Having spent the last 2½ years cataloguing the records of the Central England Area Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, and with still more records being deposited, I was keen to uncover some of the treasures from the archive for the public to see. After all, the reason archivists catalogue archive collections is so that archives can be made available to the public. And while blog posts are one way of highlighting some of the records in a collection, nothing quite brings the past alive as being able to see and touch documents created several hundred years ago.
After spending several weeks preparing the pop-up exhibition, Uncovering Quaker Heritage, I was a little apprehensive about whether the public would venture out to the Library of Birmingham on a cold Monday evening in January. It’s always hard to gauge how popular such events will be, but I needn’t have worried. We had an amazing turnout, with plenty of enthusiastic visitors for the full two and a half hours the exhibition was open. It was wonderful to see and hear the interest and discussions sparked by the material on display. Here’s a small selection of some of the lovely comments our visitors left:
‘As a local Quaker I’m heartened to see these records being so well cared for. The hand-written documents are a vivid link with Quaker life in the area’
‘Very well curated and organised; what a wonderful contribution Quakers have made to Birmingham. This pop-up exhibition is a friendly and interactive opportunity to see the rich sources. Well done to everyone involved.’
‘An excellent display showing early history and heritage, not just of early Quakers but the history of the city of Birmingham.’
‘Fascinating exhibition. So lovely to see the material and feel a real sense of history & the personality of individuals as well as the lives of Friends coming off the page. Thank you for putting this exhibition on.’
‘As a Quaker it is enlightening to see everyday affairs of the last 300 yrs laid out for us to see, a metamorphosis of the mundane to an elevated form. An insight into the lives of those now gone, a glimpse of our past to illuminate present Quaker lives.’
A big thank you to Central England Area Meeting for helping to promote the event, to FOBAH volunteers who helped out on the evening and most of all, thank you to everyone who came. If you missed the exhibition, you might just get the opportunity to see it later this year. Watch this space for the date of a re-run!
Eleanor, Project Archivist (Birmingham & Warwickshire Quakers)