Volunteer Blog – Tim Galsworthy on listing the RFL Jack Harding Collection

My name is Tim Galsworthy and I am currently a History student at the University of Bristol, I am also a diehard Warrington Wolves fan. As a result an advert calling for volunteers to work with Rugby League collections, here at Heritage Quay, excited both the history and sports nerd inside me. (I’ll be honest; I haven’t got over being in the presence of Brian Bevan’s shirt and boots yet!) I have spent six weeks organising and cataloguing the Jack Harding Collection, and it’s been a great experience.


Jack Harding was Chairman of Leigh R.L.F.C for much of the Twentieth Century, a leading member of the Rugby Football League Council (being both Chair and Vice-Chair at different times), and also Manger of the triumphant 1970 Great Tour to Australasia. Harding managed the last Great Britain tour side to bring home ‘The Ashes’. Having these official positions, along with being a general rugby league supporter, means that this collection has some real gems: photographs of Great Britain’s 1970 triumph Down Under, match day programmes from an absolute plethora of games, and a Challenge Cup winners’ medal. Probably my favourite items in the collection are Harding’s personal records of what the 1970 Great Britain players owed him and where they sat on plane journeys, and the Challenge Cup Final Community Singing sheets he collected.


While these specific records stand out for me I’m sure others would be interested in very different elements of the Collection. Also found within these four boxes are masses of newspaper cuttings, Leigh’s financial records for a number of decades, and Harding’s match reports from the 1970 Tour. The breadth and diversity of Jack Harding’s papers is wonderful, meaning that individuals interested in topics ranging from Leigh’s business elites in the Twentieth-Century to working class popular culture can take something from this collection.

I have discovered these superb heritage titbits in the general process of archiving and cataloguing the Collection. I began by looking through the boxes and deciding what categories the material could be split in to. After this I began listing the items in the collection and entering descriptions onto Heritage Quay’s collections management software. Finally I began repacking Harding’s papers into folders, envelopes, and acid-free transparent sleeves.


Working with this collection has been both enjoyable and academically beneficial. Spending days looking at programmes from famous matches, or exploring the day-to-day life on a Great Britain Tour, is something every Rugby League fanatic would adore to spend their summer doing. Also as a History student- and wannabe Historian- cataloguing and indexing this material has enabled me to experience the archive from the other side, as it were. I now more fully appreciate the vital role the archivist plays in any great historical research.

My six weeks here at Heritage Quay has deepened my passion for Rugby League, history, and especially popular cultural heritage. I only hope that one day I will read a fascinating piece of research and note that it is based upon records found in the Jack Harding Collection!

History Mystery: The Austrian Chemist with the Personal Collection in the Archive

In the (almost) two years since I joined the University Archive Service, after a Collections Audit and a complete move of the repositories, it sometimes feels like I’ve looked in every box we have!!  I haven’t of course, not by a long chalk, and I realised this yesterday after opening up a very ordinary looking box that was reboxed before the move to check its contents.  Underneath some Chemistry notes I discovered an ordinary, and rather flaky old box with the label on it ‘The Austrian Chemists Private Letters and Photos’ as you can see below:


So far and possibly you’re only excited if you’re involved in Chemistry, but after lifting the lid I made a wonderful discovery.  A whole treasure trove of personal papers of the ‘Austrian Chemist’.  Lots of 19th century family photographs, baptism certificates, school and PhD records, and many letters (alas all in German it appears!) back and forth between Huddersfield and Vienna.


So who is the mysterious ‘Austrian Chemist’?  And why are his personal papers in the University of Huddersfield archives?  Here’s what I managed to discover in about an hour on a quiet Thursday afternoon, research to be continued!  Thankfully, as my knowledge of German is restricted to ‘Ich habe ein mutter…’ etc there were a couple of documents in English amongst the collection.  A reference from a Huddersfield firm, Read Holliday and Sons Ltd.  Aniline Dye Manufacturers confirmed the spelling of his name, Dr Josef Petraczek, and that he was the Chemist we were looking for!  He had worked at Read for 16 years by the 29th December 1899, so we know he had to have come to England in about 1883.   This fits quite nicely as there are a couple of small pictures dated 1882 of some frankly quite science-y looking gentlemen, so possibly colleagues from Vienna?

