I’m thinking about the renewed focus on historical skills and the introduction of local history studies at KS1 and 2. Funnily enough, both elements which archives are very well placed to help with!

If you’re a teacher who’s slightly flummoxed by the local history study requirement, why not get along to your local archive where you will not only find a wealth of well organised information about the local area, but also a resident expert to guide you through. Collections are often surprisingly eclectic, which is great for cross curricular links and increasingly, archives offer school workshops, online resources or teaching packs to support curriculum requirements.

Taking a class of KS2 pupils on an archive visit offers a unique opportunity to handle original artefacts and documents, and to encounter a piece of history which has resonance within their immediate experience. The history curriculum requirement to learn about significant local events, places and people is an ideal opportunity to deliver genuine child centred teaching – teaching which begins with what they already know. When children become engaged in the stories behind familiar buildings, local characters and street names, they develop a sense of immediacy and a thirst to find out more – what happened next? why?

As they progress, pupils realise that the answers to these questions are not always straightforward. Archives offer a fantastic opportunity for pupils to examine and compare resources side by side. By developing skills of historical enquiry – learning how to source, analyse, appraise and interpret the narratives which so engaged them at KS1- pupils start to develop an understanding of the connections between local, regional, national and international history. Further on in their school career, they can begin to extract wider historical themes from local history – the role of women, the development of empire, or technological change.

Here at Heritage Quay we’ve been busy developing and piloting school workshops with links to the curriculum from KS1 – 3 – and they’re all free! If you would like to know more, come along to our Teatime Taster on June 9th. You can grab yourself a goody bag, take a tour behind the scenes, and find out what other schools thought of our workshops! Places are limited, so please contact Trizia Wells at or ring 01484 473168 to register your interest.

University Challenge: Genealogy in the institutional archives

Are you interested in which of our collections might be useful for tracing your family history? Have you ever considered looking at the institutional records of the University of Huddersfield?

Our institutional collection contains a myriad of records that could help you find your ancestors, or put their lives in greater context. Some more modern student records are subject to closure periods because of Data Protection legislation, but we do have student records dating back to the 1860s, and details of prize winners, photographs and newspaper cuttings identifying students. We also have records about staff and their career development whilst with the Technical College.

You can find out more about how you might use the institutional collection for family history purposes by looking at the slides of a talk given to a local family history fair:

University Challenge presentation

12 Events of Christmas, an HQ redux!

If you’re a regular blog reader, you may remember from this time last year, our ’12 days of Christmas’ themed ‘Developments in the Archive’ post, reviewing the year that we moved into our new facilities at Heritage Quay. This year, as our programme of events has escalated, I thought it might be nice to review 12 important/exciting events that have happened in Heritage Quay this year. If you missed out, don’t worry, check the Events Calendar and make 2016 the year you join us to learn more about our collections!

12. Twelve meetings have taken place this year for some of hosted societies, like the Local History Society and the Local Archaeology Societies. They have hosted talks on a wide variety of subjects, from the First World War to the female Pharaohs of Egypt.

11. Eleven students from a local school joined us in November for a national Kids in Museums Takeover day. Spending a Friday with the Archivists and Engagement staff, students learnt basic conservation techniques and how to protect documents. They learnt about using digitisation as a method of preservation and providing access, carried out some market research for us, all the while reporting on their day across social media on their activities!

group photojazzhands

10. Many more than ten university students and classes have joined us in Heritage Quay since the beginning of term to hear one of our Introduction to Archives skills sessions! These started off by appealing to students in subjects like History where we have natural connections, but over the past few years we have broadened this to appeal to Textiles, Music, English and Computing students! There’s something for everyone in archives!

9. From fiction to fact, and the 1980s miners strike to 1940s war torn Europe, Heritage Quay has hosted a number of film nights throughout the year, either related to our own collections, as December’s ‘Dangerous Moonlight’ featured a track from our own British Music Collection, to Pride, hosted by the university’s Unison reps, to It’s a Wonderful Life, part of a series of films shown by the University’s Health and Wellbeing team.

8. We’ve been challenging students across the university to use the space in Heritage Quay in different and non-traditional ways and they certainly haven’t disappointed! In March, Fashion students staged a vintage fashion show, ‘with a twist’, that being all the seating was arranged in a spiral instead of a traditional catwalk. Sound design and music students came in to demonstrate their new music projects through our sound system in December, and we hope for new and exciting innovations in this area next year!

