A “world record”

Charles Hippisley-Cox writes

Here’s one of the latest additions to the British Dance Band Collection held here at Heritage Quay.   It is an exceptionally rare example of a World Record from the early 1920s.   Unlike most of the collection wherethe records revolve at 78 r.p.m, World Records experimented with a system where the record starts slowly and gradually accelerates towards the record label. 

Record label
Record label for World Record

The theory was to reduce the deterioration of sound quality towards the centre of disc recordings where each rotation is shorter.  For various reasons the “World” project was doomed with the eccentric polymath aviator, publisher, Member of Parliament and entrepreneur-inventor Noel Pemberton Billing (1881–1948) swiftly moving on to other things .

However the system of “constant linear speed” was revisited much later with the introduction of CDs that revolve at a much faster speed when the laser gets close to the centre.The new acquisition will be difficult to transfer to an accessible MP3 as the team are still working out a way of using computer software for editing the sound files which will be recorded at a constant speed and then adjusted accordingly.

Connecting with Collections (and new staff introductions! – Part One)

My name is Liz Pente and I am one of the new Archives Assistants at Heritage Quay. Having recently completed a PhD in History at the University of Huddersfield, I am delighted to join the archive team.  As a public historian, I am passionate about the value of preserving the past, so that it may be accessible to people in the present and future.

The collections at Heritage Quay are extensive – over 135 that are ready for researchers to explore! Getting to know these vast collections is part of my new role here. One of my favourite aspects of exploring the past is  encountering unexpected connections. Connections between the past and the present, connections between places, connections between documents and materials themselves, and even personal connections to archival materials.  This is a little story about one such connection…

I was doing some work on the Leonard Smith Collection related to Unitarianism.  According to The General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches, Unitarianism ‘is an open-minded and welcoming approach to faith that encourages individual freedom, equality for all and rational thought’. They highlight some prominent Unitarians including Elizabeth Gaskell, Charles Dickens, Thomas Jefferson and Joseph Priestly – who is the namesake of one of our buildings here at The University of Huddersfield!

The Leonard Smith Collection includes 323 volumes of printed books relating to Unitarianism from 1840-2013.  These are available to search in our catalogue here.

The materials I was working on included a later accession to the collection, the details of which have yet to be catalogued.  The materials are wide-ranging, from volumes of the Transactions of the Unitarian Society Journal, to Unitarian event programmes, church and congregation histories to lecture and sermon pamphlets.The dates of the materials range from the 1800s-2010s, but it was one item from 1986, which caught my eye.

Among the lecture pamphlets was an item from a series called Truth, Liberty, Religion – Essays Celebrating Two Hundred Years of Manchester College, edited by Barbara Smith. The booklet was the first in the series, titled 1. The Unitarian Background by R. K. Webb of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

‘Truth, Liberty and Religion’, (1893), ed. by Barbara Smith

Have you heard of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, otherwise known as UMBC? No? Well, not only have I heard of it, but it is where I completed my Master of Arts in Historical Studies, with a concentration in Public History. Not only that, but UMBC is where I had my first foray into archives, serving as an intern in the Albin O. Kuhn Library’s Special Collections department, working within the Center for Biological Sciences Archive

Robert K. Webb (1922–2012) was a distinguished American scholar of British history studying from the 1780s through to the nineteenth century,  focusing on ‘the relative stability of the British state during a period of revolution in France’ and religious dissent. Sandra Herbert, writing for the American  Historical Association  in November 2012, describes his work on the Unitarians:

‘In Webb’s subsequent work he explored the British tradition of religious dissent. He was interested in studying the British non-conformists on their own terms. He also saw their movement as providing a safety valve for releasing social tensions. In this Webb’s work was congruent with that of the French historian Élie Halévy. As an indication of his high regard for Halévy, Webb translated his Era of Tyrannies: Essays on Socialism and War into English (1966). Among the English nonconformists Bob Webb settled on the Unitarians for his own work. He was drawn to them by a shared sense of the value of rational enquiry and because he noted the prominence of Unitarians among social reformers in 19th-century Britain, as,for example, in the Martineau family.

Webb’s biography of one ofthe members of that family is still a standard work on the subject: Harriet Martineau: A Radical Victorian (1960).  Over the course of the next 40 years, Bob published extensively on the English Unitarians, including numerous individual contributions to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.  Bob’s last public lecture, again touching on the Unitarians, was a talk he gave in 2010 entitled “The Very Long Eighteenth Century: An Experiment in the History of Religion.” Bob’s contributions to the field of British history were honored in 1992 by the volume Religion and Irreligion in Victorian Society: Essays in Honor of R. K. Webb edited by R. W. Davis and R. J. Helmstadter.’