A passport granted from the government of Franz Joseph I in 1882 seems to confirm the date he moved to the UK, and as for his time in England we know from membership cards he was a member of the Cricket and Athletic Club in 1885 and the Conservative Club in 1893-4.  Many of the letters are signed Mitzi, so were possibly written back to a sweetheart.  There is certainly what looks like a marriage invitation for a Josef and Marie, daughter of Josef and Anna Rahn on the 11th June 1885, which suggests a return to marry.  Then a couple of children seem to have been baptised in the Huddersfield area.  There is not much more to suggest anything about his life in the UK, which is when I turned to Google for assistance!  Putting in his name and place of work directed me to an online journal article which confirms Petraczek worked at Read Holliday (where he was known as the ‘German Emperor’!) and left to set up a chemical consulting company in Bradford with Christopher Rawson (1860-1940), that he was the first secretary of the Society of Dyers and Colourists an edited their journal.  Another footnote suggests he died sometime just before 1920, living at 9 Charles Street Bradford, and left an estate worth £8,878 (around £300K today).

So we know where he ended up, and there are plenty of photographs of him and his family, but where did he come from?  The records in the collection contain a number of educational certificates recording his progress through secondary education.  These are completed by his PhD dissertation booklet from the University of Zurich in 1883.  This confirms his supervisor was Professor Victor Meyer, and that Petraczek came from Czernowitz, Bukowina, which is also recorded on his school reports.  Many of the letters are from his future wife, and typing the address into google maps, plant him firmly within the university grounds in Zurich (a bit like living on the ring road if you study at Huddersfield!)

So an hour’s research, a bit of internet searching, and a helpfully diverse set of personal documents have helped us to shed some light on the mystery of the Austrian Chemist.  No doubt someone who could decipher late 19th century Austrian-German could add a bit more colour (excuse the colour chemistry pun there!) and context to this story, and the documents we can’t translate, like the correspondence and documents to do with travel and military service.  There’s definitely more to learn in the future.  So how did we end up with this archive?  Back to the original box they came out of, and those Chemistry notes I mentioned belonging to a former staff member from the Tech College days A.V. Schofield.  We can only assume at this point he must be our mysterious depositor, and the records have come along with other papers he deposited with the archive (or left in a drawer for his colleagues to deposit after his departure!)

Either way, a small yet fascinating personal collection of a late 19th century migrant to the area, involved in some of its biggest industries.  And once catalogued, potentially useful for the researchers of the future.  You never do quite know what you’re going to discover when you open an archive box!

All roads lead to the canal!

L-R: Peter Toon, Lindsay Ince, L-R: Heather Norris Nicholson and Marianne McNamara at the handover of the Mikron archive

Last week we discovered all roads really do lead to the canal network as we held the official handover of the Mikron Theatre Company archive into Heritage Quay!  The acquisition of the Mikron archive has been almost four years in the making, from a number of coffee shop chats in its hometown of Marsden between producer Peter Toon and Huddersfield academic Heather Norris Nicholson, to the transfer of over 60 boxes of material into the University of Huddersfield Archives in March 2015.

We’re often asked how we acquire collections, and whilst many depositors approach us directly, and on occasion we might approach a potential depositor, it’s far more usual for us to hear about potential acquisitions through word of mouth.  Colleagues and users of the archive service will often flag up our existence to those perhaps considering depositing an archive (or those who have never considered it but wish they had somewhere safe to keep their collection!), but with no prior experience of the process or potential of depositing a collection with a professionally run archive service.

In the case of a University archive service, it is often through the connections made by our academics that we are made aware of these potential depositors.  It was through Dr Norris Nicholson’s initial discussions into the contents of the archive during 2011 and 2012, and her discovery of the potential for research amongst students and academics from a number of arts disciplines that a new home at the University Archive Service began to take shape.  A modern theatre company for whom travelling was a large and integral element of their day to day life, the practical advantages to Mikron of being able to regain office space,  alongside the desire to be able to make parts of their fascinating history available to fans and researchers alike made the possibility of the archive’s move a serious prospect.

But Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is the transfer arrangements for an archive collection!  It often takes months to arrange the practical and legal elements of a deposit.  The HLF funding to move the archive service to a new facility gave the idea of the deposit both a boost (considering Heritage Quay’s new location looking out onto the Huddersfield Narrow Canal and Mikron’s long connections with waterways in general) and created a delay.  It was decided best to move the material once the centre was complete and the existing collections had been transferred into the new repository.

Mikron’s archive leaves its home at Marsden Mechanics for a new existence in Heritage Quay.

But on a rather cloudy March morning in 2015, the Mikron archive left its home at the Marsden Mechanics for the last time, to be catalogued, repackaged and stored in the new state of the art facilities at Heritage Quay.  During the official handover on the 30th June, Dr Nicholson (Visiting Researcher, University of Huddersfield), Peter Toon (Producer, Mikron) and Marianne McNamara (Artistic Director, Mikron) came to look over some of the transferred material and examine the new repository.  Peter and Marianne were excited about the prospect of not only the material becoming accessible to a whole new audience of users, but the potential for them to be able to use and re-visit material from the past.  Mikron has one of the longest independent theatre ‘Friends’ group in the UK, which will celebrate it’s 30th anniversary in 2016, and some of the very first newsletters from the 1980s were on display during the handover.

Dr Nicholson pointed out the relevance of the programme and poster collections in charting the history of design and colour choice for Art and Design students.  She also discussed an extensive set of oral histories  conducted with those living and working on the barges in the early 20th century, which told not only the history of the waterways, but that of a entire culture of ‘bargee’ people who are now represented by only a few descendants keeping traditions alive.   As the vinyl, audio tape, programmes, photos, administrative and textile contents of the archive were reviewed, Dr Nicholson concluded the strength of the Mikron collection lay in the diverse range of formats it encompassed, which had appeal to students across the arts and humanities disciplines, and the potential for inter-disciplinary and funded research projects in the future.

In addition to dramatic and historical interest, elements of Mikron’s advertising and production history holds interest for Art and Design students.

So the Mikron collection is now safely on the shelves in its new home, and we hope to have it catalogued shortly.  The collection will then be searchable in the online catalogue at heritagequay.org, and also in the lists we upload to portals like the Archives Hub and Archives Portal Europe.

Whilst we hope to welcome many students and academics in to conduct research, we also look forward to sharing the contents of the archive with Mikron’s Friends and the local community.  We hope if you visit Heritage Quay in the near future, you too will find all roads lead to the canal!

Read the University’s press release here and find details of Mikron’s show One of Each at Heritage Quay on 8th October 2015 here.

News from the trenches…

If you’ve been a long time follower of the HQ blog, you may remember reading last year about our participation in an ‘enlisting station’ for a First World War schools day for Years 10-11 from the local area.  It was an opportunity for them to participate in interactive learning about aspects of the First World War, and our enlistment activity during the lunch break prompted them to consider questions about what role they might have taken if standing in front of enlistment station in 1914 (military service, home service or conscientious objector).

WWI triage 6 (2)
Students triage a student helper in need during the Injuries of war session.

We were involved for a second time this year, much more on the organisational side, but the archive took on the task of designing the wrap up session after lunch, which consisted of a fact based First World War quiz to test students existing knowledge and introduce them to new facts and figures  in a fun environment.   Due to changes in the National Curriculum we targeted the day at Year 9 students, many of whom were visiting the university for the first time.  Many of the students did well in the quiz, which came down to a high pressure head to head between a girls team and boys team from Yewlands Academy, nr Sheffield.  The tiebreaker question was correctly answered by the boys team, who went away with a stylish and highly collectible University of Huddersfield drawstring bag!  Colleagues from the History, English, Music, Health and Human Sciences, Chemistry and Creative Writing departments took part, making the event truly interdisciplinary.  You can read more about the event on the university news page.