7. This year, we again joined in with the nationwide campaign to ‘Explore Your Archive’. Last year this took the form of a display of one of our political collections in the library, this year, we decided to spread the word about good archival handling and care skills by running a course for interested amateur archivists to learn collections care, cataloguing and promotion skills. Soon we’ll be running a course on palaeography (studying old handwriting), so get in on it while you can!

6. Over the past year, our Archivists have gone out to many local and national organisations giving six talks on our collections and the work we’ve been doing in Heritage Quay. These include a presentation on the history of Rugby League to the British Records Association, using the University collection for genealogy at Huddersfield Family History Fair, and Pecha Kucha talks on the engagement work going on as part of the HLF project.

5. We were joined by composers of the future, during the HCMF’s Under 5’s event ‘Music at Play: Graphic Scores for Under 5s.’ Toddlers (and their parents) explored the group space, and the textures, objects and sounds provided in order to inspire them to create a giant hands-on graphical score!

4. For four weeks, Rugby League history fans joined us and some eminent RL historians for a course exploring the Roots of Rugby League and birth of the game. This involved studying some of the objects from our extensive Rugby League and Supporter collections.

RL Heritage Forum 25-04-15-6 compressed

3. This year we’ve run three Highlights exhibitions in our exhibition space. At the beginning of the year our Rugby League exhibition was still in situ. In April we installed an exhibition looking at important buildings in the fabric of Huddersfield landscape. The Local History, Civic and Archaeology societies and University history department all contributed their ideas and choices for streets and buildings important to their idea of the development of the town. This Autumn we welcome an exhibition on contemporary music, co-curated by many of our depositors, and featuring cases on dance band, brass band and 20th century music.

2. For this year’s Heritage Open Days, we ran two Lego serious play activities, once again exploring some of the architecture featured in our Huddersfield Gems exhibition. Youngsters could rebuild local landmarks, like the Lindley Clock Tower, from Lego, and design and create their own architectural landmarks.

1. Mikron Theatre Company visited us for the second year running this October, this time bringing the sweet smell of fish and chips for a performance of their sell-out show, One of Each! Rival fryers vied for the coveted Golden Fish Fork Award and the audience participated in voting for Cod over Haddock as the favourite dish of the day!

Volunteer Blog – Tim Galsworthy on listing the RFL Jack Harding Collection

My name is Tim Galsworthy and I am currently a History student at the University of Bristol, I am also a diehard Warrington Wolves fan. As a result an advert calling for volunteers to work with Rugby League collections, here at Heritage Quay, excited both the history and sports nerd inside me. (I’ll be honest; I haven’t got over being in the presence of Brian Bevan’s shirt and boots yet!) I have spent six weeks organising and cataloguing the Jack Harding Collection, and it’s been a great experience.


Jack Harding was Chairman of Leigh R.L.F.C for much of the Twentieth Century, a leading member of the Rugby Football League Council (being both Chair and Vice-Chair at different times), and also Manger of the triumphant 1970 Great Tour to Australasia. Harding managed the last Great Britain tour side to bring home ‘The Ashes’. Having these official positions, along with being a general rugby league supporter, means that this collection has some real gems: photographs of Great Britain’s 1970 triumph Down Under, match day programmes from an absolute plethora of games, and a Challenge Cup winners’ medal. Probably my favourite items in the collection are Harding’s personal records of what the 1970 Great Britain players owed him and where they sat on plane journeys, and the Challenge Cup Final Community Singing sheets he collected.


While these specific records stand out for me I’m sure others would be interested in very different elements of the Collection. Also found within these four boxes are masses of newspaper cuttings, Leigh’s financial records for a number of decades, and Harding’s match reports from the 1970 Tour. The breadth and diversity of Jack Harding’s papers is wonderful, meaning that individuals interested in topics ranging from Leigh’s business elites in the Twentieth-Century to working class popular culture can take something from this collection.

I have discovered these superb heritage titbits in the general process of archiving and cataloguing the Collection. I began by looking through the boxes and deciding what categories the material could be split in to. After this I began listing the items in the collection and entering descriptions onto Heritage Quay’s collections management software. Finally I began repacking Harding’s papers into folders, envelopes, and acid-free transparent sleeves.


Working with this collection has been both enjoyable and academically beneficial. Spending days looking at programmes from famous matches, or exploring the day-to-day life on a Great Britain Tour, is something every Rugby League fanatic would adore to spend their summer doing. Also as a History student- and wannabe Historian- cataloguing and indexing this material has enabled me to experience the archive from the other side, as it were. I now more fully appreciate the vital role the archivist plays in any great historical research.

