2014 Features Showcase

Archives Hub feature for January 2015

Woolwich advert, 1945

Woolwich Equitable Building Society advert, 1945 (Barclays Group Archives feature, January 2014).

This month, January 2015, we’re showcasing our features from 2014, with themes including banking, dance, war, peace and educational reform.

Barclays Group Archives

Founded in 1690 by two goldsmith bankers, Barclays PLC now has customers in over 50 countries:

http://archiveshub.ac.uk/blog/2014/01/barclays-group-archives/

Be my Valentine

Photo of Barbara Cartland, 1925

© Image is in the public domain: Barbara Cartland, 1925 Barbara Cartland, 1925 (Be my Valentine feature, February 2014).

Love letters, cards and poetry, together with less directly connected ‘Valentines’ descriptions!:

http://archiveshub.ac.uk/blog/2014/02/be-my-valentine/

A European Journey: The Archives Portal Europe

The Archives Hub is the UK ‘Country Manager’ for the Archives Portal Europe, a European aggregator for archives:

http://archiveshub.ac.uk/blog/2014/03/a-european-journey-the-archives-portal-europe/

250 and counting!

More than 250 UK institutions and organisations now contribute to the Archives Hub! A look at some of our most recent contributors:

http://archiveshub.ac.uk/blog/2014/04/250-and-counting/

A Spring in Your Step

Image of couple dancing, 1900s.

Lecon de Cake-Walk, 1900s.
Image in Public domain
(A Spring in Your Step feature, May 2014).

Collections relating to dancers, choreographers and teachers, schools and companies, ballet, contemporary and other styles of dance:

http://archiveshub.ac.uk/blog/2014/05/a-spring-in-your-step/

Exploring British Design: An Introduction

The Archives Hub has joined forces with The University of Brighton Design Archives for an exciting new project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council:

http://archiveshub.ac.uk/blog/2014/07/exploring-british-design-an-introduction/

The Anti-Apartheid Movement

Image of Free Nelson Mandela rally poster

Free Nelson Mandela rally poster (1980), AAM Archives, ref: po059. (The Anti-Apartheid Movement feature, July 2014.)

Anti-Apartheid Movement Archives held at the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford:

http://archiveshub.ac.uk/blog/2014/07/the-anti-apartheid-movement/

Swords into Ploughshares

The cataloguing of two peace organisations’ archives at LSE, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and the Fellowship of Reconciliation: London Union:

http://archiveshub.ac.uk/blog/2014/08/swords-into-ploughshares/

Kettle’s Yard Archive

Image of Jim Ede

Jim Ede at Kettle’s Yard – Kettle’s Yard, 
University of Cambridge (Kettle’s Yard Archive feature, September 2014).

Kettle’s Yard, University of Cambridge, much more than a house, a museum or a gallery:

http://archiveshub.ac.uk/blog/2014/09/kettles-yard-archive/

Engineering and innovation during the First World War

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers archives on how the war sparked a technological battle for the best weapons, infrastructure and defences, and what this meant for engineering:

http://archiveshub.ac.uk/blog/2014/10/engineering-and-innovation-during-the-first-world-war/

James Phillips Kay-Shuttleworth – pioneering educational reformer

Photograph of Elizabeth Gaskell

Elizabeth Gaskell, c. 1864. Photograph by Alexander McGlashon (James Phillips Kay-Shuttleworth – pioneering educational reformer feature, November 2014).

Archivists at The University of Manchester Library recently catalogued the papers of celebrated Victorian educationist Sir James Phillips Kay-Shuttleworth (1804-1877), relating to his career, family ties and literary circles:

http://archiveshub.ac.uk/blog/2014/11/james-phillips-kay-shuttleworth-pioneering-educational-reformer/

The Twelve Days of Christmas – archives style!

Our feature is (loosely!) based on the traditional folk melody ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’. Collections highlighted include those of the drummer Max Abrams, the Swan Land and Cattle Company, Hen Gapel, Llanbryn-mair Chapel Records (one of the oldest and most famous chapels in Wales) and the singer David Cassidy:

http://archiveshub.ac.uk/blog/2014/12/the-twelve-days-of-christmas-archives-style/

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Exploring British Design: Research Paths II

We recently ran a second workshop as part of our Exploring British Design project. The workshops aim  to understand more about  approaches to research, and researchers’ understanding and use of archives.

