Tag Archives: Exhibitions

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.


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

Uncovering Quaker Heritage: A retrospective


Visitors to ‘Uncovering Quaker Heritage’, in the Wolfson Centre, 23rd January 2017

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.


A selection of material relating to adult education and a plan of Moseley Road Friends’ Institute (SF)

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Behind the scenes at the Shakespeare pop-up exhibition: How to make your very own book cradle- An instructable!

As part of the preparation for the Shakespeare pop-up exhibition book cradles were especially made for a selection of volumes exhibited. This was done to make sure that the books that were displayed were fully supported and not to put undue strain on the open volumes and bindings. Improper display and handling of books can cause irreparable damage! To avoid causing damage to the open volumes each book has a cradle especially made to fit each individual book on the specific page it is opened on!

How to make your very own book cradle

1. Decide what page you want to display your book on.

2. Using a large sheet of paper (bigger than your book!) draw a horizontal line towards the bottom of your sheet of paper.

3. Open your book up to the appropriate page. Stand your book up on your piece of paper with the spine on the horizontal line.

4. Mark on the paper the edges of the boards and the spine.

5. Like dot to dot join up your marks!

6. Measure the lines you have drawn.


7. Pick up your card, mark one end of it to indicate the starting point. Starting a couple of cm along the baseline from the bottom left hand corner, mark on the strip all the points where the line changes direction.

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Birmingham Heritage Week – A Retrospective

The Wolfson Centre returned to normal this morning after hosting not one but TWO pop-up exhibitions in the last three days!

Shakespeare First Folio - on display in the Wolfson Centre on Saturday (under strict supervision by our Conservator!)

Shakespeare First Folio – on display in the Wolfson Centre on Saturday (under strict supervision by our Conservator!)

Saturday was another success for our re-run of the Shakespeare: Infinite Varieties exhibition, which included some fabulous items that were previously on show in the gallery as part of Our Shakespeare. Also on display was the First Folio, giving visitors the chance to get up close (but not touch!) this fantastic volume. Believe it or not, the book that drew even more attention was this one:

German Shakespeareans [132093]

German Shakespeareans

It was given to the Library by  Professor Frederik Augustus Leo in 1878 who had clearly appreciated the help he had received when studying! You can access a digital copy online via the Shakespeare Album website.

Last night was the launch of the Children at War project by the Friends of Archives & Heritage. Visitors were again treated to a wonderful exhibition giving a  rich and varied snapshot of the experience of the child during the First World War. This was only the beginning of the project and they would love to hear from people who would like to volunteer and get involved. For details of the project, please visit their website and get in touch through their Contact page!

A great turn out for the Children at War launch event.

Nicola Crews

They came, they saw, we think they liked it!

Our pop-up exhibition was a great success! Having never attempted anything like this before, we were a little uncertain as to how it would go – whether we had enough items on display, whether it would be interesting enough, and whether anyone would come!

Visitor's to the Wolfson Centre for the Explore Your Archive Pop-Up Exhibition

Visitors to the Wolfson Centre for the Explore Your Archive Pop-Up Exhibition

We needn’t have worried. We had a fantastic turnout of people and some really lovely comments, here are just some of them:

Very much appreciated by ‘tentative’ researchers. Going to a “new” Archive can be quite scary. Thank you!

Great to see the Archive being “re-born”, such an important part of Birmingham’s Heritage. Good to see today’s display.

Interesting display. Very informative providing ideas for further research. Many thanks.

Elijah and transcripts of the Mendelssohn letters on display at the exhibition

Elijah and transcripts of the Mendelssohn letters on display at the exhibition

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Our favourite things in Archives & Collections, Dawn Beaumont & David Potts

Orange Explored

Dawn and I decided to do a joint blog post, because we wanted to showcase all our collections – archives, local history printed collections, special collections, and photographic collections. We’re proud of our collections and believe they are relevant to so many people and appeal on many levels.

Dawn Beaumont and David Potts exploring their favourite things.

Dawn Beaumont and David Potts exploring their favourite things.