My six weeks here at Heritage Quay has deepened my passion for Rugby League, history, and especially popular cultural heritage. I only hope that one day I will read a fascinating piece of research and note that it is based upon records found in the Jack Harding Collection!

History Mystery: The Austrian Chemist with the Personal Collection in the Archive

In the (almost) two years since I joined the University Archive Service, after a Collections Audit and a complete move of the repositories, it sometimes feels like I’ve looked in every box we have!!  I haven’t of course, not by a long chalk, and I realised this yesterday after opening up a very ordinary looking box that was reboxed before the move to check its contents.  Underneath some Chemistry notes I discovered an ordinary, and rather flaky old box with the label on it ‘The Austrian Chemists Private Letters and Photos’ as you can see below:


So far and possibly you’re only excited if you’re involved in Chemistry, but after lifting the lid I made a wonderful discovery.  A whole treasure trove of personal papers of the ‘Austrian Chemist’.  Lots of 19th century family photographs, baptism certificates, school and PhD records, and many letters (alas all in German it appears!) back and forth between Huddersfield and Vienna.


So who is the mysterious ‘Austrian Chemist’?  And why are his personal papers in the University of Huddersfield archives?  Here’s what I managed to discover in about an hour on a quiet Thursday afternoon, research to be continued!  Thankfully, as my knowledge of German is restricted to ‘Ich habe ein mutter…’ etc there were a couple of documents in English amongst the collection.  A reference from a Huddersfield firm, Read Holliday and Sons Ltd.  Aniline Dye Manufacturers confirmed the spelling of his name, Dr Josef Petraczek, and that he was the Chemist we were looking for!  He had worked at Read for 16 years by the 29th December 1899, so we know he had to have come to England in about 1883.   This fits quite nicely as there are a couple of small pictures dated 1882 of some frankly quite science-y looking gentlemen, so possibly colleagues from Vienna?

A passport granted from the government of Franz Joseph I in 1882 seems to confirm the date he moved to the UK, and as for his time in England we know from membership cards he was a member of the Cricket and Athletic Club in 1885 and the Conservative Club in 1893-4.  Many of the letters are signed Mitzi, so were possibly written back to a sweetheart.  There is certainly what looks like a marriage invitation for a Josef and Marie, daughter of Josef and Anna Rahn on the 11th June 1885, which suggests a return to marry.  Then a couple of children seem to have been baptised in the Huddersfield area.  There is not much more to suggest anything about his life in the UK, which is when I turned to Google for assistance!  Putting in his name and place of work directed me to an online journal article which confirms Petraczek worked at Read Holliday (where he was known as the ‘German Emperor’!) and left to set up a chemical consulting company in Bradford with Christopher Rawson (1860-1940), that he was the first secretary of the Society of Dyers and Colourists an edited their journal.  Another footnote suggests he died sometime just before 1920, living at 9 Charles Street Bradford, and left an estate worth £8,878 (around £300K today).

So we know where he ended up, and there are plenty of photographs of him and his family, but where did he come from?  The records in the collection contain a number of educational certificates recording his progress through secondary education.  These are completed by his PhD dissertation booklet from the University of Zurich in 1883.  This confirms his supervisor was Professor Victor Meyer, and that Petraczek came from Czernowitz, Bukowina, which is also recorded on his school reports.  Many of the letters are from his future wife, and typing the address into google maps, plant him firmly within the university grounds in Zurich (a bit like living on the ring road if you study at Huddersfield!)

So an hour’s research, a bit of internet searching, and a helpfully diverse set of personal documents have helped us to shed some light on the mystery of the Austrian Chemist.  No doubt someone who could decipher late 19th century Austrian-German could add a bit more colour (excuse the colour chemistry pun there!) and context to this story, and the documents we can’t translate, like the correspondence and documents to do with travel and military service.  There’s definitely more to learn in the future.  So how did we end up with this archive?  Back to the original box they came out of, and those Chemistry notes I mentioned belonging to a former staff member from the Tech College days A.V. Schofield.  We can only assume at this point he must be our mysterious depositor, and the records have come along with other papers he deposited with the archive (or left in a drawer for his colleagues to deposit after his departure!)

Either way, a small yet fascinating personal collection of a late 19th century migrant to the area, involved in some of its biggest industries.  And once catalogued, potentially useful for the researchers of the future.  You never do quite know what you’re going to discover when you open an archive box!

All roads lead to the canal!

