Australian historian admires Uni’s Mechanics’ Institute heritage

Publisher Jim Lowden from Victoria was hosted on his visit by the University’s Dr Martyn Walker, who is an expert on the 19th century Mechanics’ Institutes

THE Mechanics’ Institutes that burgeoned in 19th century Britain left a legacy that includes modern educational institutions such as the University of Huddersfield. They also had equivalents around the English-speaking world, including Australia, where institutes were often vital to life and learning in remote communities.


Jim Lowden and his daughter Bronwen and the Mechanics’ Institutes of Victoria

Now, a man who has played an important role in preserving and promoting the heritage of Australia’s institutes has paid a fact-finding visit to the University of Huddersfield, where he was fascinated by its archives and impressed by the way they are preserved and made accessible to the public.

“Huddersfield has demonstrably shown a commitment to explore the history, heritage and ongoing development of the Mechanics’ Institute movement,” said publisher Jim Lowden, following his tour of the town, the University and its Heritage Quay archive.

His home town is Kilmore in the state of Victoria, and its Mechanics’ Institute was established in 1854 by English and Scottish settlers who had had experience of the UK movement.

The Kilmore institute was demolished in the 1970s, but in the 1990s a legal dispute over ownership of its land was the catalyst for the creation of a state organisation named the Mechanics’ Institutes of Victoria. Mr Lowden is a life member and serves on the committee. His daughter Bronwen edits its magazine and manages its website.


Huddersfield’s Dr Martyn Walker and the Huddersfield Mechanics’ Institution minutes book

At the University of Huddersfield, Principal Lecturer in Education and Research Dr Martyn Walker is an expert on the 19th century Mechanics’ Institutes and his publications include a book on the subject. He has also lectured internationally and when he presented the keynote address at a conference in Melbourne, he met Jim Lowden.

“I discovered that it was a group of English and Scottish tradesmen who came over with their families and copied what was going on Britain, setting up institutes in the colonies.”

Later, when he heard that Mr Lowden was planning a visit to the UK, Dr Walker invited him to come to Huddersfield, to see the town, the University – including its Ramsden Building, an ornate Mechanics’ Institution of the 1880s – and the archive collection.

“I was privileged to see the first extant Huddersfield Mechanics’ Institution Minute Book and ‘scrapbook’,” said Mr Lowden.

“A quick scan indicated the 1850s Huddersfield MI was a model for technical and further education and cultural development. Clearly, it was needs driven, but there were wider goals, which included teacher training, language and creative skills, industrial research and community wellbeing.”

Most of Australia’s 3,500 institutes were formed on the British model, by British émigrés, but in vastly different circumstances, said Mr Lowden.

“In many cases, an institute was the first needs-based public building in a community, financed largely by community fundraising with an occasional government grant tied to the establishment of a library.


Mechanics’ Institutes of Victoria Australia

“These buildings became temporary churches, schools, court houses, council chambers, lodge rooms, professional consulting rooms, bank branches, music centres or whatever until purpose-built premises were erected. Unlike in the UK, Mechanics’ Institutes continued to provide community library services even into the 1980s,” said Mr Lowden.

Today, the surviving institutes – mostly serving as community halls – face a range of challenges – and their sites are often earmarked for redevelopment.

“To survive, each institute has to find its own niche within its own community and the wider region,” said Mr Lowden.

Just as several Mechanics’ Institutes in Britain – such as Huddersfield’s – evolved into universities, several of their equivalents in Australia took the same route. Jim Lowden said there are plans for a 2021 conference for representatives of such “Mechanics’ Universities” around the world, to celebrate the bicentenary of Heriot-Watt University, established in 1821 as the Edinburgh School of Arts.

At the University of Huddersfield, Dr Walker agrees that there is plentiful scope for research collaboration between institutes around the world who went on to become universities.

Originally published on the University of Huddersfield News page:
https://www.hud.ac.uk/news/2017/october/australianhistorianadmiresunismechanicsinstitutionheritage/

Archive drifting

The weekend of the 9-10 September 2017 saw the return of the 4th World Congress of Psychogeography to Heritage Quay. As well as being a lot of fun, more importantly it was the last event to take place as part of our Heritage Lottery-funded Heritage Quay engagement project. As I reflected on the past three years of engagement work I realised that the Congress, and the session I ran at it this year (Archive Dérive), was a microcosm for the way that we’ve tried to work at HQ.

