The Black History Collection  – Black and Asian Histories in printed resources

Front cover of the programme for Black History Month 2002

Black History Month is now an annual event marking and celebrating the achievements, contributions and challenges of Asian and Black people throughout history. It’s an opportunity to express the diversity, culture and heritage of Asian, Black and Caribbean diaspora communities in all areas of life  – including the cultural, economic and political.

Black History Month in Britain is, of course, in October after the first celebration was held in October 1987  – the event in London was part of African Jubilee Year. Birmingham’s first Black History Month celebrations appear to have taken place in the late 1990s.

Whilst it’s important to continue to mark the month, it’s equally significant to look at the efforts made throughout the year as part of an ongoing effort to provide a platform for diversity and make Asian and Black history part of the mainstream narrative of a nation’s history.

The Black History Collection

Some of the Black History Collection in the Heritage Research Area, level 4, Library of Birmingham

In Archives & Collections, we make a contribution by purchasing new additions to the Black History Collection throughout the year. The Black History Collection is a collection of printed books – it’s often presumed to be an archival collection of original handwritten documents, and our own archive does indeed contain such materials, but the Black History Collection is not part of the archive. On our website, you can find out further information about the Black History Collection with details of the criteria we use to decide which publications are suitable for adding to the collection, information on the availability of lending materials, finding aids and guides to assist research and reading lists for researching Birmingham’s Asian and Black heritage.

The Black History Collection is a collection of reference books; that means the books can only be read inside the library. It was formed in the late 1990s as a call to reflect Birmingham’s ethnic diversity and provide access to an accessible collection of books on Asian and Black histories. The collection’s main themes are:

  1. The international development of Black and Asian histories  – how national identities have developed for those nations included in the geographical radius of the collection – this includes African nations, all nations of the Indian Subcontinent  – Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka  – and all Caribbean nations of predominant African heritage.
  2. Global political struggles such as the civil rights movement.
  3. The contexts of Empire, colonialism, slavery, racism, migration.
  4. Local and West Midlands based Black and Asian histories.

Library of Birmingham Race Equality Group

In the aftermath of last year’s Black Lives Matter movement and the subsequent publication of Birmingham City Council’s ‘Everyone’s Battle, Everyone’s Business Statement of Intent’ (2020), which highlighted the racial inequalities within Birmingham, the Library decided in late 2020 to form a Race Equality Group pooled from staff working across all the Library’s services. Representation on the group reflected Birmingham’s rich ethnic diversity and one of the issues the group decided to re-examine was Stock Management Policy. As a consequence, the policy has been revised to reflect a growing understanding of how a non-inclusive policy may have impacted library purchases and acquisition of stock in the past. The group recognised that the perspectives of all our communities are needed to reflect the full story of Birmingham.

New Purchases

Stock is selected using a variety of methods which include:

  • Recommendations and requests from customers and staff.
  • Using defined profiles and rankings provided by the library’s designated supplier.
  • Consulting bibliographical sources from reputable publishers and booklists.

With a limited budget and facing all of the obstacles the Covid-19 pandemic placed in our way, it was possible to commit funds to purchase new additions to the Black History Collection. The collection rightfully receives a large share of the overall annual book budget allocated to Archives & Collections.

The following is a list of selected titles purchased over the past 15 months: 

Brathwaite, Candice, I Am Not Your Baby Mother  – What it’s like to be a black British mother (2020) 306.874308

(Ed.) Burroughs, Robert & Huzzey, Richard, The Suppression of the Atlantic Slave Trade  – British policies, practices and representations of naval coercion (2018), 326. 80941

Chapman, Jane L., African and Afro  – Caribbean Repatriation, 1919 – 1922 (2018), A 305.896041 BHC

De Barros, Juanita, Reproducing the British Caribbean – Sex, Gender and the Population after Slavery (2014), A 304.632097

Drescher, Seymour, The Mighty Experiment  – Free Labor versus Slavery in British Emancipation (2002), A 331.117209

(Ed.) Falola, Toyin & Hoyer, Cacee, Global Africans  – Race, Ethnicity and Shifting Identities (2018), 305.896

BHC, Hirsch, Afua, BRIT(ish) – On Race, identity and Belonging. (2018), 305.800941

Huzzey, Richard, Freedom Burning, Anti – Slavery and Empire in Victorian Britain (2012), A 941.081

Lammy, David, Tribes  – How Our Need To Belong Can Make or Break Society (2020), 328.41092

Lawrence, Doreen, And Still I Rise  – A Mother’s Justice For Peace (2006), 364.152092

Livesay, Daniel, Children of Uncertain Fortune, Mixed – Race Jamaicans in Britain and the Atlantic Family, 1733 – 1833  (2018), A 305.23089

Lowery, Wesley, They Can’t Kill Us All – The Story of Black Lives Matter (2017), 305.896073

Payne, Tamara, The Dead Are Rising  – The Life of Malcom X (2020), A 320.546092

Twine, France Winddance, A White Side of Black Britain  – Interracial Intimacy and Racial Literary (2010), 306.846089

(Ed.) Weissinger, Sandra E. & Mack, Dwayne, A Law Enforcement in the Age of Black Lives Matter (2018), 305.896073

Please see the library catalogue for further details, including the availability of lending copies which can be issued to your valid Birmingham library membership card.

Paul Taylor, Archives & Collections Co-ordinator

We’re 10 years old!

Here at the Iron Room, we’re proud to be celebrating our 10th birthday!

The Iron Room blog was launched in October 2011 and over the years, we’ve covered a lot of topics reflecting the changing times in the world of Archives & Collections.

The first blogs that we posted covered topics such as Preparing to Move – the countdown had begun for moving to the Library of Birmingham and collections were being prepped ready to go. We also published an article on the Birmingham Pageant, including what may well be my favourite photo from the ones we’ve published!

An image of the man made dinosaur, Egbert
Misc Photographs-Pageant of Birmingham

In 2012 we set up a schedule for blog posts and highlights of that year include promos for Our Next Lunchtime Lecture, the series of talks that we used to offer in the old library theatre. The Iron Room gave us the opportunity to showcase our outreach achievements – the Young People’s Archive, and our collaborative projects – Children’s Lives. These are just a couple of examples. Of course we do like to mention a good anniversary and couldn’t ignore Spaghetti Junction’s 40th Birthday!

Continue reading “We’re 10 years old!”

Soho House Library Loan Book

As Libraries Week 2021 is 4-10 October, it seemed fitting to celebrate the library at Soho House by taking a look at the Soho House Library Loan Book, purchased by Archives and Collections in 2009.

Soho House was the home of Matthew Boulton (1728 -1809), businessman, manufacturer of fashionable metal goods and partner of James Watt in the commercial development of the steam engine. After his death, the house was occupied by his son Matthew Robinson Boulton (1770-1842), until 1815-1816, when he bought an estate at Great Tew in Oxfordshire. In 1817 he married Mary Anne Wilkinson (1795-1829) and their son Matthew Piers Watt Boulton (1820-1894) also lived at Soho House until he sold it in 1850.

Soho House Library Loan Book    [MS 3782/21/27]

 The volume is a list of books borrowed from the library at Soho by family and friends of the Boulton’s from 1814 to 1845. It has columns headed ‘Books, To Whom, When Lent, When Returned.’

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Here is the News! The 2021 Chris Upton Memorial Lecture

The TNT history show set studio, with three young people, October 2010

Here is the News: Bong! 40 years of involving children in neighbourhood issues through news based local history and community projects. 

This, the 2021 Chris Upton Memorial Lecture at the Library of Birmingham, will be given by Norman Bartlam, former teacher and Housing Education Officer for Birmingham City Council, broadcaster on local tv, author of local history related publications, including the bestselling ‘Little Book of Birmingham’ and director of TNT News, (The News Team: Ladywood) a long-established local news and history website. 

The lecture looks at his work in helping thousands of children – and through the children their parents and other adults – to understand their locality, using local history topics as a tool to look at the development of communities over the years. It also features his extensive work in enabling youngsters to ‘have a say’ in local issues and contribute ideas to community cohesion and development.  

Norman Bartlam with two young people, reporting from the Victoria Statue Civic Society restoration in Victoria Square, 11t May 2018.

Over the years projects have won numerous awards and been held up as examples of good practice, featuring on tv and radio-from Central News through to Channel 4 and Blue Peter. Articles about projects have appeared in wide range of printed publications. 

He will illustrate his lecture with numerous clips from the TNT News archive which he promises will be informative, educating and entertaining! Take a look at the TNT website!

The lecture will be held in the Library of Birmingham Theatre on Monday the 8th November 2021, and starts at 5:30pm.

Booking is essential via Eventbrite! We look forward to seeing you!

He loved the past but lived very much in the present, and through his teaching and his writing left a huge legacy for the future.’ Rachel MacGregor, friend and colleague of Chris Upton

Digital Preservation at the Library of Birmingham #4 Getting a handle on our digital assets

In my first three posts I introduced the topic of digital preservation, running through some basic issues around preserving the bitstream and file formats.

Here we’re going to take a step back and look at the digital assets held at the Library of Birmingham, specifically those in the care of Archives & Collections. The term “digital asset” applies to both digitised surrogates of a physical object or record, and information existing in born digital format from point of creation.

What are digital assets?

Digital assets can include material in our archive collections, but the term is equally applicable to administrative records created in electronic format by the wider Library Service, and indeed the wider City Council. Some local authority records may be considered to have permanent value as historic records one day, and/or have long-term or permanent administrative, evidential, legal or financial value for the City Council. Other digital resources such as social media feeds and websites would also potentially come within the scope of our collecting remit.

Born digital” JPEG images taken by a Birmingham City Council employee and extracted from a USB stick, showing storm damaged property in 2005. [Collection ref: BCC Additional Acc. 2019/076]
Continue reading “Digital Preservation at the Library of Birmingham #4 Getting a handle on our digital assets”

Land Tax Assessments

Land Tax was one of the innovative schemes of the British government to increase revenue. Introduced in 1692, in the reign of William III and Mary, and finally abolished in 1963. It was administered at the local level, and based on a tax quota for each parish which did not change from year to year.

This blog describes a source that, though useful for those researching property and land ownership in Birmingham in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, is not held at the Wolfson Centre for Archival Research but, for reasons explained below, at the nearly County Record Offices of the old counties that made up modern Birmingham.

Land tax assessment records are useful to historians because they list year by year the names of the owners of property in each parish and the sum assessed, and (in theory at least) the names of the occupiers. They also give some indication of their social standing [Titles such as Reverend, Dr., Sir, Esquire and Mr. (a gentleman) are used to define status]. Early assessments sometimes contain the minimum of information. From 1798, common printed forms were introduced, though they were not universally used until later. Some parishes still drew up their own hand-written version of the form. The later returns also give a brief description of the property.

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Archives Card Registration

The CARN ticket system has now ended, although we will continue to accept valid CARN cards here at Archives & Heritage, Library of Birmingham, for the foreseeable future.  The new ticketing system we subscribe to is called the Archives Card. The card system is administered by the Archives & Records Association. 

To register for a card, applicants must have an e-mail address and two forms of ID. (See the list of acceptable forms of ID here.) Anyone over 14 years of age can apply for a card and they last for 5 years.

Let’s go through the process of how to apply: To obtain a card, as mentioned, you will need an e-mail address. If you haven’t already got one, see this helpful information sheet on how to go about setting up an email account.

Popular e-mail address suppliers include Gmail and Outlook.

Continue reading “Archives Card Registration”