Tag Archives: Archives & Collections

The Cervantes Collection

Part of the Cervantes Collection

The Cervantes Collection is the second oldest Special Collection in the Library of Birmingham. The original collection of 1,500 books was donated by William Bragge (1823-1884), a highly successful, much travelled and cultured businessman, who, prompted by the setting up of the Shakespeare Library in 1861, gave his Cervantes books, the most important part of his extensive collections, to the city of his birth.

Son of a well-known jeweller, Thomas Perry Bragge, in Birmingham, William Bragge studied mathematics and mechanics and practical engineering, training as an engineer and railway surveyor. He started work at the Birkenhead Railway in 1845 and then spent much of his life in South America, where he built gas-works, railways and waterworks for Buenos Aires and had the Order of the Rose conferred on him by the Emperor of Brazil. He also visited Spain frequently, and it was probably these connections which led to his particular interest in Spanish literature and the writings of Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616).

Smollet’s Edition of Don Quixote

Cervantes was a novelist, playwright and poet and the most celebrated writer in Spanish literature. He created the character of Don Quixote, an elderly gentleman who sets off from his home, La Mancha, with his servant Sancho Panza to undertake chivalrous acts and has many rather ridiculous adventures. Thanks to numerous translations, extensive literary criticism and adaption of the story into art, drama and film, Don Quixote is recognised throughout the world. Continue reading

Why not come along to our second Heritage Research Area Familiarisation Session?

The Heritage Research Area on Level 4 of the Library of Birmingham

Would you like to learn how the Heritage Research Area on level 4 could benefit your genealogical research?

Meet experienced staff at this free event which will act as a general beginners’ guide to resources such as maps, electoral and parish registers as well as digital resources on Ancestry Institution and software for reading local newspapers.

Spaces are limited to 12 people per session. Please email archives.heritage@birmingham.gov.uk or speak with a member of staff on level 4 to make a reservation.

Saturday 16 September 2017

11 am – 1 pm

Please note this session is not aimed at answering specific genealogical enquiries.

 

Heritage Research Area public familiarisation session

Staff in Archives & Collections showing how to use genealogy resources

Wednesday 28 June, an otherwise drab and overcast summer’s day was witness to the inaugural Heritage Research Area public familiarisation session between 11 am – 1 pm. The Heritage Research Area is typically the first port of call when visiting Archives & Collections based on level 4 of the Library of Birmingham. It’s the area where you are able to access the vast majority of the section’s printed resource materials without an appointment, at any point during the library’s core opening hours of 11 am  – 7 pm Monday & Tuesday and 11 am  – 5 pm Wednesday to Saturday.

The session was amongst many things an opportunity for Archives & Collections to reach out to the community and raise awareness of the services we offer and their relevance to the wider community. Such opportunities have been few and far between since the library experienced a restructuring of its staffing levels back in 2015, but the event was a means of raising our profile and making people aware we are still here with a commitment to offer a professional, dedicated and friendly service.

The session was well attended with up to 15 participants although we had originally planned for 12 attendees, such was the level of demand. We relied upon the Library of Birmingham website – www.libraryofbirmingham.com along with Twitter, literature on display around the library and good old word of mouth to promote the event.

Some of the resources guests will be more familiar with following the session

Continue reading

Connecting Stories, Our British Asian Heritage – Behind the scenes

Have you ever wondered why exhibition spaces are sometimes a little bit dark? Why objects are displayed in the way that they are? How an exhibition is even put together in the first place? Conservator Lucy Angus will explain the stages of preparing and installing our current exhibition ‘Connecting Stories.

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Six months ago I met the British Library Curator Penny Brook who had the difficult task of choosing over 100 objects from collections held at the British Library and Library of Birmingham which would help tell the story of our British Asian heritage. Once Penny had come up with her wish list of objects for inclusion for the exhibition, I was then presented with the objects which included a rare 19th century board game reflecting Britain’s trading interests in Asia, 1940s police reports on meetings of the Indian Workers Association and India League in Birmingham, photographs showing protests and counter-protests in 1960s and 1970s Britain amongst others.

Before and after conservation treatment
[MS 3147/5/ 616]

Upon looking at the objects I had to determine whether the objects were fit for display and what conditions would need to be in place to make sure that the objects were cared for and did not potentially suffer from being displayed. Some factors I considered were the condition of the objects, whether the objects were to be displayed in a case or framed and the potential exposure to light over the course of the exhibition.

Most objects I was shown were thankfully in a good condition and required no conservation treatment. Only a few objects required minor repair with a colour drawing of an Engine House for His Highness the Nabob Vizier of Oude (MS 3147/5/616) requiring the most conservation treatment which included surface cleaning, repair and filling in losses with a sympathetic paper to the original. Continue reading

Heritage Research Area Familiarisation Session

Would you like to learn how the Heritage Research Area on level 4 could benefit your genealogical research?

Meet experienced staff at this free event which will act as a general beginners’ guide to resources such as maps, electoral and parish registers as well as digital resources on Ancestry Institution and software for reading local newspapers.

Spaces are limited to 12 people per session. Please email archives.heritage@birmingham.gov.uk or speak with a representative of staff on level 4 to place a reservation.

Wednesday 28 June 2017

11 am – 1 pm

Please note this session is not aimed at answering specific genealogical enquiries.

Our Heritage Research Familiarisation Session is now fully booked. If you haven’t managed to book on the session this time, we are planning to offer another one on a Saturday in September, date yet to be confirmed. Please check out the blog, the Lob website and twitter as well as posters located in the library nearer the time for confirmation of the date. 

 

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

Wolfson Centre for Archival Research: closed weeks

It’s another practicalities blog from me I’m afraid. One day I will write one about something interesting in the Archives, or perhaps from our Early & Fine Printing Collection… But, for now it will have to be a blog about closed weeks for the Wolfson Centre (the Archives & Collections reading room).

Here at Birmingham Archives & Collections in the Library of Birmingham, we care for over 6,000 collections dating from the 12th to the 21st century, as well as significant photography collections, the Shakespeare Collection, and a fantastic Early and Fine Printing collection, which we store on more than 12 miles of shelving.

Inside our archive storage areas

Our collections continue to grow and we acquire up to 250 new collections each year. In order to do the collections justice and make them as accessible as we possibly can for you, we occasionally need to be able to focus our staff and resources on collections tasks which can’t happen during our normal open weeks.

Collections work

Our small team operates two busy public counters over six days per week offering a variety of services to our customers, as well as answering over 250 formal enquiries per month, preparing and delivering engagement activities, whilst also ensuring that our collections remain safe and well cared for.

Many archive services across the country use closed weeks to undertake pieces of work that they are unable to accomplish whilst they are open, and we are going to try this too.  We already close during the week between Christmas and New Year, but as of 2017 we will be closing a further two weeks each year.

During this time, staff from across the team will be working together on collections development and preservation activities. This will improve the documentation and access to the collections we look after for you. As such, we hope to keep you updated about what we are up to during these weeks via our blogs so that you can see what we’re up to and how we’re doing!

 

What weeks will we be closed?

We have used our visitor statistics kept since the opening of the Library of Birmingham in September 2013 to choose the quietest weeks to minimise disruption to our service. The closed weeks then for 2017/18 will be as follows:

w/b 24th April, reopening on Tuesday 2nd May 2017

w/b 4th September, reopening on Tuesday 12th September 2017

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 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. We are excited about the opportunities that having this extra time will afford us and the ways we can use it to continue to care for and make these collections more open and available to everyone who wishes to use them.

Thanks as always for your continued support and understanding.

 

Corinna Rayner
Archives & Collections Manager
Library of Birmingham