Catalogues a plenty at Heritage Quay!

There’s been a deluge of new catalogue descriptions added to the Heritage Quay catalogue this week! This is great news for researchers as it means you can get more detail on the content of some of our collections! Here’s what’s been added:

– RFL Tape Collection – Lots of detail on the tapes in the RFL collections, of games, instructional videos, and the history and execution of the game.
– Cricket Research Centre Collection – The centre collected lots of materials relating to the history of cricket as part of a funded project and exhibited these locally.
– Continuum Ensemble – The working papers of the Continuum Ensemble, a musical company dedicated to bringing neglected 20th century music to modern audiences.
– Wombwell and Oxford Authentics – Records of both the Oxford and Wombwell cricket clubs and the Oxford University Indian cricket tour of 1902.
– Open College Networks – Publications and papers relating to the beginning of the open college networks.
– Mikron Tapes – The addition of oral history, research interviews and audio cassettes to the Mikron collection.
– George Glew Archive – The research reports, lecture slides and papers of this food scientist, who completed research on refrigeration and worked at the Universities of Leeds and Huddersfield.

All of these are searchable at our online catalogue at

TUC Reports

Archivists are careful to record as much information as possible on the sources of new material arriving, as knowing the provenance of records or rare books adds to our understanding of them. Knowing exactly who created and used particular records gives us insights into how those people worked and what they might have thought. Knowing where a collection has come from helps us to decide how much to trust a particular historical source. It can also help us decide how relevant a particular record series might be for our research. A series of photographs of a business’ premises taken by the marketing department is going to show different things than a series of photos taken by an individual employee on her retirement, for example.

However, sometimes things turn up that have been in an archive for years, but not yet documented. Perhaps they were mislabelled or housed with other things before there was an archivist to catalogue them! One such little collection that turned up in our move to Heritage Quay was a group of reports relating to trade unionism. These have just been catalogued and are now available to use in our searchroom.

The reports fall into three series: Report of the Annual Trades Union Congress (TUC) 1916-1969, Reports by the Parliamentary Committee of the Trades Union Congress (1906-1918), and International Report of the Trade Union Movement (1903-1911).

The first step was to check for signs of where these reports might have come from and how they came to us. Several issues were stamped Huddersfield College of Technology or had the College’s bookplate pasted into the cover. The reports therefore belonged with the Institutional Library: publications that used to be part of the University of Huddersfield’s main library and have been kept as Special Collections. They would have been acquired for the use of staff and students researching and studying here in the past.

Obviously given the size of the University of Huddersfield’s library, and its history dating back to its days as the Huddersfield Mechanics Institution in the Victorian era, we can’t keep a copy of every book or report our library every held! So how do we decide what to keep?

The ‘new’ reports add to our political collections, including the archive of the Huddersfield Labour Party, the papers of Sir Joseph Mallalieu MP, and the library of famous statistician G.H. Wood. There were already a number of other left-wing serial publications catalogued within the Institutional Library, such as ‘Labour Weekly’ and ‘Labour Research’, so the provenance made sense. These links to our other collections were part of the reason for deciding to keep these reports.

We also look for how rare items seem to be. Searches of the COPAC library catalogue showed that 12 university libraries in the UK hold printed copies of the Report of the Annual Trades Union Congress. Not all of these hold complete series. The TUC has digitised their holdings and made them available online. The International Report is much rarer: WorldCat shows only 17 libraries holding copies worldwide, none of them in the UK. This might reflect its being published in Germany, not long before the First World War.

Another consideration we take into account when deciding which publications to keep is the potential usefulness to researchers. As Huddersfield’s political history is one of our collecting areas, we attract historians, students, local people and other users wanting to know more. These reports will certainly be of interest. Many of the reports date from the First World War, and cover issues such as assisting Belgian refugees. With lots of research still being generated in the centenary of the war, and plenty of interest in politics, economics and social history the reports certainly have the potential to be great source material for a range of users now and in years to come.

If you want to find out more the main TUC archive is here

New Ted Hughes exhibition

This month saw the launch of a new exhibition at Heritage Quay: ‘Ted Hughes: You Are Who You Choose To Be’ which runs until the beginning of July.

Like many of the displays we have in the archives, this exhibition wasn’t curated by us. This time we worked with staff in the English Literature department here at the University. Between us we supported Third Year English Literature students to select archival documents and objects that explore the Yorkshire roots of Hughes’s work, as well as his family life and professional collaborators. The displays include many newer additions to the archives here at Heritage Quay, including the Ted Hughes Network archive and the Donald Crossley archive both of which are available to researchers, although not fully catalogued yet. There are also some items on loan from a private collector.

The process of working on the exhibition with the students was really interesting. As any gallery or museum curator will tell you, curation (both selection of objects and text writing) is a delicate art. There are plenty of decisions to be made from the story you’d like to tell, to the depth of description. There will be physical constraints to deal with, including the need to minimise any damage to the objects on show, and the amount of display space available.

Our students came along for a teaching session with Public Engagement Office David Smith, who presented the relevant archives and rare books to the group, and gave them an introduction to curating an exhibition. The students were then divided into groups and had the opportunity to come and get to know the collections better in our Searchroom. These research sessions produced plenty of animated discussion!