So, how does me running a session called Archive Derive at the 4th Congress of Psychogeography sum us up?

0.5) What is Psychogeography?
Psychogeography has a few definitions, which include “the study of the influence of geographical environment on the mind or on behaviour” or “the geographical environment of a particular location, typically a city, considered with regard to its influence on the mind or on behaviour.” For the lay person, it’s an approach to the world around us that, using the tools of psychology, sociology, art, philosophy etc, makes us look at the familiar through new eyes.

1) Local connections and collaboration
The idea for the Congress came from another event we ran back in 2016 and was the result of something that Huddersfield is great for – connections and contacts. In January 2016 we ran a historic Maps Day and as part of the planning I was put in touch with some local psychogeographers. Although what they did didn’t fit with the planned day we decided it was worth doing something together. This small group of four became the committee for the Congress. The HQ project has been really interested in creating communities of interest around our collections, particularly regarding local history, music and rugby league and this seemed like another community we could support.

2) The Congress as an alternative Heritage Open Days event
Throughout the HQ project, we have tried to be as experimental and interesting as possible (!) and the Congress fits that bill. HODs is about opening up spaces and telling stories about the historical built environment, offering free experiences you can’t get at any other time. What do you do when you already offer free entry and behind the scenes tours? My solution was to take the same parameters but approach them in a very different way – through psychogeography.

3) The Archive Dérive
I am fascinated by the connections between collections and created a session which explored this idea, working with psychogeographical ideas. A Dérive is a alternative method for travelling through a space, often with random or arbitrary rules. Of course, we couldn’t let the public roam around the archives so I did a derive of my own, plotting a map of places I’ve lived onto a plan of the main strongroom.


I then selected objects based on those points – following my instincts to select things. Because I was doing the workshop twice I moved the results slightly to end up with two different selections. This is what I ended up with:

On the Saturday of the Congress I asked two groups of psychogeographers to assemble in the searchroom. Each group was given a box of collections and asked to use them to create a (fictional psychogeographer’s) life story. We worked together to interrogate the archival objects and documents and used them to populate a timeline. It was a lot of fun! I encouraged the groups to be as creative, silly and imaginative as possible and they made some very entertaining connections. Who knew you could link a dating service with snails and Tibetan monks?

These were the results:

David Bollinger

Fenella Brandenberg

The workshops were lots of fun, with mystical and dramatic ideas added together to create some tall tales. At the same time, previously unconnected collections were brought together and linked, by non-specialists, into something greater than the sum of their parts. Which when I think of it is what we always want to do.

Students recount tales from the archives

Now the end of the academic year is approaching, our student placements for 2016/7 have been completing their projects with us in Heritage Quay. We’ve had four placement students this year who have come to us as part of their courses, three from History (Colette, Todd and Jessica), one from English (Daniel). They’ve been working on a diverse range of collections from politics to music to Rugby League. They’ve also helped us on a special research project to investigate ways we might continue to host our exhibitions in the digital world once we’ve changed over the physical cases in Heritage Quay to the next exhibition! But more on that in the next few months!

To round off their time we’ve us, we’ve asked them each to sum up their experiences working with Heritage Quay – What they’ve done, what they’ve enjoyed and what has surprised or interested them. Here are their responses:

Jessica
I consider my time on placement at Heritage Quay as invaluable. Over the months that I was there, I contributed to the organisation of the Labour Party collection which needed sorting and cataloguing. The collection was wide ranging in the types of document and information it held, and I found this very interesting and helped keep me engaged in the topic. Not only was this work intriguing for me on a personal level, but it also provided me with skills that I could transfer into my studies as a history student. The staff at Heritage Quay are what made my experience there so positive and enjoyable. They were always eager to help and provide extra information about areas of the collection, and it is through their enthusiasm that pushed me to consider a role within an archive environment as a pathway after my graduation.

Colette
As part of my work placement in Heritage Quay I wrote descriptions for all of the scrapbooks in the Rugby League Tom Longworth collection. The descriptions that I wrote were then added to the online catalogue for the public to view. The work was quite repetitive but there were moments when I found some quite entertaining articles in the scrapbooks. For example, there was one that stated that a woman ran on to the pitch and started beating some players with her umbrella because they were fighting ‘her players’. The article included a photograph of her being dragged away by the police and a comment that she had previously run on to the pitch wielding a handbag! I also worked with some school groups that came in for outreach events which is something I didn’t expect in an archive. These events were fun to take part in and the children seemed to really enjoy them.