WWI spiritualism 2 (3)
Students attended a workshop on the rise of Spiritualism as a result of the war

The event grew out of the University First World War Commemoration Network and its the second year it has successfully run.  With next year being the centennial anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, we hope to run the event again, making it a truly reflective and informative event for all those students attending.

And now the end is near…

As 2014 draws to a close and we prepare to begin delivering all the rest of the exciting projects we’ve got planned for the next four years of the HLF project, we thought it might be nice to look back on 12 of our important numbers during this year, in a 12 days of Christmas style.

In the 12 months since last Christmas we have opened Heritage Quay!  A new HLF-funded archive, with exhibitions and technology. (Ok, don’t panic, that’s the last of the rhyming!)

… 11 events a month is about the number we’re hosting in our new exhibition and group spaces.  These range from university open days, to public lectures, or seminars for students and private tours for local community groups.  Check the Events calendar for details, but you could attend a special workshop like this one that ran during the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival.

… 10 new volunteers have worked in the archive in 2014, joining our small band of regular volunteering stalwarts.  Their contribution in listing, surveying and cleaning records prior to our move cannot be under-estimated!  They have been amazing.

… 9 groups of students from different courses and years have come into the archive this year for an ‘Introduction to Archive Skills’ course and a chance to look at some of our materials.  We hope this might then inspire return visits to connect archives to coursework and dissertation topics.

… 8 research themes are the basis of our decision making on what collections we take on.  To re-cap, these are Education, Women, Sport, Music, Politics, Health, Industry and Non-conformity.  If you want to know more about who we are and where we’re going, visit the About Us page on the website.  You can even read our collecting, preservation and access policies in the Plans, Policies, Performance and Projects box.

… 7 (paid) student assistants have worked for us at the end of this summer.  They have diligently audited and listed our collections, moved boxes around and ticked off lots of jobs that we didn’t think we’d get to by the end of 2015, never mind 2014! They are magnificent!

… 6 new members of staff started work with us in 2014.  A majority of these are contract staff appointed as part of the HLF funding who will be working with us over the next two to three years.  They include two cataloguing archivists, two archives assistants, and two officers working on community learning and working with schools.

… 5 ways to search our new online catalogue at heritagequay.org.  New collections catalogues will be uploaded regularly from now on and you have the option to search by a title, date, reference number, person or place name.

… 4 new collections have come into the archive this year, in addition to the accruals to existing collections.  We have welcomed political collections including the Robert Blatchford and Duncan Scott collection, an additional rugby league archive in the form of the Mike Stephenson collection, and will shortly be welcoming the Mikron Theatre Archive.  We hope they will be joined by many more in 2015!

… 3 new repository spaces make up our new archival storage in Heritage Quay.  There is our main store, an outsize room for larger objects and a freezer rooms with, you guessed it, freezers to store some of the audio visual material in order to keep it cooler and more stable for a very long period of time.  If you’re interested in seeing our storerooms you can book on a public tour, or just peep through the portholes, built for that very purpose!

… 2 local societies have made Heritage Quay their base for the next year.  Whilst we’ve been welcoming a range of internal and external groups over the last few months, the Huddersfield Local History Society and Huddersfield & District Archaeological Societies have been attracting ever larger numbers of attendees.  Their programme of lectures are on their website, and are of course, open to the public!

And 1 big curvy screen!  It’s been the talk of the town, and from the youngest to the oldest visitors have been enjoying getting to grips with our collection highlights experience, lovingly known amongst us as ‘the big curvy screen’.  Objects can be selected by gesture, and items examined in close up or music samples played through the sound system to experience what the archive has to offer without having any particular research interest, as pieces are chosen from across the collections.

From all of us at Heritage Quay we wish you Happy Christmas and a prosperous 2015!  We hope it’ll be the year you come to visit us if you haven’t managed to already, and also the year that we can offer you many more exciting opportunities to get involved in using and enjoying archives!

In the meantime, as none of us can sing, we’ll leave our Chancellor to ‘sing’ us out with a festive little number: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2mBZFlteYRE


Scholarship Exam #fridaychallenge

Could you gain a scholarship to the Huddersfield Technical College? The following scans are exam papers from 1893 enabling some students to gain scholarships in order to continue their education at the college. Despite a sea change in education over the last century, as an adult it’s interesting to note that potentially 14- and 15-year olds would be taking this kind of exam (some of which is pretty impossible for this blogger to answer)!

