Birmingham Archives & Collections. What we got up to…

We thought we’d update you on want we got up to during our closed week at the end of April!

One of our two accessioning days in the Wolfson Centre for Archival Research

For the first time since moving to the Library of Birmingham in 2013, we have had the opportunity to concentrate our efforts on a piece of labour intensive, repetitive, yet incredibly beneficial work… namely, stock checking (surveying) the archives collections in our strong rooms!

The team spent 90 hours surveying the collections, and managed to cover 1528 shelves – that’s about 3 and half minutes per shelf! They updated some 590 location records, which in the long-term means we will be more efficient at retrieving material for you!

Library of Birmingham Archives & Collections staff surveying locations in strong rooms

So what are the benefits of undertaking this work?

Well naturally, more efficient retrieval for when you order material to look at in the reading room, but also  better use of space by storing items in more efficient configurations and uniting collections that have historically been stored separately (we did some shifting around). The work undertaken has also informed our thoughts about how we record locations on our collections management system to make them more accurate and our retrieval times swifter.

Over the course of the week, and in addition to the team surveying collections in the strong rooms, we worked on staff development through shadowing activity and group training sessions, such as a webinar run by The National Archives! The scene pictured below features half of the Archives & Collections team attending a webinar about Digital Preservation – a significant issue facing all archives services in this modern digital age.

Archives & Collections staff “attending” a webinar about digital preservation run by TNA

During the week we were able to spend two days on accessions, which also involved training in the form of shadowing for one of our Senior Archives & Collection Assistants, who spent some time getting to grips with and documenting a collection of deeds that had just come in!

Adding deeds to the collections on one of our ‘Accessioning Days’

We plan to carry out similar activities later on this year and in years to come, and as such have scheduled in further closed weeks. To minimise disruption to the service, we have used our visitor statistics kept since the opening of the Library of Birmingham in September 2013 to choose the quietest weeks. The closed weeks then for 2017/18 will be as follows:

w/b 4th September, reopening on Tuesday 12th September

w/b 25th December, reopening on Tuesday 2nd January 2018

During these weeks the Wolfson Centre for Archival Research will close but, the Heritage Research Area counter on the same floor will remain open.  You will still be able to talk to knowledgeable staff about the collections we hold, identify material you wish to consult and make appointments to consult that material.

All the team at Archives & Collections are proud that we are able to continue to collect and make accessible cultural and heritage collections that are representative and reflective of our city and its population. Thank you for your continued support, enabling us to utilise such opportunities to make these collections more open and available to everyone who wishes to use them.

Corinna Rayner
Archives & Collections Manager
Library of Birmingham

National Vegetarian Week 15th – 21st May 2017

As it is National Vegetarian Week, I’ve ‘tucked into’ our collections and uncovered some recipes to present you with a delicious veggie friendly menu.

I’m going to put the chive in archives! (I’ll never make it as a comedian.)

For starters (adopts her best waitress voice) we have some mushroom patties. Dear diners, these are seasoned with a little salt and pepper and are served over some beautifully crusty pastry.  No soggy bottoms here.

Mushroom Patties

This recipe is taken from one of a number of cookery books collected by an Emily S. Thomas and Miss Walker. [MS 4082 (Acc 2011/149)]  It comes in particular from The Home Mission Book of Recipes, Vol II, 1909. I like that the recipe is clearly marked up as vegetarian, and the patties sure seem tasty, although, I am unsure about the teaspoon of sugar. Perhaps it’s that old balance of sweetness to salt which will make these savoury delights zing!

Onto mains (readopting her waitressing voice) *coughs* your entrée; I couldn’t resist a nice ‘dole or dholl’ curry. (I tend to spell it dal.) This one originates from a recipe and knitting pattern book collected/written by an unknown person, dated as 19C in our catalogue. [MS 1158/1]

Dole curry

The volume has a number of enclosures and this particular recipe is included in a section based around curries. It also gives instructions on how to boil rice, and, as the below shows, make pillaw [pilaf?] rice – the perfect accompaniments.

