Mysteries in the Archives

The way we view the contents of archives change and evolve over time as they are examined, arranged and catalogued. As we unpick the contents of boxes (and do some research!) we discover connections and relationships we didn’t know about before. But occasionally – especially with older collections – there may not be any paperwork, or it cannot be discovered anymore, so all we have is the collection. The papers or objects in it may or may not tell their story easily. Today’s collection is just one of those archives. It’s called the Glass Plate Negative collection and is full of slides taken by someone who has travelled extensively through the United Kingdom and Europe. Some annotations on each slide suggest there may be a connection to Methodism, but we don’t really know! We do see a journey through Europe before the scars of two world wars marked the landscape, and even after the First World War – exploring landscapes, natural features, tourist locations, the lives of ordinary people and great events, like the coronation of George V.

Our student helper Michael has painstakingly sorted, repackaged and catalogued this fragile format, to ensure researchers can discover these wonderful images in future.

Bundles of Birds – the Ted Hughes Archive

Hi, my name is Abbi, I’m a second year English Lit with Creative Writing student – and I have spent part of the last year on placement with the Ted Hughes Network, cataloguing their collection in Heritage Quay. Cataloguing is a fairly simple but time consuming task which involves handling the materials, which can include broadsides and limited edition press books, listing it on a spreadsheet and giving it a catalogue number before boxing it.

The catalogue number is unique to each item – and we decided to use a collection/sunfond/year of publication-title-type, for example, the item ‘Animal Poems’ has the catalogue number: THN/PN/1967-Animal-BK1. This means that it’s collection is THN (Ted Hughes Network), the subfond is a subcategory with ‘Animal Poems’ belonging to the Poetry Limited Editions and Prints subfond, it was published in 1967, first word of its title is ‘Animal’ and BK stands for book.

Abbi having fun researching the collections with fellow History student Michael.

The Ted Hughes Network collection is in its infancy but constantly growing, and it’s really exciting to see some of the recent acquisitions; which include the beautiful Bundle of Birds – which is a handbound, handwritten collection of Ted Hughes’ poems, made by Hughes and his son Nicholas as a gift for Olwyn Hughes, Ted’s sister and his literary agent. This item is exquisitely detailed and totally unique – and I would really recommend taking the opportunity to come and see it and other items within the collection. You can also find the collection online on the Heritage Quay website at*/.

Some of the items I listed were also made part of a Heritage Quay’s exhibition called ‘Hughes and Larkin: Poets and Rivals’ which gave an insight to the working and personal relationship between the poets – with some items on loan from the University of Hull.

It’s been a really exciting placement to work on and I’m really pleased to see my work on exhibition – even if it’s just the catalogue numbers. I’m hoping to continue my work with the Ted Hughes Network in the future – and will be using my experience to underpin future studies here at Huddersfield.

All Good Things… on display in the University Archives

The Patrick Stewart exhibition is open to all to view seven days a week in the Heritage Quay exhibition space.  To view additional material from the Patrick Stewart archive, please visit the research room when it is open to the public on Mondays and Tuesdays 9.30-5.00pm.  For more information and questions about the collection, please email

In the week that Sir Patrick Stewart returns to the iconic role of Jean-Luc Picard in the series Star Trek: Picard, the University Press team explores Sir Patrick’s career history and highlights through the contents of the archive deposited by the actor and former chancellor in Heritage Quay.

Christmas Opening Hours

Heritage Quay will close on Friday 20th December and reopen on Thursday 2nd January.

Between the 2nd January and 10th January we are closed for a stock-checking period, our research room will reopen for appointment and drop-ins on Monday 13th January.

We will be checking email and answering the phone between the 2nd-10th January if you have any queries.  You can contact us at or 01484 473168.

We hope you have a wonderful and peaceful festive season.  See you in 2020!

Work Placement Blogs

From time to time we’re in a position to be able to help the next generation of Archivists get some work experience to help them obtain places on the postgraduate training. During June we hosted Razia and Felicity in Heritage Quay, both of whom already have some experience in archives already and are hoping to train within the next couple of years.