L-R: Peter Toon, Lindsay Ince, L-R: Heather Norris Nicholson and Marianne McNamara at the handover of the Mikron archive

Last week we discovered all roads really do lead to the canal network as we held the official handover of the Mikron Theatre Company archive into Heritage Quay!  The acquisition of the Mikron archive has been almost four years in the making, from a number of coffee shop chats in its hometown of Marsden between producer Peter Toon and Huddersfield academic Heather Norris Nicholson, to the transfer of over 60 boxes of material into the University of Huddersfield Archives in March 2015.

We’re often asked how we acquire collections, and whilst many depositors approach us directly, and on occasion we might approach a potential depositor, it’s far more usual for us to hear about potential acquisitions through word of mouth.  Colleagues and users of the archive service will often flag up our existence to those perhaps considering depositing an archive (or those who have never considered it but wish they had somewhere safe to keep their collection!), but with no prior experience of the process or potential of depositing a collection with a professionally run archive service.

In the case of a University archive service, it is often through the connections made by our academics that we are made aware of these potential depositors.  It was through Dr Norris Nicholson’s initial discussions into the contents of the archive during 2011 and 2012, and her discovery of the potential for research amongst students and academics from a number of arts disciplines that a new home at the University Archive Service began to take shape.  A modern theatre company for whom travelling was a large and integral element of their day to day life, the practical advantages to Mikron of being able to regain office space,  alongside the desire to be able to make parts of their fascinating history available to fans and researchers alike made the possibility of the archive’s move a serious prospect.

But Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is the transfer arrangements for an archive collection!  It often takes months to arrange the practical and legal elements of a deposit.  The HLF funding to move the archive service to a new facility gave the idea of the deposit both a boost (considering Heritage Quay’s new location looking out onto the Huddersfield Narrow Canal and Mikron’s long connections with waterways in general) and created a delay.  It was decided best to move the material once the centre was complete and the existing collections had been transferred into the new repository.

Mikron’s archive leaves its home at Marsden Mechanics for a new existence in Heritage Quay.

But on a rather cloudy March morning in 2015, the Mikron archive left its home at the Marsden Mechanics for the last time, to be catalogued, repackaged and stored in the new state of the art facilities at Heritage Quay.  During the official handover on the 30th June, Dr Nicholson (Visiting Researcher, University of Huddersfield), Peter Toon (Producer, Mikron) and Marianne McNamara (Artistic Director, Mikron) came to look over some of the transferred material and examine the new repository.  Peter and Marianne were excited about the prospect of not only the material becoming accessible to a whole new audience of users, but the potential for them to be able to use and re-visit material from the past.  Mikron has one of the longest independent theatre ‘Friends’ group in the UK, which will celebrate it’s 30th anniversary in 2016, and some of the very first newsletters from the 1980s were on display during the handover.

Dr Nicholson pointed out the relevance of the programme and poster collections in charting the history of design and colour choice for Art and Design students.  She also discussed an extensive set of oral histories  conducted with those living and working on the barges in the early 20th century, which told not only the history of the waterways, but that of a entire culture of ‘bargee’ people who are now represented by only a few descendants keeping traditions alive.   As the vinyl, audio tape, programmes, photos, administrative and textile contents of the archive were reviewed, Dr Nicholson concluded the strength of the Mikron collection lay in the diverse range of formats it encompassed, which had appeal to students across the arts and humanities disciplines, and the potential for inter-disciplinary and funded research projects in the future.

In addition to dramatic and historical interest, elements of Mikron’s advertising and production history holds interest for Art and Design students.

So the Mikron collection is now safely on the shelves in its new home, and we hope to have it catalogued shortly.  The collection will then be searchable in the online catalogue at, and also in the lists we upload to portals like the Archives Hub and Archives Portal Europe.

Whilst we hope to welcome many students and academics in to conduct research, we also look forward to sharing the contents of the archive with Mikron’s Friends and the local community.  We hope if you visit Heritage Quay in the near future, you too will find all roads lead to the canal!

Read the University’s press release here and find details of Mikron’s show One of Each at Heritage Quay on 8th October 2015 here.

News from the trenches…

If you’ve been a long time follower of the HQ blog, you may remember reading last year about our participation in an ‘enlisting station’ for a First World War schools day for Years 10-11 from the local area.  It was an opportunity for them to participate in interactive learning about aspects of the First World War, and our enlistment activity during the lunch break prompted them to consider questions about what role they might have taken if standing in front of enlistment station in 1914 (military service, home service or conscientious objector).

WWI triage 6 (2)
Students triage a student helper in need during the Injuries of war session.