It’s also interesting to note the similarities and differences in the way subjects have been taught over time and the expectations of students. Whilst the Spelling, Algebra and French sections would be fairly familiar to the GCSE students of today, the Composition section shows essays were shorter in the 1890s, and Geography a lot more simplistic. ‘Parsing’ sentences in Grammar might be more familiar to A-Level or degree students in the 21st century. Trigonometry might be the first way to deal with triangles and theorums, and its unlikely most of the domestic economy questions would make it onto a modern syllabus. The vocational nature of the arithmetic is interesting too, with its focus on profit and commission. It goes someway to show how vital good mathematics was to sales and businessmen in the days before calculators did most of the work, when your livelihood depended on having the ability to calculate at your fingertips!

paper1  paper2 paperlast

How much of this paper can you answer? We’d love to know which bits you found easy, difficult or impossible, or your opinions on this kind of paper. Have you done your GCSEs or A-Levels recently? How does this paper compare to what you faced in some of your exams?

Halloween at Heritage Quay!

It’s halloween in the world of men, and we’ve been having a look through our collections to see if we can reflect some human phobias in archive form!

The most obvious candidate for an archive would be a fear of dust, which is amathophobia. Luckily, the cleaning schedule for our new PD5454 repository means we don’t have much of that anymore, and the amazing work done by our volunteers over the summer makes it less likely to find on our collections too!

Those with a fear of dolls (pediophobia) might want to look away now. We’ve actually found a few in the archive of the Huddersfield Amateur Operatic Society that seem to have been donated as tributes to some of the characters featuring in their 1930s productions. The detail on their faces and put into their clothing is quite remarkable for the period, however if you take them out of context and arrange them on a Heritage Quay sofa in a Halloween-esque pose…well they start to look ever so slightly creepy!


Worse still to have a fear of papyrophobia (fear of paper) in an archive! However, the great thing about Heritage Quay is that you can engage with the archive in their digital form through our touch tables and curvy screens, so you never have to expose yourself to your greatest fear!

HQ launch-53

Unfortunately we can’t do anything for you if you have a fear of orange (chrysophobia). It’s in our logo and we love it! Sorry! Happy Halloween everyone!

NB. – If you’re visiting the Huddersfield Family History Fair on the 8th November, then look out for our Participation Officer, David Smith, talking about our new centre. Our Explore Your Archive box will also be on our stand for you to look at!

Open for Researchers!

Today is the first day our new searchroom is open to researchers in Heritage Quay (our exploration space is sort of unofficially open, as our first exhibition is not installed until Wednesday). We’ve already had a number of bookings from people eager to jump back into researching our collections, and as ever, Rugby League and our political and music collections are proving popular with early researchers.

Our first researcher has in fact come from the other side of the world to look at the RFL archive! Has has not, of course, come specifically just to look at our archive (however important and exciting we believe ourselves to be!), it happens to be a happy coincidence that we have opened in time for him to visit us before he goes back to New Zealand. David Colquhoun is an historian who is writing a biography of New Zealand born rugby player, and successful all-round sportsman George Smith, and is doing research in archives across the North of England as part of his biography project. You can read more about this on his blog which is linked above. As he has a background working in libraries and archives, we’ve been grateful for his patience and professional understanding during our first morning!

David Colquhoun carrying our research in the RFL archives
David Colquhoun carrying our research in the RFL archives

We’ve already got a number of appointments booked in over the next couple of weeks and have had a few people walk in to the searchroom to make inquiries about collections which is great news as it seems the word about Heritage Quay is already spreading. This week is a bit of a soft opening as we work through our teething troubles and test our procedures, but if you’d like to see us up and running with the big curvy screen, multi-touch tables and fully installed, student-curated exhibition on the history of the university then please do pop in anytime from Tuesday 21st October. If you’d like to speak to one of the Archivists just pop into the searchroom and ask us, and we’d be happy to help!