Todd
When most people think of an archive they would imagine a dark dingy space filled with old books and documents that sit there collecting dust being guarded by an old professor who keeps it locked away from the rest of the world. While this may be the case on a very small scale (personal archives) it cannot be said to be true of the large majority of British archives, certainly not of Heritage Quay! During my time as an archive volunteer at Heritage Quay I was able to gain an understanding of how the archive runs and I can confirm it is a place of wonderment – constantly progressing – using the latest technology to help conserve our history and finding new ways to engage the public. During my work placement, I personally worked on the British Music Collection (BMC) which was a vast collection focusing on British contemporary music. The collection includes music scores, (vinyl) records, audio recordings, music programmes, VHS tapes, and much more! During my allotted 75 hours I helped to put together a reliable database for the BMC VHS tapes, catalogued various other items such as composer files, added new items to the collection, repackaged items so that they were well conserved and helped out on a public event. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience and it has helped me to consider a career in archiving as it provides a vast path of choices- there is always something to do!

As part of their research project, we asked them to provide some extra content for our campus trail, which is due to launch shortly with community group Discover Huddersfield. You can view their HistoryPin tour below, and Daniel uses his blog to discuss how useful a tool HistoryPin is for showcasing archives and the built environment:

Historypin

Daniel

I have taken care of three places for the online exhibition: Joseph Priestley’s building, St Paul’s Hall and the University Entrance. During the years these have changed significantly, be it in their use or in their looks. It is important to save these changes for the knowledge-hungry people and Historypin was our tool to go during that endeavour. It has a multitude of fancy and interesting options and is really easy to use. Have you ever wondered how did the university build itself over time? With Historypin you can see which buildings are the oldest.

If you’re a student at the University of Huddersfield, keep your eyes open for more adverts for student placements next academic year on the e-placements website!

Collections closure week, Monday 26th- Friday 30th June 2017

Please note that Heritage Quay will be closed from Monday 26th to Friday 30th June 2017 inclusive.
This is so that the team can carry out work on some of our collections which we are unable to do whilst we are open to the public. We have chosen this time of year as visitor numbers over the last 2 years have been comparatively low during June.
We plan to spend the week working on the extensive industrial archive of Hopkinsons Limited, the Huddersfield-based isolation and control valve manufacturer, and will post a blog charting our progress during the week: watch this space!
The Hopkinsons archive is one of the largest in our holdings, comprising around 420 boxes plus some oversize material including valves and display items.

This closure means that the research room will not be open on Monday 26th or Tuesday 27th June, and the exhibition space will be closed Monday – Friday inclusive.
Heritage Quay will be open as usual from Saturday 1st July when we will be hosting our History Festival.

Consultancy opportunity: Activity Planning consultant

The University of Huddersfield and West Yorkshire Archive Service wish to invite suitably qualified and experienced consultants to submit their proposals for the preparation of an Activity Plan during the development phase of their project West Yorkshire Archives Kirklees @ Heritage Quay.

The Plan will be a key strategic planning document for the project partners and will be used in support of applications for external funding, including a £1.9m Round 2 Heritage Grants application to be submitted in December 2017. Accordingly, the Activity Plan is to be prepared in accordance with the Heritage Lottery Fund’s current Activity Planning guidance.

Consultants wishing to submit a proposal must obtain the full consultancy brief and supporting documents from Sarah Wickham, Project Director, via s[dot]wickham@hud.ac.uk (replace the [dot])

Proposals should be submitted by email ONLY to reach Sarah Wickham by noon on Thursday 9th May 2017 at the latest.

Easter closure Friday 14th – Monday 17th April

Please note that we will be closed for the Easter weekend on Friday 14th April to Monday 17th April inclusive.
This means that the research room will not be open on Saturday 15th April or Monday 17th April, and there will be no “Through the Quay-hole” tour on Saturday 15th April.

The exhibition space will be open as usual until 8pm on Thursday 13th April, and will re-open at 8am on Tuesday 18th April.

West Yorkshire Archives Kirklees at Heritage Quay project

THE archives of Kirklees have received initial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for the West Yorkshire Archives Kirklees at Heritage Quay project, it was announced today. The project aims to improve access to Kirklees’ archive collections, create opportunities for volunteering, formal and informal learning and exhibitions for the first time, and to radically improve the storage and physical conditions for the collections. This work will achieved through a partnership between Kirklees MBC, West Yorkshire Joint Services Committee and the University of Huddersfield.