Webb was along-standing member of the UMBC community, and the university established the annual R.K.Webb Lecture, which I attended during my time there. This was quite an unexpected connection!

This pamphlet is just one of over 130 items being added to the Leonard Smith Collection, and this is one small connection between my experiences at those institutions, and learning more about Unitarianism through processing this collection, which I hope will help inform my knowledge of this type of collection more broadly.

I am excited to see what new connections emerge as I continue getting to know the remarkable collections here at Heritage Quay.  What connections will you make with our amazing collections?  Come explore, and see what you discover!

If, like me, you too have made an unexpected connection whilst conducting research in our archives, we would love to hear your story!  Tweet us @Heritage_Quay 

What does performance art tell us about the world we inhabit?

We’re always glad to see the outputs from people using the collections, and a few months ago composer Amble Skuse explored the British Music Collection for a curated series commissioned by our partners Sound and Music.

Amble’s series of pieces can be read in full at https://britishmusiccollection.org.uk/article-category/amble-skuse-curation Her series begins:

I’m interested in power and how it manifests. So the choice to curate the Experimental box from the British Music Collection may seem a little counterintuitive. After all, power stems from big concertos, commissions from kings, and requiems for great people, doesn’t it? Well, that is one way of looking at power, but if we want to critique it perhaps we need to look at composers who are not taking this top down approach to composing. Not asserting control over the players with every minutiae of notation.

In the experimental box we find composers whose work explores the usual musical considerations, tone, melody, harmony, rhythm, texture, colour etc, but also are aware of the structures around how we make music. These experimental composers are exploring ways in which we can subvert traditional hierarchical music composition using techniques from cultural theory. In this box we find approaches from Marxism, Anarchy, Feminism, Disability Theory, and Globalisation applied to the music making environment.

I’m interested in the ways in which music can incorporate broader socio-political themes, through its performance direction. Personally, I work somewhere between composer and performance artist, using music and sound in a performance art context, imbuing the ‘performance’ of the work with further readings related to socio-political context. I find that this approach allows me to use context to add meaning to my performances.

Explore Amble’s series further.

What will you discover on the Archives Hub?

We’ve recently updated a lot of the catalogue information we contribute to the Archives Hub and the Archives Portal Europe.

As of right now (!) the Archives Hub contains information about 1,439,837 archive collections in 341 different repositories across the UK. 

The Archives Portal Europe currently contains information about 270,327,385 descriptive units of archives in 7,036 institutions across Europe.

Using portals like the Archives Hub is an effective way to discover unique and often little-known sources to support your research. New descriptions are added every week, often representing collections being made available for the first time. Use the portals to instantly scan the archival landscape and bring together diverse sources held in repositories across the continent.

Whether you are just starting out or are ready to explore your subject in depth, portals can help inform your work. They represent a huge diversity of content, from the archives of industries, institutions and researchers to the letters and manuscripts of writers and poets.

You can see all our descriptions and other information on the Archives Hub at https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/search/locations/627a22c9-d85c-3c8a-bb43-6daed9e6aa00

Justice of the Peace and Local Government Review

Among the periodicals (or “serials”) held at Heritage Quay is “Justice of the Peace and Local Government Review” (originally “Justice of the Peace”). We hold 221 volumes, covering 1838-1959; the run includes supplement and index volumes.

The publication started in 1837, as a weekly summary of legal cases, with editorial comment, and later correspondence and short articles. Job advertisements for local government posts as well as commercial and charitable advertisements are included.

As well as local government public health, public assistance, rates and rating, highways, housing, town and country planning, licensing, landlord and tenant, and magisterial law and procedure, the periodical strikes me as a great source for social history in general.

The Rhthym Sisters

Collector Charles Hippisley-Cox writes
“Recent contact with the granddaughter of Kay Munro-Smythe has caused a flurry of interest in the pioneer 1930s jazz vocal group known as the Rhythm Sisters.   Most of their recordings are preserved here in the British Dance Band Collection in the Heritage Quay….including an iconic version of seasonal classic “Winter Wonderland” featuring Sam Browne and the Rhythm Sisters from 1935.”

Collections week and Christmas closure, 24 December 2018 – 12 January 2019

Early January tends to be a quiet time in the research room, so the team will again take the opportunity to focus on some larger collections which are difficult to work on whilst normal activities are going on in Heritage Quay.

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.

Heritage Quay will be closed from 16:00 on Sunday 23rd December 2018 and will re-open at 09:30 on Saturday 12th January 2019 to enable the team to undertake this work, following the University’s Christmas and New Year closure.

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. We also undertook a vital stock-check during a closed period in July 2018, to make sure that archives are available for use.