I’ve chosen a theme rather than a collection, ‘Football in the Archives’, because I am interested in how you can research a very specific subject in the Archives, but in so doing need to look at different (and unexpected) types of collections to get a fuller picture. Also, I really like football… I needed no excuse to go rooting around…

So I have chosen photographs, printed programmes, a scrap book from a hospital collection! I particularly like the photographs in the Warwickshire Photographic Survey Collection (MS 2474), in which there are various photos of the ground at Villa Park, the crowds, and the players. In them I can see the landmarks that I still pass when I go to the ground on match day (the gas towers, the church) and I remember standing at the Witton End when it was uncovered (as in many of the photos) although I didn’t attend my first game until around 1974, and, the photo was taken in 1952 (exactly thirty years before Villa won the European Cup in 1982!). There is also a great picture of the Birmingham City football team from 1931 when they were FA Cup finalists, plus programmes and news cuttings relating to various local teams, both professional and amateur. I really enjoyed looking at some of Birmingham & District Works Amateur Football Association match reports (MS 2658/3/3), particularly the report for the match played at the Latch & Bachelor ground at Hay Mills on the 14th December 1946 against Halesowen A&L, and which ended 15-1 to Birmingham & District Works… about which the report reads “Apart from just 20 mins when the Visitors showed speed & cleverness the Works side were as superior as the score suggest.”

Volume of miscellaneous papers and press cuttings relating to the establishment and immediate history of the Birmingham Children's Hospital, compiled by C. E. Matthews. [HC BCH/6/2/1 p250]

Volume of miscellaneous papers and press cuttings relating to the establishment and immediate history of the Birmingham Children’s Hospital, compiled by C. E. Matthews.
[HC BCH/6/2/1 p250]

The last collection I expected to find any information about football in was in one of the hospital collections… but I did, in the Children’s Hospital Archive, and in a ‘Volume of miscellaneous papers and press cuttings relating to the establishment and immediate history of the Birmingham Children’s Hospital, compiled by C. E. Matthews, Honorary Secretary 1862 – 1898’ no less! As you can see, on March the 10th 1890, the Villa first eleven played against “18 theatrical and equestrian gentlemen (in costume)”. Kick off was at 3pm, and the proceeds were going to the Queen’s and Children’s Hospitals. The team that made up the opposition included: a stout school boy, a policeman, a clown, and various military types amongst many others!

David Potts
Head of Library Resources


I have chosen one of the Special Collections as my favourite – The ‘Parker collection of games’, and it was very difficult to decide on which game to choose… so, like David, I chose several things! You can read more about the collection here: http://www.libraryofbirmingham.com/parkercollection

I chose this collection as a whole because it contains educational games, toys and puzzles including jigsaws, card games and writing games, and some of these wonderful things are so beautifully crafted and appealing, that I wanted to show them to you!

Riley's Historical Playing Cards c.1785 [087.1/070]

Riley’s Historical Playing Cards c.1785

So, to my choices, the toys and games are very various, with the earliest dating to c1750 and the most recent to 2001. To give you a flavour, I have selected four from across that date range, two of which are illustrated in this blog post. Firstly, Riley’s historical playing cards (c1785), which includes cards featuring historical figures from Roman history with something of a biography of each figure, designed to be instructive to children since “they cannot fail of becoming insensibly acquainted as it were with customs and characters of a people”! Cards include Tarquinius the Proud (whose associate in crime was Tullia, an “impious woman”), Lucretia who was “chaste and unfortunate”, and Camilla, whose tale you cannot read about without a “sympathising tear”, amongst many others! Each card is beautifully illustrated with small pen and ink portraits of all concerned.

Secondly I chose ‘Happy Families’, another card game, with this pack dating to 1900. In this game, players are dealt the shuffled cards (which feature family members based on an occupation such as Miss Chop the butcher’s daughter, and Mr Rolls the baker) and so end up with a mixture of characters from different families. The aim of the game is to reunite the families, which is achieved by players taking it in turns to ask other players for specific family members.

Happy Families [087.1/031]

Happy Families

I also chose An Alphabet History , (A 087.1/1978), and The Little Library (A P 087.1/1825) – well I had to choose this one, being in a big library!, and these will be on display at our pop-up exhibition – so please do come along.

Dawn Beaumont
Head of Library Services

It’s nearly that time of year again….

Green Discovered

Explore Your Archives week of course!

For this year’s campaign we are taking over the Wolfson Centre for a pop-up exhibition. Admission is free so why  not come along and have a look at our eclectic mix of our favourite items from our collections. Chosen by staff, we will be showing off some of our earliest documents, such as 13th century court rolls and letters patent, some of our most loved, such as Cuthbert at the Birmingham Pageant, and some that will appeal to kids of all ages with examples from the Parker Collection of Children’s Books and Games.

The exhibition will be on Tuesday, 17th November 2015, 4pm – 6.30pm and you can find us on Level 4 of the Library of Birmingham. Members of the team will be on hand so please do ask questions and we will do our best to answer!

We’ll look forward to seeing you there!