Perfect rice

For afters, I’ve chosen something that looks simple enough to bake (no electronic mixing bowls here!) and that would be equally as nice the day after with a cup of tea. The recipe comes from another orphaned book (but one with a fine inscription: ‘Nora with Love from Both, 12 Willow Avenue, Christmas 1937′.) [MS 1170] Anyone have room for a slice of tasty date and walnut cake? Continue reading

From small beginnings: the early days of Severn Street Adult School

Joseph Sturge, author unknown, 1859 (Birmingham Portraits Collection)

On 14th May it is the anniversary of the death of one of Birmingham’s prominent citizens, Joseph Sturge, who died in 1859. A successful Quaker businessman, a generous philanthropist and an active campaigner, he is perhaps best known for his work in the anti-slavery movement and the establishment of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society (now known as Anti-slavery International). However, he was a man of many interests and it is his role in beginning the adult education movement in Birmingham which is the subject of this blog post.

On 12th August 1845, concerned by the behaviour of the men and teenage boys he saw in the city’s streets on Sundays, Sturge invited some of Birmingham’s younger Quakers to his house in Wheeley’s Road, Edgbaston to discuss whether they could establish an adult school for them.  It was to be another 25 years before compulsory primary education would be introduced and many adults at this time had started work as young children so levels of literacy among the working classes remained low.  Sturge had been impressed by a visit in 1842 to what is now seen as being the earliest of the adult schools, established in Nottingham in 1798, and he wanted to set up a similar school in Birmingham. The Nottingham school was run by a Methodist, William Singleton and subsequently taken over by a Quaker, Samuel Fox. Non-denominational classes took place on Sundays, teaching men and women reading and writing classes based on the Bible.

The group of Birmingham Quakers agreed that such a school should be established  for,

‘…those who are not & have not been in the way of receiving any instruction in other schools.’

(Severn Street First Day School minute, 12th August 1845, SF (2016/043) 1524 part 1 of 2).

Continue reading

Fitting in and Getting Along

Booklet produced as part of the Fitting in and Getting Along project [MS 4831 ]

‘Fitting in and Getting Along’ (MS 4831) is one of the many community archives held at the Library of Birmingham. The archive documents the outcomes of a Heritage Lottery funded project focusing on the personal histories of second generation British Poles growing up in Birmingham in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. These British Poles were brought up in traditional Polish families and involved in Polish cultural organisations in the city, but many did not visit Poland until their early 20s.

The project used oral history interviews with twenty-six volunteers to explore themes such as how British Poles were shaped by their exposure to both Polish and British culture and the extent to which Polish national identity survived in them. A project exhibition was held in 2015 in the Community Gallery at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.

Flyer for the exhibition held at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, November 2015. [MS 4831]

The archive features an information booklet, exhibition flyer and recordings of oral history interviews.  The booklet gives information on the project background and themes. It also includes a profile of each of the interviewees summarising the content of their conversations.

The booklet would be an excellent place to start for anyone interested in the archive. I particularly enjoyed the rich visual content of the booklet which includes copies of participants’ personal photographs. The photographs commemorate significant life events such as participation in performances of traditional dance and meetings with Pope John Paul II as well as family portraits.

Continue reading

Shipping issues

It’s amazing what a variety of goods were moved by sea in the 18th century.

John Watt (1739 – 1762) the younger brother of James Watt, studied book-keeping and helped in his father’s business of ships’ chandlery in Greenock. According to his father, James Watt of Greenock, his son was ‘ready in learning with a mahanicall [mechanical] turn and soon aplayed [applied] himself to trade and business and for completing his knolage [knowledge] in the cost [coast]’. In 1761 a ship, the Fortune, was built for him and he started a trading enterprise, as a partner with his father and others, shipping goods between Glasgow and Bristol. Between 1760 and 1761 his father records a least 32 harbours he visited, for cargoes such as coal, ballast, slate, timber, salt, herrings, tallow, tobacco, etc. [MS 3219/3/125]

Composite Account Book [MS 3219/5/1]

Composite Account Book, Bristol 1761
[MS 3219/5/1]

John Watt’s accounts reveal a wealth of items, most of which had been specifically ordered by individuals in the Glasgow area from Bristol. In no particular order, these included:

