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!

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.

Heritage Quay Teaching Resources

Heritage Quay has developed six educational films for teachers of KS1-3 students. They are based on our amazing collections and provide opportunities to explore history, the arts and music in inspiring ways. You can access the films on youtube, and download the free teachers packs using the links below. To find out more about what else we offer for schools please visit our Learn page

SPORT
This film serves as an introduction to the sport collections at Heritage Quay and highlights the history of Rugby League and the sport’s close links with the town of Huddersfield. The film and the accompanying education pack provide a focus for a local history study as set out in the KS2 national curriculum.

Education Pack 1 SportFINAL

THE ARTS
The Arts scene in Huddersfield is a major area of strength in the archives. This film gives an introduction to the development of British theatre and highlights items from the Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield Operatic and Dramatic Society, and Mikron Theatre collections.

Education Pack 2 The Arts FINAL

EDUCATION
This film gives an introduction to the history of the University of Huddersfield, highlighting the role of Frederick Schwann and the Ramsden family in its history. It provides a focus for KS2 local history study. Items shown in the film include commemorative china which marked the opening of the Ramsden building, and the bell which called students to their classes.

Education Pack 3.EducationFINAL

MUSIC
This film highlights the rich variety contained within the music collections at Heritage Quay. From brass bands to dance bands, contemporary music to classical, this is an accessible introduction to a range of musical genres for those studying music at primary level.

Education Pack Music 4FINAL

INDUSTRY
The film gives an overview of Huddersfield’s development as a textile town, highlighting the links between textiles and manufacturing, and focusing on local engineers Hopkinsons, whose archive is one of the largest and most complete at Heritage Quay. The film is a valuable starting point for a KS2 local history study, as well as supporting the KS3 themes of industry, empire and technological change. The Fabrics of India sample books shown in the film may inspire and interest textile students.

Education Pack 5. Industry FINAL

POLITICS
This film introduces the collections of three significant figures which are prominent in the archives – Robert Blatchford, Victor Grayson and John Henry Whitley. The film gives a brief outline of their achievements in bringing about social and industrial improvements for working people and invites the viewer to consider their legacies. The film is intended for a primary audience, however it provides a good starting point for KS3 students studying British politics between 1860 and 1939.

Education Pack Politics 6 FINAL

Heritage Quay takes fifth national award in same year

Heritage Quay takes top honours in the Society of College, National and University Libraries (SCONUL) Library Design Awards

SCONUL

AS the year drew to a close the University’s archive centre Heritage Quay celebrated by adding another win to their awards tally, making 2016 their most successful year to date with five national awards.

The University’s archive centre took the honours in the Society of College, National and University Libraries (SCONUL) Library Design Awards in the Under 2,000 Square Meters category. The awards, which have been taking place every three years since 1973, recognise the best in the practical as well as the cutting-edge design of higher education libraries.

SCONUL represents all university libraries in the UK and Ireland, as well as national libraries and many of the UK’s colleges of higher education.

The panel of judges cited ‘the University of Huddersfield’s Heritage Quay is an excellent example of a repurposing of social space within a wider library and student services environment, in order to achieve some very clear institutionally led strategic objectives. In the case of Heritage Quay, these consist of enabling access and increasing visibility of the university’s archives, whilst broadening and developing the collection and securing them for the university and for the people of Huddersfield”.

The Director of Computing and Library Services Sue White said she is thrilled that Heritage Quay has been recognised in these latest library design awards.

“This award is richly deserved and recognises the transformative effect of Heritage Quay in bringing the collections to new audiences,” said Sue White. “This has been a remarkable year and great credit is due to the team, as well as everyone else across the University who has had input to the project.”

Heritage Quay – backed by an award of almost £1.6 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund – was opened in 2014 and has quickly gained a reputation as the most advanced and accessible in the sector. It is now regarded one of the most technologically-advanced archives in the UK and features a high-tech Exploration Space, enabling visitors to sample archival material via touch screens and gesture technology.

The service was Accredited by The National Archives at the beginning of 2016 and won the Buildings That Inspire category of the 2016 Guardian University Awards and was Outstanding Library Team in the 2016 Times Higher Education Leadership & Management Awards. The fourth title came over the summer when the University’s Archivist and Records Manager, Sarah Wickham, became Record-keeper of the Year, an award organised by the Archives and Records Association.

Story originally published on the University’s website.