Razia’s Blog

Hi, I am working as a volunteer in the Heritage Quay Archives for two weeks. I have been working on several different projects and familiarizing myself with what the role of an archivist entails. I have been learning about how precision and accuracy is needed especially when listing catalogues including scores and manuscripts. During this fortnight I have also worked intensively in the strongroom and the bookstore cataloguing rare books from the Special Collections.  These have mainly been donated to Heritage Quay by public figures or institutions, for example, the theatre company called Mikron and also the prominent local conscientious objector Arthur Gardiner.

Gardiner was a prominent member of the Huddersfield Socialist party and refused to take up arms in the military. This is all well documented in the archives. In later years, he became a popular Labour figure and Mayor of Huddersfield. His estate donated his large library collection to the archives and part of my duties  here included cataloguing each book.

Photograph of Arthur Gardiner c.WWI

His book collection mirrored his political views as the vast majority of the collection was on socialist ideology, such as: Problems of a Socialist Government, Karl Marx, Social and Political Pioneer, Civilisation: Its Causes and Cure and Ethics and A Worker Looks at Economics. As well as these he also possessed a large number of well-known fiction titles, such as; Tess of the D’ubervilles, The Road the Wigan Pier, Works of Robert Browning, War and Peace, Robert Burns and the Common People, Madame Bovary and Shakespeare’s As You Like It.

His archives were wide and vast, embracing  both works of classical literature and non-fiction works on social reform.

Student Placements 2019 – Part Three

Our final second year placement student this year is English student Umayyah. Read about her experiences in the archive below:

Whilst taking part in a student work placement at Heritage Quay I have worked with two very different collections; the first involved carrying out a survey and research into the Kirklees Image Archives (KIA), and the second was cataloguing a small sub-section from the Colin Challen Archive (specifically his work with the North Yorkshire Country Labour Party, and the Vale of York Constituency Labour Party).

The majority of my placement involved my work with the KIA collection due to the fact that there were so many boxes and items in that collection. Straight away I was able to dive right into the boxes and identify and research a wide variety of items ranging from Primus magic lantern slides, to novelty cards and postcards, to a whole array of local images. The lanterns and cards were always entertaining and often humorous and, due to the humour and standards of the dates in which they were released (1900s), they were sometimes controversial or even downright unacceptable by today’s standards. Nonetheless it was definitely intriguing to see the stark differences between the popular trends back then, compared to modern day trends.

One collection that definitely stood out was a series of travel journals by two sisters who seemingly lived around Huddersfield in the mid-1900s and travelled around Europe on and off for 30 years and donated well-kept logs of everything they did on their holidays. These journals not only included photographs and diary entries, but ticket stubs and receipts so that you could see the varying prices in the countries in question during those times. They were definitely an interesting read.

I also explored a variety of local images, some of which were from the Huddersfield Examiner, some were street restoration programmes and progress reports, and some were of buildings and streets that had been demolished or renovated. This gave me the opportunity to see the gradual development of Huddersfield (and surrounding areas) from the 1800’s to modern day and see for myself some of the iconic events that took place; royal visits, sports tournaments, weddings, street parties and more.

I was able to identify and survey boxes from approximately 60 shelves as part of the KIA collection and each one was filled with some new and exciting information which sometimes required research into certain companies, events, or people so that they could be fully understood.

The Challen collection was starkly different to the KIA collection, as they were all professional and political documents. The majority of content in these three boxes were financial records and promotional materials for the Labour Party (those which had been entrusted to Challen). In my exploration and cataloguing of these boxes I was given an insight into how funding worked in a political party scenario, how a party’s membership scheme is run, and how the Labour party specifically wanted to represent themselves to their constituents. I was also able to browse through some of the correspondences and meeting minutes to see what kind of local issues were discussed.

Overall I am grateful to Heritage Quay for giving me the opportunity to experience working in an archive and the understanding of how to find, record, and catalogue specific items.

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.