We were involved for a second time this year, much more on the organisational side, but the archive took on the task of designing the wrap up session after lunch, which consisted of a fact based First World War quiz to test students existing knowledge and introduce them to new facts and figures  in a fun environment.   Due to changes in the National Curriculum we targeted the day at Year 9 students, many of whom were visiting the university for the first time.  Many of the students did well in the quiz, which came down to a high pressure head to head between a girls team and boys team from Yewlands Academy, nr Sheffield.  The tiebreaker question was correctly answered by the boys team, who went away with a stylish and highly collectible University of Huddersfield drawstring bag!  Colleagues from the History, English, Music, Health and Human Sciences, Chemistry and Creative Writing departments took part, making the event truly interdisciplinary.  You can read more about the event on the university news page.

WWI spiritualism 2 (3)
Students attended a workshop on the rise of Spiritualism as a result of the war

The event grew out of the University First World War Commemoration Network and its the second year it has successfully run.  With next year being the centennial anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, we hope to run the event again, making it a truly reflective and informative event for all those students attending.

And now the end is near…

As 2014 draws to a close and we prepare to begin delivering all the rest of the exciting projects we’ve got planned for the next four years of the HLF project, we thought it might be nice to look back on 12 of our important numbers during this year, in a 12 days of Christmas style.

In the 12 months since last Christmas we have opened Heritage Quay!  A new HLF-funded archive, with exhibitions and technology. (Ok, don’t panic, that’s the last of the rhyming!)

… 11 events a month is about the number we’re hosting in our new exhibition and group spaces.  These range from university open days, to public lectures, or seminars for students and private tours for local community groups.  Check the Events calendar for details, but you could attend a special workshop like this one that ran during the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival.

… 10 new volunteers have worked in the archive in 2014, joining our small band of regular volunteering stalwarts.  Their contribution in listing, surveying and cleaning records prior to our move cannot be under-estimated!  They have been amazing.

… 9 groups of students from different courses and years have come into the archive this year for an ‘Introduction to Archive Skills’ course and a chance to look at some of our materials.  We hope this might then inspire return visits to connect archives to coursework and dissertation topics.

… 8 research themes are the basis of our decision making on what collections we take on.  To re-cap, these are Education, Women, Sport, Music, Politics, Health, Industry and Non-conformity.  If you want to know more about who we are and where we’re going, visit the About Us page on the website.  You can even read our collecting, preservation and access policies in the Plans, Policies, Performance and Projects box.

… 7 (paid) student assistants have worked for us at the end of this summer.  They have diligently audited and listed our collections, moved boxes around and ticked off lots of jobs that we didn’t think we’d get to by the end of 2015, never mind 2014! They are magnificent!

… 6 new members of staff started work with us in 2014.  A majority of these are contract staff appointed as part of the HLF funding who will be working with us over the next two to three years.  They include two cataloguing archivists, two archives assistants, and two officers working on community learning and working with schools.

… 5 ways to search our new online catalogue at  New collections catalogues will be uploaded regularly from now on and you have the option to search by a title, date, reference number, person or place name.

… 4 new collections have come into the archive this year, in addition to the accruals to existing collections.  We have welcomed political collections including the Robert Blatchford and Duncan Scott collection, an additional rugby league archive in the form of the Mike Stephenson collection, and will shortly be welcoming the Mikron Theatre Archive.  We hope they will be joined by many more in 2015!

… 3 new repository spaces make up our new archival storage in Heritage Quay.  There is our main store, an outsize room for larger objects and a freezer rooms with, you guessed it, freezers to store some of the audio visual material in order to keep it cooler and more stable for a very long period of time.  If you’re interested in seeing our storerooms you can book on a public tour, or just peep through the portholes, built for that very purpose!

… 2 local societies have made Heritage Quay their base for the next year.  Whilst we’ve been welcoming a range of internal and external groups over the last few months, the Huddersfield Local History Society and Huddersfield & District Archaeological Societies have been attracting ever larger numbers of attendees.  Their programme of lectures are on their website, and are of course, open to the public!

And 1 big curvy screen!  It’s been the talk of the town, and from the youngest to the oldest visitors have been enjoying getting to grips with our collection highlights experience, lovingly known amongst us as ‘the big curvy screen’.  Objects can be selected by gesture, and items examined in close up or music samples played through the sound system to experience what the archive has to offer without having any particular research interest, as pieces are chosen from across the collections.

From all of us at Heritage Quay we wish you Happy Christmas and a prosperous 2015!  We hope it’ll be the year you come to visit us if you haven’t managed to already, and also the year that we can offer you many more exciting opportunities to get involved in using and enjoying archives!

In the meantime, as none of us can sing, we’ll leave our Chancellor to ‘sing’ us out with a festive little number: