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.

Archivist’s Toolbox-Palaeography

The focus of this blog is the tradition of palaeography, i.e. the study of historical handwriting. This skill is important for transcription of ancient, medieval and post-medieval texts and for understanding the development of writing itself. This blog attempts to introduce the topic by covering some of the key ideas that are relevant to palaeographers as they attempt to decipher a post-medieval text.

Throughout the centuries different styles of handwriting have become popularised. The modern handwriting style was founded with the italic style in the 14th to 16th centuries. This image shows some of the ways in which letters have been written in different styles of handwriting. This expresses why palaeography is a learned skill, since without knowledge of these letter shapes their presentation might be quite confusing to someone trying to read a document.

From looking at handwriting we can often see stylistic flairs that it helps to learn when interpreting an individual writer’s text. This example from our gas company collection (20th century) demonstrates that the scribe often joins words together and exhibits the different ways they write the letter ‘t’. Whilst it is useful to familiarise yourself with a writer’s style, it is also important to recognise that it may change throughout their life. Therefore, alongside learning the popular styles of the time, it is helpful to also pay close attention to specific individuals and the way they write.

Spelling could also differ, e.g. said being spelt sayd, and scribes often used abbreviations to shorten words, e.g. ‘wch’ for ‘which’ uses superscript letters. It is these historic ways of writing that have fallen out of fashion. If we consider modern language we notice that it changes all the time, whether that is the invention of a new slang term, a word to describe a scientific idea or abbreviations popularised via social media.

Transcribing a text can often feel like solving a puzzle. Making decisions about what handwriting style, date and individual letters are present discloses the content and, occasionally, context of historical documents, allowing you to glimpse aspects of life from centuries ago. We run palaeography courses here at Heritage Quay for students and researchers, so if you are interested please send us an email at If you want to read more about the topic and practice some examples, check out The National Archives pages at

If you fancy having an attempt at transcribing, make sense of the image below from a 17th century Indenture which is one of the earliest legal documents we have at our archive. This is just a snippet of the document so the sentences aren’t complete. The answer will be in the comments below so don’t scroll till you’ve had a go.

If you’re a University of Huddersfield student the archive runs regular classes on how to pick up skills in palaeography 1500-2000! Just contact the archive for more information –

Who made little boy blue?

Charles Hippisley-Cox writes:

Amongst the 12,000 “pre-vinyl” 78s in our British Dance Band Collection are examples of around 200 different record labels.   One particularly rare and sought-after brand can be seen here at the start of this video. It is the very short-lived “Gold” Edison Bell label which was only in existence for about 18 months in 1933-4.  The rest of the video features still photographs of the Joe’ Loss band.   Joe led one of the best British bands of the 1930s and he was still active as a bandleader until his death in 1990.

We’re Hiring!

‘Bridging the Digital Gap’ trainee: Oct 2019-Dec 2020 – 32 hours a week – £14,500 per annum – deadline 5 June 2019.

  • Would you love to work at Heritage Quay?
  • Do you enjoy working with technology and digital systems at college, or at your job or voluntary work?
  • Are you looking for a challenging development opportunity with a digital focus?
  • Would you like supportive on-the-job training and to do real work in a rapidly developing area for the archive sector?

We are now recruiting for a 15-month ‘Bridging the Digital Gap’ trainee. This is part of The National Archives’ initiative to bring new talent into the archives sector, helping us to preserve digital material for future generations and make it accessible.

Why do we need a trainee and what’s the ‘digital gap’?

The records we create now are increasingly digital, not paper, and have been for some time. If we don’t take action to improve the way we can manage digital material, our history is going to fall into the ‘digital gap’. There is also increased opportunity for digital engagement with archives, enabling collections to be shared with a much wider audience in new and exciting ways. The trainees on this scheme will therefore be playing a vitally important role in helping us learn how to preserve, manage, and make available our digital history.

What will the trainee do?

There are eight traineeships available in this year’s cohort, four in Yorkshire and four in London. Heritage Quay will be hosting one trainee from October 2019 for the 32-hour a week, 15-month placement.

The role here will be truly varied, particularly as Heritage Quay is a joint Archives and Records Management Service, which means you will be working with the University’s current business records in addition to our archive collections. Highlights of the role include:

  • Piloting the enhancement of online exhibitions
  • Participating in digitisation projects
  • Supporting projects for the development of the University’s electronic records management system
  • Assisting with the development of procedures for born-digital collections
  • Piloting workflows to manage preservation of digital material

What will you get out of it?

Whilst your digital skills and fresh approach will help us to enhance our digital capabilities, the scheme is also an excellent opportunity to develop your own skills. In addition to learning on the job and gaining experience with real projects, you will participate in an e-learning programme and face-to-face workshops, collaborate with other trainees, and work towards a professional certificate recognised by the Archives and Records Association.

Who are we looking for?

The traineeship is perfect for anyone interested in digital technology and looking for a challenging development opportunity. The only qualifications you’ll need are either A Level(s)/Level 3 qualification(s) in Science, Maths, Computing or another technical subject or demonstrable experience in using technical skills. In addition to an interest in and experience with digital technology, we’re looking for a good communicator and problem solver with organisational and people skills.

What do I do if I’m interested?

If you think that this is the role for you, the full job advert and details on how to apply are available on Civil Service Jobs; all applications should be submitted there.

If you have any questions about the role, contact Sian Astill at or on 01484 472963.

The beginnings of jazz

Charles Hippisley-Cox writes about his British Dance Band collection:

The first authentic jazz recordings in the UK were “waxed” exactly 100 years ago this month during April 1919.   A group of young guys has just arrived from New Orleans and had taken London by storm.   Columbia swiftly saw their potential and whisked them off to their recording studios and issuing a series of very important recordings.  We have a full set of the “Original Dixieland Jazz Band” Columbia 78s in the British Dance Band Collection held at Heritage Quay and here is a link to one of their UK recordings; Satanic Blues:

“They’re Wearing ’em Higher In Hawaii” – by the Corner House Ragtime Band (1918)

Charles Hippisley-Cox writes

Here’s another recent addition to the British Dance Band collection here in the Heritage Quay.   It represents exactly what was happening in popular music at the end of the Ragtime era before the arrival of jazz.    The band was based at Lyons’ Corner House, Coventry Street, London with an instrumentation based on a lead violin, two banjos, piano and drums.   Recorded in March 1918 and issued on the Winner record label that had adopted a rather dull colour during the austerity of WW1.  Jazz “proper” arrived exactly 100 years ago by boat with the visit of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band.   Next month we will be celebrating this by sharing their first London recording which was in April 1919″