One of the aspects of working with Archives & Special Collections that has always interested me, is the impact that they have on people, how they can inspire people, and a brilliant example of this surely has to be the wonderful book of poems and extracts, ‘These Notes Are Out of Order’, by Andy Green.
Andy worked for many years in library and archive departments, combining heritage research projects with outreach interventions. ‘These Notes Are Out of Order’, Andy’s first collection with Shoestring Press, is directly based on his experience of working in archives and libraries…. “Unearthing lost voices from archive boxes”… exploring “the world in which our memories are housed, using fragments of evidence to ask deeper questions about how the past becomes catalogued, re-written, or erased. Who does our history belong to?”
Andy’s observations of working and researching in archives and libraries will no doubt strike a chord with many people who frequent them in search of answers, as in ‘Room of Sighs’,… and… a favourite, demonstrating evidence of Andy’s thorough use of the catalogues and indexes!, must be ‘Early Occupations’,
For our Explore Archives 2016 campaign, Andy chose two items to showcase in our pop-up exhibition that influenced the writing of ‘These Notes Are Out of Order’. These were, ‘From Bondage to Liberty’, by Peter Stanford (L 78.1 STA), and the ‘Journal of the Rev. T. A. Finigan, missionary at the Birmingham Town Mission’, (MS 3255). Andy explains his reasons for choosing these:
Stanford’s autobiography is one of the most important narratives of late nineteenth century Birmingham. An African-American born in the southern U.S., his account begins with his escape from slavery as a young boy. It then follows his path to becoming a Baptist minister and campaigner for social justice. In 1897 Highgate, Stanford became one of the first Black ministers in Birmingham (and Britain). Challenging the white political elite and imperial histories, his book shows us there has always been ‘another story’ to consider. ‘From Bondage to Liberty’ is one of the reasons I wanted to write a collection of poems about our city: to honour a Birmingham of the people.
Finigan’s Journal vividly documents the astonishing conditions that faced working class communities in nineteenth century Birmingham. As a cultural historian, I was interested in his descriptions challenge the myth of the city as a place of smoothly unfolding civic progress. Finigan’s streets are a product of constant migration, debate, religious difference, and strife. Different communities, voices, and perspectives clash in his first hand account. As a poet, I also wanted to honour Finigan for the spiritual labour of his prayers, and the creative labour of his impassioned writing style.
I couldn’t have written ‘These Notes Are Out Of Order’ without his journal.
If you want to find out more about what Birmingham Archives & Collections at the Library of Birmingham might have to inspire your creativity, then visit our website… or better still… come and see us!
Andy is more than happy for you to get in touch with him: firstname.lastname@example.org
His book is available to view here at the Library of Birmingham, and is available from Shoestring Press: http://www.shoestringpress.co.uk/
Images reproduced by kind permission of Andy Green.