Strong sweet ‘sydar’ [cider]
Bristol beer
‘Holewell water’ [Holywell was a mineral spring area of Bristol]
White wine vinegar
Bottles
Lanterns
Lamp black ‘in pound papers’
Paint; vermilion, Prussian blue, French verdegris, stone umber, spruce ochre etc.
Paintbrushes
Turpentine
Barometers
Jugs of linseed oil
A chest of ‘Florence Oil’
Bunting: broad & narrow; red, white & blue
Gingerbread
Pewter spoons & metal ‘soop’ dishes
Double Gloucester cheese
Blue peas
White peas
Nutmeg graters
Ivory teeth
Watch glasses
Compasses
Writing slates
Paper
Red lead
White lead
Thin sheet lead
Silk handkerchiefs
Flour
Marling needles
‘Very fine cotton cards’
Musket bullets
Locks & hinges
Tools: saws, adzes, chisels, axes, shovels
Barrel hoops
Jugs of putty
Window glass
Decanters, tumblers, ‘Flowered glasses’
Paper

Continue reading

Easter Hope

When researching our blog for Easter, the obvious collection to look in was the records of the Cadbury Family. Easter and Cadbury now go hand in hand but this is no new phenomena. Before the Second World War, Cadbury were making and decorating some splendid Easter Eggs and photographs in the collection not only show the production line machinery that was used, but also staff adorning the eggs with intricate decoration by hand.

Machinery used to create Easter Eggs, 1939
©Cadbury/Mondelez International [MS 466/41/Box 4A/81]

 

The mechanical techniques used to make the eggs were clearly advanced as the annotation on the photographs convey:  

‘Can it be that these fabulous Easter Eggs were issued as a production line? Such would seem to the case, and it is an indication of the high quality of Grade 1 products before the 1939 war brought the end to these expensive lines. When King George VI and Queen Elizabeth came to Bournville in 1939, one of the show pieces was the decoration by hand of even larger eggs. Sic transit Gloria mundi.’

Decorating Easter Eggs, 1939
©Cadbury/Mondelez International [MS 466/41/Box 4A/83]

Also in the Cadbury Family papers is an uplifting sentiment that Easter is full of hope. Published in Women’s Leader and Common Cause on 10th April, 1925, Mrs. George Cadbury wrote: Continue reading

An invitation

At the recent Annual General Meeting of the Friends of Birmingham Archives and Heritage, it was announced that a small purchase had been made and donated to Archives & Collections, Library of Birmingham and this blog is to inform people about the item.

MS 4869 (Acc 2017/007)

It is an invitation ticket to an exhibition of paintings at Everitt and Hill, art dealers, on New Street, on 18 August [c.1860], (reference number MS 4869     Accession 2017/ 007). The invitation was to James Baldwin and the paintings he was invited to view were:

James Watt and his First Steam Engine by Lauder R.S.A.
Shakespeare and Milton by John Faed
The Wanderer’s Return by Henry O’Neill
Broken Vows by Philip Calderon

It was, of course, the first item which attracted the attention of the FoBAH Committee.

James Eckford Lauder RSA (1811-1869) was a notable mid-Victorian Scottish artist, famous for both portraits and historical pictures.

A younger brother of artist Robert Scott Lauder, he was born at Silvermills, Edinburgh, the fifth and youngest son of John Lauder of Silvermills (proprietor of the great tannery there) by his spouse Helen Tait. Under the guidance and encouragement of his elder brother Robert, he rapidly developed an early love of art.

He attended Edinburgh Academy from 1824 to 1828. He joined Robert in Italy in 1834, and remained there nearly four years. Upon his return to Edinburgh he became an annual contributor to the Exhibitions of the Royal Scottish Academy, and exhibited occasionally at the Royal Academy in London, where his works attracted much attention.

In 1839 he was elected an associate, and in 1846 became full member, of the Royal Scottish Academy. The painting of James Watt and the Steam Engine: the Dawn of the Nineteenth Century, 1855, is said to be one of his principal works.

The painting is now held in the National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh. Continue reading