Tag Archives: Library of Birmingham

Holdings: Words of the Archive

Definition of ‘record’ from 1696.
[A094/1696/21]

Words, words, words. Archives are packed with them – in record books, in documents, in deeds, in letters, in catalogues, on box labels, on captions, and plenty of other places. But what words do archivists themselves use to talk about what they do? As a lexicographer, I thought it would be interesting to look at some of the words associated with archives and archival practice. Like every other field of activity, archiving has its own specialist vocabulary. Sometimes a particular term will be completely unfamiliar to the lay person, though often, as we can see below, a familiar word is simply repurposed in a specific, extended sense.

The word archive itself dates from the mid seventeenth century, ultimately deriving from the Greek word arkheia meaning ‘public records’. Archivist is a slightly later word, coming into English in the eighteenth century. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first recorded use of the word is this, from 1753: ‘Under the emperors the Archivist was an officer of great dignity.’ Happily, in my experience this continues to be the case.

An English Dictionary from 1696.
[A094/1696/21]

My understanding is that most archives, such as those held in the Library of Birmingham, are structured roughly on the following lines. A collection is a whole body of material (letters, documents, photographs, and so forth) held by an institution. The more technical term fonds (borrowed from French) is sometimes used by archivists to describe an entire collection originating from a single source. An accession is one of the individual bodies of material that form part of the collection and that arrived at a particular time, for example as a gift or purchase. A file is a group of documents that are related in some way. And an item is an individual document or other object held in a file.

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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. 

 

Rediscovering the Milton Collection at the Library of Birmingham

With the expert help of Corinna Rayner and the Archives & Collections team, and my research assistant Ellie Rowe, I have recently begun a project to reassess the contents and significance of the Library of Birmingham’s Milton Collection, an extensive but little-known collection of books relating to the English poet and polemicist, John Milton (1608-1672).

The Library’s Stock Book shows that the Milton Collection began in 1882 in the Gladstone era, when the Library was being rebuilt after the catastrophic fire of 1879. The core of the collection was a gift of about 160 volumes of editions of Milton’s works and Miltonian commentary and criticism. The books were given by Frank Wright (1853-1922), a Liberal politician and member of the Free Library Building Sub-Committee, son of the well-known nonconformist John Skirrow Wright (1822-1880), and partner in the firm of Smith & Wright, makers of buttons and tin-plate.

Free Library Committee Minutes 1882
[BCC/1/AT/1/1/5]

Wright donated the books in the hope that they might be made ‘the nucleus of a Milton Collection worthy of his name and that of our town’. Wright’s interest in Milton almost certainly stemmed from the family’s Liberal and nonconformist leanings. Over the century following Wright’s initial donation, the Milton Collection swelled to over eight times its initial size.

Today, the Milton Collection includes approximately eighty 17th century editions of Milton’s work, and more than 1,200 volumes of later editions and works of criticism. The oldest works in the collection are pamphlets written by Milton in the Civil War and Commonwealth periods, such as The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce (1643), Areopagitica: a speech for the liberty of unlicenced printing (1644), and Pro Populo Anglicano Defensio (Defence of the English People) (1651).

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Connecting Stories: Our British Asian Heritage

To celebrate International Archives Day on 9th June 2017, with a theme this year of “Archives, Citizenship and Interculturalism”, we wanted to tell you about Utsav and our upcoming exhibition ‘Connecting Stories, Our British Asian Heritage’!

Throughout 2017 Birmingham will be celebrating ‘Utsav, South Asian Culture’ and the contribution that South Asian communities have made to the city. Utsav, meaning festival/celebration, was officially launched on 18 January 2017 and will feature a wide variety of professional and community events and activities throughout the year.
The Library of Birmingham and the British Library have won Heritage Lottery Fund support to stage a major exhibition and public programme celebrating South Asian culture, called ‘Connecting Stories, Our British Asian Heritage’, a partnership project celebrating the important role South Asian culture has played in forming Birmingham’s history and identity, and which will feature archives from the wonderfully rich collections held here in Archives & Collections at the Library of Birmingham and the British Library.
A selection of the material that will feature in the exhibition!

A selection of the material that will feature in the exhibition!

At the heart of the project is a major exhibition, Connecting Stories: Our British Asian Heritage, which will open on the 15th of July at the Library of Birmingham. This will explore Britain’s South Asian heritage, examining the contribution made by South Asian people to Birmingham and the UK, and featuring contributions from local communities as they are invited to share their stories in their own words.

Visitor to the Library of Birmingham being photographed for
BrumPeeps, a digital display presenting the people of Birmingham.

The exhibition will reflect on the political context of Britain’s long relationship with South Asia, recognising turbulent times in our shared history, as well as celebrating the contribution of South Asian culture to the UK’s heritage, with a particular focus on Birmingham. It will explore Britain’s enduring connections with South Asia, from historical trading links stretching back 400 years, to the impact of migration and settlement in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Connecting Stories will focus on the countries of present day India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

The rich and intertwining history of South Asia and the Midlands will be illustrated by photographs, letters, posters, paintings, documents and ephemera, showing how libraries and archives can reveal untold and forgotten stories. Highlights include:

• The first list of subscribers in the earliest East India Company minute book, 1599, the starting point of close connections between Britain and South Asia.

• A letter signed by Mahatma Gandhi and a group of other South Asian people in Britain, pledging their support during World War I.

• Maps of South Asia dating back to the 17th Century.

• A rare 19th century game reflecting Britain’s trading interests in Asia and elsewhere.

• Pictures of South Asian people of all classes who came to Britain, including ayahs (nannies) a Suffragette princess and Sake Dean Mahomed who set up the Hindoostanee Coffee House in London and became Shampooing Surgeon to George IV.

• 1940s police reports on meetings of the Indian Workers Association and India League.

• Community publications and campaigning materials charting the history of South Asians in the UK in the twentieth century.

• Photographs showing protests and counter-protests in 1960s and 1970s Britain.

• Poetry and art of Nobel prize-winner Rabindranath Tagore who visited Birmingham in 1930, the year his work was exhibited at the City Museum and Art Gallery.
Help us to celebrate “Archives, Citizenship and Interculturalism” this year – come and see our exhibition!

Tom Epps, Cultural Partnerships Manager
Library of Birmingham

 

Pavel Brázda Is Here

The Library of Birmingham is welcoming the first UK exhibition by leading contemporary Czech artist Pavel Brázda. 

The exhibition is organised by the Embassy of the Czech Republic, Birmingham City Council and the Ikon Gallery and will be open to the public from Friday, 2 June, and will run until 1 July 2017.

The exhibition presents a selection of works from the artist’s colourful Human Comedy cycle, in celebration of a career which spans more than seven decades.

The Human Comedy cycle is a parable in images – a testament to the world we live in, to human joys and predicaments – and in the series, good and evil get equal treatment. The primary theme is the age-old discord between masculinity and femininity. Although autobiographical, the parables are universal. The artist deals with intimate themes from his own life, yet with a detached perspective.

Pavel said: “This series is structured into individual chapters, each with a beginning and end. It all begins with birth and youth. Then it spans across a range of erotic themes to more dramatic and existential topics – such as old age or death.”

In the 1940s, the artist invented his own art movement called “Hominism”, which he defined as ‘art about people and for people’.

Further details can be found on the Library of Birmingham website.

This got us thinking here at The Iron Room about how many references we had in our collections to Czechoslovakia and there are a few!

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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