Each group came up with proposals for each of our six cases, with tutors choosing the best ideas to become the final exhibition. The students then worked together to produce the finished layout and captions. The new exhibition was then officially launched as part of the Huddersfield Literature Festival, complete with a reading of the poem ‘Six Young Men’ by Huddersfield’s own David Rudrum, and a comedy set from poet, comedian, actor and director, Owen O’Neill.

We are delighted with the final exhibition, and have been receiving really positive responses from our visitors. We’re just as pleased to have had the chance to take some of our students through the whole process of creating an exhibition, from brainstorming ideas to launch party!

Collections fortnight, January 2018

Early January tends to be a quiet time in the searchroom – are all you researchers recovering from the holiday period? So the team took the opportunity this year to focus on some larger collections which are difficult to work on whilst the searchroom is open and our normal activities are going on.

Collections need sorting, repackaging and cataloguing to be accessible for your research, and often a large amount of space and time is needed for this.

During January this year the team finished off the Hopkinsons’ Ltd archive and made a start on sorting and surveying Sir Patrick Stewart’s archive, received during 2017.

The British Music Collection is 50! #bmc50

On the 7th November 2017 the British Music Collection will celebrate its landmark 50th anniversary.

Custodians of the collection Sound and Music, the national charity for new music, are thrilled to launch 12 months of #BMC50 activity. This will range from live events to edit-a-thons, guest curators to composer showcases and much, much more….

“This amazing resource has been part of my career for half a century. I used it in the sixties to find out about new music and to meet other composers. In the seventies and eighties, as BMIC, it became a wonderful library and a place that hosted concerts as well. When I taught in London I often sent students there – the only place for discovering new scores. I have continued to use it, either online or in its superb archival spaces in Huddersfield.

I salute the 50th anniversary of the British Music Collection with delight.” – Professor Nicola LeFanu, composer

A year long celebration

To mark this significant date in British cultural history, Sound and Music will put composers in the British Music Collection at the heart of the celebrations, highlighting the heritage of extraordinary music created in the UK and the wider cultural impact of its creators, as well as drawing out more marginalised voices, including those of women, black and minority ethnic and disabled composers.

Throughout the #BMC50 year audiences will also be introduced to contemporary New Voices, a growing community of composers working with Sound and Music to create new music and sound across the country, whose work is featured in the British Music Collection as part of its commitment to the heritage of the future.

To find out more and support #BMC50, visit Sound and Music’s website.

Poulomi Desai, Artist in Residence – Leverhulme Trust

The University of Huddersfield’s Archives at Heritage Quay hosted a unique residency with multi-media artist and musician Poulomi Desai, funded through the Leverhulme Trust. For 80 days during the academic year 2016/7 Poulomi immersed herself in the heritage collections stored at Heritage Quay and in the life of the Service, its staff and users. As well as investigating the boxes which hold the archive materials and which are kept in the archive repository when not in use, she also engaged with people attending our events, the researchers pursuing their own interests in the archives, general visitors to Heritage Quay, and staff and volunteers who work here. She also made connections and visits with other artists and groups within the area, and delivered workshops including at European Researchers Night, a University-wide free event in September 2017.

Poulomi produced a series of artworks based on her encounters with the people, collections and broader themes in her residency. One set of these artworks is available at Heritage Quay, the other is in London at Poulomi’s arts space Usurp; the works will be exhibited and performed further.

The artworks include
“stories in saris” two silk sari artworks, “S360” and “SE148163” each 5770mm x 3700mm, and made to be worn. The designs are based on Poulomi’s research into three small collections held at Heritage Quay, and listening to idiosyncratic music works in the British Music Collection that reference Indian musicology. The silk was printed in the University’s textile printing department.

“Memento mori” – new photographic glass plates which combine contemporary portraits with motifs from old photographic glass plates, lantern slides and book covers from the main collections of art, rugby league and literature. These celebrate people born in Yorkshire who have broken conventions and challenged prejudices.

“Unmuted” – a film which contrasts the location of Heritage Quay and its collections with the local landscape of the Yorkshire moors.

Performance pieces – two pieces, one for the Archives Assistants in Heritage Quay and the other for anyone handling “Made in Huddersfield” (see below). Both pieces enact rituals of opening, uncovering and displaying the contents of the box – the artworks created during the residency.

“Made in Huddersfield” – a version of the standard archive storage box created in stainless steel and produced by local firm Morley Brothers. These boxes, made of archival quality acid-free cardboard with non-corroding brass fastenings, are used throughout the repositories in Heritage Quay for the preservation and easy handling of the collections. The stainless steel, riveted, version contains and preserves Poulomi’s artworks created through the residency (listed above), and also is central to one of the performance pieces.

Poulomi describes her time in Heritage Quay as providing “unexpected and surprising opportunities” artistically. For the team of staff and volunteers at Heritage Quay, as well as our researchers (both from the University and not) and visitors, Poulomi’s responses to the collections give insights in the past but also reflect on how our management and research processes determine the future.

For more information on the residency, please see

Our thanks to the Leverhulme Trust for their generous support of the residency.

All images copyright Poulomi Desai

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: