Evacuee archive now available

The Evacuee archive (ref D EVAC) has now been catalogued and the majority of the collection is available for consultation in our reading room.  Some parts of the collection are closed to the public, because of Data Protection issues.  Please contact us if you would like to know more about this.

It is a fascinating collection and is already being used by a PhD student, and Laura Farrell, one of the Reading Connections project interns  has been researching the collection, which will form the basis of a piece by Dr Teresa Murjas for the project. There will be a blog post about this very soon.


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A pair of moccasins, probably from an evacuee who was evacuated to Canada, although there are no details with them ref D EVAC K/2

Zoe Watson

Reading Connections Project Manager

Internship blog post – Evelyn Williams

I have been volunteering at Reading Museum since 2010 first as part of the Reminiscences Project, then Historypin and most recently Revealing Reading’s Hidden History. Through the internship, I have the opportunity to work full time for a period and see a lot more of how the Museum works. I hope to become more professional, efficient and effective in museum related activities and tasks. The role will also contribute to my own personal development. Working with colleagues from MERL adds a stimulating dimension to this project.

Research on the Reading Chronicle Collection continues and I am working with Project Officer Sophie to prepare information relating to the images that have been selected for an online catalogue.

My time is split between Reading Library where the microfilm copies of the Berkshire Chronicle are available to look at, and Reading Museum where I add to the data and information already held about the image.

Berkshire Chronicle has transported me back to the Reading of 1939 just before and just after the outbreak of the Second World War as it reports on how the outbreak of war affects life in the town. Some familiar local places, people and events crop up but I am learning all the time about Reading’s history.

Some stunning images have been selected to be showcased online covering the length and breadth of life in Reading. From these I have selected an image from June 1939 of the staff of the Berkshire Chronicle before they set off on their annual outing. The scene is in Valpy Street outside the Berkshire Offices and alongside Reading Museum, with Blagrave Street in the background, everyone is dressed up and ready to go.

 

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Evelyn Williams

Project Intern, Reading Museum

 

The word spreads about ‘Reading at War’… even Tony Blackburn’s talking about it!

At this time of year many of us will reflect on those who have fought for their country and, in particular, on those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

As we approach Remembrance Day,  the local press have taken a keen interest in the Reading at War aspect of the Reading Connections project, part of which aims to highlight the stories of the 146 individuals who feature in Reading University College’s Memorial Bookall of whom tragically lost their lives in the First World War. We are delighted that the Reading Post and BBC Radio Berkshire have been keen to focus on some of these incredible stories.

During their visit, two reporters from The Reading Post met myself and project volunteer, Jeremy Jones, and were shown the Memorial Book. They were introduced to some of the individuals who feature in it and explored the project’s designated flickr site. The flickr site is a fantastic resource as it not only allows people to view those individuals but it also contains, where known, further biographical details about them and their connections to Reading University College. These details are just the tip of the iceberg and, of course, we are appealing for anyone who has more information about, or photographs of, any of the individuals to get in touch.

Although we were unable to take the Memorial Book with us for our BBC Radio Berkshire broadcast, it was still very much the main focus of our discussion.

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Phillippa Heath, Tony Blackburn and Jeremy Jones at the BBC Radio Berkshire Studio  

There, Jeremy and I were interviewed as part of  Tony Blackburn’s show. Tony was incredibly enthusiastic and interested in the work we are carrying out. Not only was it a fantastic opportunity to promote the project, but it also brought to the fore the heart-wrenching stories of some of those students who gave so much.

If you missed the broadcast, it should be possible to ‘listen again’ at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01jryvj (the interview took place at 10.50 am on 07/11/13). All being well, the project will also feature in the Reading Post on 8th November, and a short edited video about the project will feature on their website. Our media coverage of the project will continue on Sunday, 10th November at 9 am when Guy Baxter, University Archivist, will also be interviewed on BBC Radio Berkshire about the Reading at War project.

 

Phillippa Heath

Reading at War Project Officer, Museum of English Rural Life

War poets at the University of Reading

The WW1 memorial book at the University Reading is full of fascinating stories. The book has been digitised and can be seen on our Flickr site. Over the next few months we will be looking at some of the lives of these men and women in more detail.

To start we are going to look at two men, both who were War Poets.

Ernest Denny (1889-1917). 

Ernest Denny

Ernest Denny

Ernest Denny was a Yorkshire man by origin, born in West Wisling to parents Robert William and Ellen Hannah Denny. He trained as a teacher and during his attendance at the Reading University College he was a notable presence not only in the sporting sphere but the academic and political as well.

Denny was Deputy Tennis Captain for the years 1914-1915 but did not limit himself, as in the same year he was a member of the Student Union Representative Council, on the committee for the Debating Society, Vice President of Shells, Cofferer of the Gild of the Red Rose and Sub-Editor of Tamesis, the student magazine.

Denny was also a poet and his book ‘Triumphant laughter: Poems, 1914-1917’ was published after his death. During the war he served with the 15th battalion London Regiment and died of his wounds in Belgium. He is buried in Dozinghem Military Cemetery. Click here to see his page on our Flickr site.

Wilfred Owen (1893-1918)

One of the most famous names in the book, Wilfred Owen. Unlike Ernest Denny’s clear connection to Reading University College, Wilfred Owen’s connection is much more tenuous. Despite appearing on the list of service-people with links to the university he does not appear on the memorial itself. It appears that he first studied Botany and Latin but was encouraged by Professor Edith Morley of the English Department to change his studies to English. At this time he was a lay assistant at Dunsden.

A great deal is, of course, already known about Wilfred Owen and is well known as a war poet. He was born in Oswestry in 1893 to Thomas and Harriet S Owen (known as Susan), Wilfred was a teacher by trade. He served in the First World War as a Lieutenant in the 5th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment and was killed in action on the 4th November 1918 at the age of 25. He was awarded the Military Cross for bravery at Joncourt in October 1918 a mere month before his death. Click here to see his page on our Flickr site

 

Historic World Objects: photography and beyond

Felicity McWilliams – Project Officer

This summer was very busy for the Historic World Objects team. By the middle of July we had pretty much put together the final shortlist of the six hundred objects from the Historic World Objects collection that will be featured on the new Reading Museum online catalogue. The next stage was to make sure there are good quality photographs of each of the objects to accompany their online catalogue records.

Photography in progress

Photography in progress at the Reading Museum store.

To this end, Greta, Ollie and I spent a significant portion of the sunny months of July and August inside Reading Museum’s remote store, an Aladdin’s cave of objects in a warehouse-style building on the outskirts of Reading. Buildings designed for objects rather than people don’t always make fantastic working environments, but the lack of natural daylight did mean we could control the light applied to the objects during photography very well! We had two days of training from the University’s photographer and used new photography equipment supplied as part of the project – a fancy DSLR camera, a pop-up illuminated background, and flash lights with soft-boxes and umbrellas. We hope that, once they’ve been tweaked during the editing process, the new photographs will really make a valuable addition to the online catalogue.

A recently photographed object from the Historic World Objects collection.

A recently photographed object from the Historic World Objects collection.

I am now moving on with the research phase of the work on this collection. A new member of the team, Adam, will also be working on this with me for one day a week. We will be carrying out further research into the objects, documentation and collectors. This research will then enable us to write short pieces of text to accompany the basic object information on the online catalogue records. Adam and I will be starting by researching some of the collection’s known collectors. These include Dr Joseph Stevens, the first curator of Reading Museum, and Robert Gibbings, an artist and wood engraver who collected objects whilst travelling in the Polynesian Islands. Last Friday Adam and I attended a Museum Ethnographers Group study day in Birmingham, entitled ‘Researching Donors of Museum Ethnography’. The day was full of really useful tips and advice, and we made some real progress researching some of the donors whose names we had taken along to the event. We hope that some of the objects in the HWO collection will be brought to life in new ways by the stories of the people who collected them and brought them to Reading.

Reading at War – WW1 commemorations and Flickr

By Hayley Whiting – Digital Content and Online Engagement Officer

A key theme of the Reading Connections project is Reading at War. The University of Reading holds in its archive a volume put together to commemorate those servicemen and women who fell during WW1 who were connected to the then Reading University College. It contains photographs of many of those listed on the war memorial built on the London Road Campus and those images have now been digitised and made available on Flickr.

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At team of volunteers, myself and Ceri our intern have researched the service history, personal details and connections with the College for all those listed in the memorial book. This information, with the photographs, is now available on a dedicated Flickr site. The aim is for others with connections to these servicemen and women to add any information they have and the process will be one where others can gain from our research and us from them! All the information will be transferred to our online catalogue.

There are so many fascinating stories behind the photographs and the research has revealed that the College had connections with war poets, Wildred Owen and Ernest Denny, artists, eminent mathematicians, teachers and more. Each name in the volume reveals a huge sacrifice and the research has been heart-wrenching at times. There are some names for which we have not been able to discover the connection to the College, such as Francis Edward Bradshaw-Isherwood, the father of the writer Christopher Isherwood, and the Flickr site provides a way of reaching those who may be able to add vital information to aid our research.

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The end result of this project will ensure that the contribution of those connected with the University of Reading who lost their lives in WW1 will not be forgotten.  Explore the Reading Connections Flickr site to learn more.

Internship Blog Post – Sarah Beattie

I am just over halfway through my internship at Reading Museum, and I’m really enjoying the experience so far.  Having always loved history, and particularly the way that objects are able to bring it to life, I am hoping to make my career in museums, and the experience I have gained at Reading has been invaluable.

Sarah blog photo

My main role is helping Sophie, Project Officer, with the digitization of the Berkshire Chronicle collection. As Sophie mentioned in her previous post, she has selected over 2000 images highlighting key themes in the collection, and we have spent the last month scanning these and adding the images to our internal database. This in itself has been valuable for the museum, as now these photographs can be viewed without having to touch the delicate glass plate negatives, but I am very excited to move into the next phase: shortlisting the most interesting images and researching the stories behind them, with the aim of making them accessible to the public in an online catalogue. We will be scouring microfilm copies of the Berkshire Chronicle to match the photographs with their stories, as well as conducting wider research on the people and places of Reading, and I’m really looking forward to finding out more about the images we have been working with.

As well as great images of evacuees and landgirls, local events ranging from school sports days to galas at the Town Hall, and famous faces such as Enid Blyton and Alec Guinness, there have also been lots of images of the quirkier side of Reading life – a cow on the loose in a shoeshop, nuns performing synchronized exercises and Father Christmas arriving by helicopter, to name just three!  It is amazing to be part of making these images, many of which have not been seen for over 50 years, available to the public. The online catalogue should be a great resource for anyone interested in the history of Reading, or 20th century history in general, and I’m sure Sophie will keep you up to date with progress on the project.

When I am not helping with the Chronicle project, the staff at Reading Museum have been incredibly helpful and generous with their time in letting me get involved with many aspects of museum work, from leading store tours for Heritage Open Day to helping with the installation of the museum’s upcoming portrait exhibition ‘Making Faces: Tudor to Modern’. I have developed skills in marking objects, store cleaning and environmental monitoring, handling and packing objects and working with the museum database, which I’m hoping will be really useful in my future career.

 

 

The Chronicle Collection

Sophie Fitzpatrick – Project Officer

One strand of the Reading Connections project is to create a web resource, in which material from the collections will be made viewable online. I am working largely on the Chronicle Collection belonging to Reading Museum; a photographic collection impressively boasting over 20,000 images taken between 1938 and 1962 for use in the Berkshire Chronicle Newspaper – now the Reading Chronicle.

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A large and interesting collection, the Chronicle’s content is diverse and covers a wide range of subjects such as war and peace, school, dance, theatre, religion, fetes, weddings, monuments and statues, sport, railways, trams and trolley buses, road accidents, floods, work outings, pubs, agricultural shows, Royal visits and famous visitors (including authors, politicians, theatre performers, film stars, sports men and women, musicians, artists, singers and variety show personalities), all centred in Reading and its surrounding geographical areas.

I have spent the last few months carefully selecting 2,000 images from the collection for the online resource which will essentially create a ‘shop window’ into the diversity and scope of the images the Chronicle Collection has to offer.

Whilst the photographs selected will reflect the varied nature of the collection, ‘war’ and ‘peace’ are particularly strong themes and link to the 2014 ‘Reading at War’ exhibition at Reading Museum. I have therefore selected a moving image from 1939 of a child being fitted for a gas mask to share with you.

Many of the images selected for the online resource are in the form of glass plate negatives which are currently in the process of being digitised using specialist scanning equipment. As this strand of the project evolves, I’ll be sure to keep you updated of my progress.

Internship Blog Post – Ceri Lumley

I have recently begun an internship with the Museum of English Rural Life. The draw of local history, and in particular that of rural tight-knit communities, was something which as a person with strong rural welsh roots felt something of a personal pull. I jumped at the chance to continue work in the same vein as volunteering I had done at university on projects concerned with the local community. This is not to do the Museum of English Rural Life a disservice as their collections are vast and eclectic, but the chance to work for and in an archive which at its heart celebrates, remembers and commemorates the local people and area, was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

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Writing this, I am still in the initial stages of my time here, but already I have been introduced to a wide variety of activities and work by the friendly and knowledgeable staff and the foundations are being laid for the next couple of months. Whether I am keeping busy uploading information to the ‘Reading Connections’ Flickr site in preparation for the World War One commemorations next year, digitising glass plate negatives with the new ‘GUARDIAN’ camera or repackaging the Suttons Seeds trade records, there is always something to be done and it’s all great experience. Alongside this, I have been introduced to the reception desk and I am due to have my first session in the archive reading room, there might even be the opportunity to help with the fantastic events in the Museum’s summer program, where (at least for a couple of hours) I get a return to childhood.

What I love about this type of experience, which I hope is not only a step towards my future career, is how every now and then, often in the most unassuming box of documents, something stands out. Something unexpected is always welcome in these obviously precious, but normally everyday documents. Whether this is simply the handwriting of an old letter or, as I came across yesterday the wonderful but also slightly haunting photograph of a gentlemen in the John  Tarlton collection. I was transfixed by this man’s expression and the ability of the photographer in capturing it. I hope to come across more documents like this, and, if all goes well, this internship will help in allowing me to do so in my future career in archiving fingers crossed.

Reading Connections – April to July update

It has been a busy few months for the project team – working out what we need to do, how we are going to do it, and then getting stuck into actually doing it.  We have also been skills sharing and recently the team learnt about writing blogs and social media from project team members Greta and Felicity, and Liz McCarthy UMASCS Librarian.

There have been a few exciting new developments we’ve posted blogs on previously – the new camera and the creation of the A-Z list of the archives of Museum of English Rural Life list and two interns starting on the project, one based at MERL and one at Reading Museum.  The interns will post a blog on their experiences on the project soon.

The Brook, Chalgrove

Updates on the project themes:

Reading at War

Evacuee Archive – the cataloguing of the collection is on-going.  We are working to make the archive available by October.  The catalogue will be available on our online database and the archive will be available for consultation in the Reading Room

World War 1 commemorations – Hayley is setting up a Flickr site.  The new intern Ceri will be assisting with adding information for each photo .  The University’s book of remembrance of those members of The University College Reading who fell in the War 1914-1918 is now available on the online database with images attached.  Hayley is also working on a WWI temporary exhibition.

Craft

Greta has been working on cataloguing corn dollies at MERL, so far enhancing 142 records.  She has also been working on craft connections aspect of the theme and connecting with new craft groups and re-establishing links with previous MERL contacts.

World Cultures – Historic World Objects at Reading Museum

Felicity, Greta and Ollie have been working towards the main task of creating an online portal to a selection of 600 Historic World Objects.  So far the target of 2738 objects have been checked, 1000 objects have been long listed and then 600 of these shortlisted.  Felicity, Greta and Ollie have recently had photography training from University photographer Laura Bennetto, and have started photographing objects, photography is nearing completion.

Local Collections – photograph digitisation and cataloguing

Danni has digitised 1386 and catalogued 1067 Collier negatives.  Sophie has been long listing negatives of Reading Chronicle at Reading Museum and has begun scanning them, completing approximately 250 so far.  Danni has also been sharing her digitisation skills with Sophie and helping her to get started.

Village Collections

Ollie has recently been to East Hendred, with Bridget Yates who is working on researching Lavinia Smith.  They have lots of leads to follow up relating to The Lavinia Smith collection at MERL.  There will be a seminar in the autumn series on this. 

Great progress has been made on the project by the whole team. Look out for more posts on different aspects of the project and we’ll give an update again later in the year.