Thanks to National Lottery players development funding of £80,100 has also been awarded to help the project partners progress their plans to apply for a full grant at a later date. If successful, the Kirklees archive collections will move to the multi-award winning facilities at Heritage Quay on the University campus in 2019. The move of West Yorkshire Archive Service Kirklees to the University site will not impact on the provision of the local history service in Huddersfield Library and offers a great opportunity to further strengthen the relationship between the Archives Service, University of Huddersfield and Kirklees Libraries.

Graham Turner and Val Slater The unique and irreplaceable archive collections cover the whole of the current Kirklees Metropolitan District including Batley, Cleckheaton, Dewsbury, Heckmondwike, Holmfirth, Huddersfield, Liversedge, Marsden and Mirfield. They fill more than 26,100 boxes (some 522 cubic metres) and are composed of parchment, paper, volumes, textile samples, photographic media including glass-plate negatives, transparencies and prints. Overall the collections are important because they are unique and key sources for understanding the place and the identity of communities who have helped shape it over 850 years. Whilst the collections cover most aspects of people’s lives there are particular strengths in textiles, canals, industry, trades’ unions, womens’ rights, culture and sport.

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Cllr Graham Turner, Cabinet Member Kirklees – Asset Strategy, Resources & Creative Kirklees (Arts) said: “This is a fantastic opportunity, to not only create a valuable resource, but to strengthen the relationship between the Archive Service, the University and Kirklees Libraries, which I believe is very important.”

Tim Thornton “At West Yorkshire Archive Service we are very proud to be home to the largest archive service outside of London, with nationally and internationally significant collections, spanning over 800 years” said Cllr Val Slater, Chair of the Archives, Archaeology and Trading Standards Sub-committee, West Yorkshire Joint Services Committee. “Our office at Kirklees plays an important role in preserving the unique written history of the area. But without new storage and access facilities the long-term survival of the collections could be in jeopardy after The National Archives identified our buildings as being unfit to store our irreplaceable archives. It’s great news that we have secured initial approval from HLF to seek funding to move to the university site, and it will represent a full house of new buildings for WYAS, and provide an unmissable opportunity for closer working with the University and much improved public access in existing, high quality facilities at Heritage Quay.”

Sue Bower Professor Tim Thornton, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Huddersfield, said: “We’re delighted to be able to develop our partnerships with Kirklees and the West Yorkshire Archive Service, building on the multi-award-winning success of Heritage Quay. This will allow us to propose new activities with new archive materials involving even wider audiences in the remarkable heritage of the communities of the Kirklees area.”

Sue Bowers, Deputy Director of Operations, Heritage Lottery Fund, said: “We are delighted that this project will unite these important physical archives, and keep them on one site, in Kirklees. This support from National Lottery players will create fantastic opportunities for volunteering and allow many more people to explore the collections, and we look forward to seeing the final proposals in the near future”.

Read the Press Release here

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Holmfirth High comes to Heritage Quay!

For the last two weeks we’ve welcomed two students from nearby Holmfirth High School into Heritage Quay for their work experience placements. Here’s what they’ve had to say about becoming archivists for a couple of weeks, and you can see them hard at work in the photo below!

Tom and Joe hard at work in the archives

Tom
I decided to come to Heritage Quay to do my work experience, because of my love of history and my fascination with local history and knowing about our ancestors. Whilst I’ve been on this placement I’ve done some intriguing and horizon broadening activities. One day I logged volumes of books onto the online system giving me a glimpse into the inner workings of the archive catalogue, I’ve also been listening to music and researching it for upcoming listening clubs.

This experience made me think hard about my options after school and education, and completely opened my eyes to many different job opportunities that I had never before thought of. This has been a thoroughly enjoyable experience and would gladly come again if another chance arises!

Joe
I choose to do work experience at Heritage Quay because of my interest in history and archives. While there I helped list dissertations and photography into the online database, moved books from shelf to shelf and researched various items and collections from the archives. I particularly enjoyed working on the Frobisher collection as it was extremely interesting to see a large collection of records from a single family’s history.

Although I am still uncertain about to do after school my work experience here has taught me many useful skills and shown a lot about the workings of the archives so I am very happy to have done my work experience here.

You can check out Tom and Joe’s contributions to the archive catalogue at the following links:

http://heritagequay.org/archives/FRO/
http://heritagequay.org/archives/HLB/TC/4/