Final tests… for us!

Now that the Archive staff have successfully moved into our new offices we are excitedly awaiting the handover of the rest of the space in order to get the collections in and start implementing our plans to get the public and the university community using the exploration and group spaces! We’re now so close we can really see how fantastic it’s going to look when completed, apart from some final construction work, all that’s really needed is for us to do our bit and populate it with collections related material!

We’ve had a couple of ‘test’ events this week (well real events, but a chance for us to test our up till now theoretical processes and procedures!), with some of our friendly local community groups holding their events in the space and giving us feedback about what we need to tweak before we open to make sure the space can adapt to big and small groups, and people with different requirements and needs. First up, the press launch of the forthcoming travelling Rugby League exhibition, which saw the space decked out with Rugby League Cares bright and sleekly designed exhibition boards (which went down well amongst us Archivists!), those involved with setting up and supporting the exhibition, and local and national press!

Our Pro-VC Tim Thornton being interviewed about the exhibit, you can see the interview on the Huddersfield Examiner website, linked above via the 'local'  news link.
Our Pro-VC Tim Thornton being interviewed about the exhibit, you can see the interview on the Huddersfield Examiner website, linked above via the ‘local’ news link.
Our Participation and Engagement Officer, David Smith, surveys the scene as press and invited guests view the new RFL travelling exhibition.
Our Participation and Engagement Officer, David Smith, surveys the scene as press and invited guests view the new RFL travelling exhibition.

A few hours later we welcomed our friends from the Huddersfield Local History Society who are hosting their monthly meetings with us this year after outgrowing their previous venue. Over 120 people joined former Huddersfield lecturer, MP, and a depositor to our archives, Lord David Clark , who gave an entertaining and informative talk on Early Labour Pioneers in the Huddersfield area. Now members know where we are (and we know we need to deploy maximum chairs!) we look forward to welcoming them back every month, and you can find out more about forthcoming talks at this link or by visiting the society’s page, linked from their name above.

Lord Baron David Clark addresses a packed house at the first HLHS talk of the season.  Photo courtesy of Hilary Haigh, HLHS Secretary.
Lord Baron David Clark addresses a packed house at the first HLHS talk of the season. Photo courtesy of Hilary Haigh, HLHS Secretary.

From our point of view, this week has been useful to test out how our behind the scenes admin processes will work, from the basics of running out of hours events and dealing with new departments in the university to make that happen, to how long it takes to turn around the space between events, and what the spaces actually feel like when there’s a talk to over a hundred people going on! There are still inevitably tweaks to be made, and we’ve welcomed the valuable feedback from both organisations who have hosted events with us this week. Hopefully they will see the improvement in their next event, and other groups will benefit from them taking the time to work with us during this bedding in period.

I’ll close with our other exciting technological development that we’ve recently seen running in its home environment, and are excited about our visitors getting to use! If the still image below whets your appetite, you can view the video of it in action from our developers Wide Sky!


Mystery Solved!

This week we have used records from the Rugby League collection to solve two mysteries about the playing colours of former rugby league clubs.

In the early 20th century there were a number of professional or semi-professional rugby league teams who no longer exist and about which very little is known.

Two mysteries we have come across concern the playing colours of Wigan Highfield (who played from 1880-1895 and from 1902-1933) and Runcorn (who played from around 1876-1918).

Rugby league historians have speculated that Wigan Highfield’s colours were yellow and blue, and that Runcorn’s may have been yellow, green and white. But as no colour photographs survive of either team it has, until now, only been possible to speculate.

While cataloguing the Official Guides to the season (a yearly volume which include information for rugby league administrators such as laws of the game, club contacts, and fixtures) a section at the back of the books was discovered which lists club headquarters and club colours…

So (drumroll please!) we are pleased to announce that the official colours for Wigan Highfield were a dark blue jersey with a red band, and blue shorts. Runcorn changed their colours on more than one occasion. In 1911 the club’s colours were myrtle green, but then in 1911 they changed their colours to cherry and white, and in 1913 they changed again to royal blue with a white collar.

Official Guide
Official Guide

Repackaging heritage textiles

Here in the archives we work hard to give all the records the best possibly chance of survival in the future. We repackage into acid-free boxes, follow careful handling guidelines – and even wear the white gloves so beloved by television historians from time to time!

This week we’ve been working with the Rugby League, whose collection is deposited here at the University Archives, to provide advice on handling and packaging a collection that they have recently purchased as part of their heritage work.

As the Rugby League’s new collection includes a lot of shirts (so fans of heritage shirts should watch this space for news of exhibitions!) we spent some time developing a packaging system which would follow good practice guidelines for packaging textiles, but also allow the shirts to fit in the collection’s standard boxes. After a little experimentation we came up with a method which is reasonably straightforward to carry out, using acid-free tissue and a series of folds that ensure that a layer of tissue is placed between all of the folds in the shirt. We then created a step by step photo guide to allow the heritage project assistant to carry out the repackaging unsupervised.

From this...
From this…

To this!

To this!

Tour de France 1936!

This week we’ll see the Tour de France come to Huddersfield – but in November 1936 Huddersfield Rugby League Club went on their own ‘Tour in France’!

Tour in France programme, 1936











The Huddersfield Rugby Football League Club (then known as Huddersfield Cricket and Athletic Club) was one of several teams that went across the Channel in the 1930s to help establish and build support for rugby league in France.

This programme of events shows the Huddersfield team played two matches on their 1936 trip; one versus Paris, and one versus Bordeaux. According to newspaper reports the Bordeaux match took place in bitterly cold and wet weather but, despite only being the second season of rugby league in France, still managed to attract 8,000 spectators!

Rugby League on Film

Last week we had leading rugby league historian Professor Tony Collins visiting the archive to discuss rugby league in the First World War with a team from BBC Look North.

The recording can be seen on Look North East Yorkshire and Lincolnshire in early August… but here’s a behind-the-scenes photograph of the filming here at the University of Huddersfield Archives and Special Collections!

Look North visit the archives


Experiencing Work in the Archives

During my Year 10 work experience this week I have been delving into the mysteries of the University of Huddersfield Archives, leaving with an increased knowledge of the Rugby League Collection, and a greater familiarity with the professional activities of Archivists. I wasn’t sure whether I would find the work in this area rewarding, in fact there was a sense of accomplishment to digging up historical documents and artifacts, and then marvelling at the secrets and gems of knowledge they held.

Throughout the course of the week I was introduced to many aspects of an Archivist’s occupation, allowing me to more deeply appreciate their work. Assisting the Rugby League Archivist, I helped to preserve and conserve the treasures and artifacts of Dai Jenkins the legendary Rugby Player, handling a number of fragile materials. I have also contributed to the effort of listing and recording of many items in the Rugby League collection within the Archive.

The Dai Jenkins Collection before re-packaging.
The Dai Jenkins Collection before re-packaging.

I have also completed some conservation cleaning of student registers which date back to the 1930’s, which is part of the Archives five year collections management plan, and in preparation for the seismic endeavour (and that’s just the drilling outside the window!) that the Archive is undertaking in September, of relocating its entire collection to a new £2 million archive facility.

Cleaning the 1930s student registers of the Huddersfield Technical College.
Cleaning the 1930s student registers of the Huddersfield Technical College.

I go back to school with great memories of working with the University and Rugby League collections, and a greater proficiency in the work undertaken by the staff and appreciation of the world of archives. Making my time fun and enjoyable the staff took their time and treated me with equality as they allowed me to glimpse the potential and countless interpretations of archive collections.

~~~~~ Posted by Chris, Year 10

Break a leg (or arm!) for International Archives Day!

Today is International Archives Day, giving us all a chance to celebrate the rich variety of archives held in collections around the world. Archives can be a wonderful opportunity to reminisce and revisit the past – and if you look closely every letter, document, report and object has a story to tell.

Working on the Rugby League Archive today we found this rugby ball.

Prescott's match ball 1958

From the leather stitched style of the ball we could guess (most objects aren’t labelled with date and background information, so accompanying documents are vitally important) that it was quite old (today’s balls are synthetic); but then a bit of further research found that in fact this ball embodies a tale of stoic heroism, and victory in the face of unfavourable odds…

In 1958 the Great Britain rugby league team toured Australia for a series of test matches, they were defeated in the first test but went on to complete the tour undefeated – but this was not a foregone conclusion. In the second test against a strong Brisbane team Great Britain was down to eight fit players on the pitch (substitutions weren’t allowed in rugby league until 1964) including injury in the fourth minute of play to the captain, Alan Prescott, who broke his arm. Undeterred, Prescott played on for the remaining 77 minutes, leading the team to a 25-18 victory! The match has justly gone down in history as ‘Prescott’s Match’.