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what handwriting style, date and individual letters are present discloses the content and, occasionally, context of historical documents, allowing you to glimpse aspects of life from centuries ago.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 archives@hud.ac.uk. If you want to read more about the topic and practice some examples, check out The National Archives pages at http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/palaeography/default.htm.

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 – archives@hud.ac.uk

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 s.astill@hud.ac.uk 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″

Heritage Quay welcomes England Netball Archive

The archive celebrates the game from 1897 to the present day

Netball is a boom sport and now its origins and development can be traced by visitors to Heritage Quay.

It has become home to the England Netball Heritage Archive, a large collection of documents, pictures, videos and memorabilia covering the history of “women’s basketball” – as it was originally known – from 1897 to the present day, including recent highlights such as the exploits of the England team, which vanquished Australia to win Gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

Based on American basketball, netball was created in England in 1897 at the Bergman-Österberg Physical Training College for Women, in Dartford.  By 1900, the rules had been published and the game soon spread across the British Empire. 

The All England Net Ball Association was founded in 1926 and in 2016 the modern body England Netball was awarded a grant by the Heritage Lottery Fund to mark the sport’s 90th anniversary by creating an archive.

When the anniversary celebrations had concluded, England Netball sought advice on the best permanent home for the collection, and the UK’s National Archives recommended the University of Huddersfield’s Heritage Quay.

One of the most publicly accessible and advanced facilities in the sector, it also houses the archives of the Rugby Football League.  Now it becomes even more attractive to sports historians and enthusiasts by homing the extensive England Netball Heritage Archive, which is fully catalogued online.

August 1967 – England Squad of 10 selected to go to Australia for the 2nd World Tournament in Perth and then to tour Australia.
August 1967 – England Squad of 10 selected to go to Australia for the 2nd World Tournament in Perth and then to tour Australia.

Netball Heritage

At a special launch event, guest speakers included Liz Nicholls CBE, a former netball international herself who is now CEO of UK Sport.  Current England Netball CEO Joanna Adams also spoke, and there was a welcome from the historian Professor Tim Thornton, the University of Huddersfield’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor. Also speaking was Councillor Mumtaz Hussain, the Deputy Mayor of Kirklees Council.

After the opening speeches, netball enthusiasts at the launch event were the first to have the opportunity to examine items in the archive.

Joanna Adams said: “Netball has grown massively and been thrust into the limelight, especially over the last 12 months since the England team won the Commonwealth Games for the first time in history.  It is wonderful to now be able to look back on how it all began thanks to this archive, and to see how netball got to where it is today.

“I hope others enjoy sharing in the history of this sport as much as I do.”

Sarah Wickham, the University’s Archivist and Records Manager, said: “We are delighted that England Netball have deposited their archive with Heritage Quay.  This is a significant addition to our sporting collections.  Building on netball’s recent high profile successes, we look forward to welcoming researchers interested in exploring the sport’s rich history, and working with England Netball to develop the archive in the future.”

To donate or loan netball memorabilia to the Netball Heritage Archive, contact ournetballhistory@englandnetball.co.uk.

The special event at Heritage Quay coincided with the University of Huddersfield hosting the Under-17 Europe Netball Championships, taking place in its sports hall.

Pictured in the University’s Heritage Quay (l-r) CEO of UK Sport Liz Nicholls CBE, CEO of England Netball Joanna Adams, University Archivist and Records Manager Sarah Wickham and President of England Netball Lindsay Satori.
Pictured in the University’s Heritage Quay (l-r) CEO of UK Sport Liz Nicholls CBE, CEO of England Netball Joanna Adams, University Archivist and Records Manager Sarah Wickham and President of England Netball Lindsay Satori.

Story originally published at https://www.hud.ac.uk/news/2019/march/england-netball-heritage-archive-huddersfield/


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:  http://heritagequay.org/archives/).

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.’