The second workshop was run largely on the same basis as the first workshop, using the same exercises.

Looking at what our researchers said and documented about their research paths over the two workshops, some points came out quite strongly:

  • Google is by far the most common starting point but its shortcomings are clear and issue of trust come up frequently.
  • There is often a strong visual emphasis to research, including searching for images and the use of Pinterest; there seems to be a split between those who gravitate towards a more text-based approach and those who think visually (many of our participants were graphic designers though!).
  • It is common to utilise the references listed in Wikipedia articles.
  • The library as a source is seen as part of a diverse landscape – it is one place to go to, albeit an important one. It is not the first port of call for the majority.
  • Aggregators are not specifically referred to very often. But they may be seen as a place to go if other searches don’t yield useful results.
  • Talking to people is very important, be it lecturers, experts, colleagues or friends
  • Online research is more immediate, and usually takes less effort, but there are issues of trust and it may not yield specific enough results, or uncover the more obscure sources.
  • There is a tendency to start from the general and work towards the more specific. With the research paths of most of the researchers, the library/archive was somewhere in the middle of this process.
  • Personal habits and past experience play a very large part, but there is a real interest in finding new routes through research, so habit is not a sticking point, but simply the dominant influence unless it is challenged.

For the second workshop, the first exercise asked participants to document their likely research paths around a topic.

flip chart showing research paths for a topic

Research paths of two researchers for the topic of Simpsons of Piccadilly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had four pairs of researchers looking at different topics, and we left them to discuss their research paths for about 45 minutes. The discussions following the exercise picked up on a number of areas:

Online vs Offline

We kicked off by asking the researchers about online versus ‘offline’ research paths. One participant commented that she saw online as a route through to traditional research – maybe to locate a library or archive – ‘online is telling me where to look’ but in itself it is too general and not specific enough; whereas the person she was paired with tended to do more research online. He saw online as giving the benefit of immediacy – at any time of day or night he could access content. The issue of trust came up in the discussion around this issue, and one participant summed up nicely: “If you do online research there is less effort but there is less trust; if you research offline there is more effort but there is more trust.”

Following on from the discussion about how people go about using online services, there was a comment that things found online are often the more obvious, the more used and cited resources. Visiting a library or archive may give more opportunity to uncover little known sources that help with original research. This seemed to be endorsed by most participants, one commenting that Pinterest tends to reflect what is trendy and popular. However, there was also a view that something like Pinterest can lead researchers to new sources, as they are benefiting from the efforts, and sometimes the quite obsessive enthusiasms, of a wide range of people.

There was agreement that online research can lead to ‘information dumping’, where you build up a formidable collection of resources, but are unlikely to get round to sorting them all out and using them.

Library Resources

The issue of effort came up later in the discussion when referring to a particular university library (probably typical of many university libraries), and the amount of effort involved in using its databases. There was a comment about how you need to ‘work yourself up to an afternoon in the library’ and there seemed to be a general agreement that the ‘search across all resources’ often produced quite meaningless results. When compared to Google, the issue seems to be that relevance ranking is not effective, so the top results often don’t match your requirements. There was also some discussion around the way that library resource discovery services often involve too many steps, and there is effort in understanding how the catalogue works. One participant, whose research centres on the Web and the online user experience, felt that printed sources were of little use to him, as they were out of date very quickly.

Curating your sources

One researcher talked about using Pinterest to organise findings visually. This was followed up by another researcher talking about how with online research you can organise and collect things yourself. It facilitates ‘curating’ your own collection of resources. It can also be easier to remember resources if they are visual. Comparing Pinterest to the Library – with the former you click to add the image to your board; with the Library you pay a visit, you find the book, you take it to the scanner, you pay to take a scan…although it is increasingly possible to take pictures of books using your own device. But the general feeling was that the Web was far quicker and more immediate.

Attitudes towards research

One participant felt that there might be a split between those more like him who see research as ‘a means to an end’ and those who enjoy the process itself. So maybe some are looking for the shortest route to the end goal, and others see research as more exploratory activity and expect it to take time and effot. This may partly be a result of the nature and scope of the research. Short time scales preclude in-depth research.

Talking about serendipitous approaches, someone commented that browsing the library shelves can be constructive, as you can find books around your subject that you weren’t aware existed. This is replicated to some extent in something like Amazon, which suggests books you might be interested in. There was also some feeling that exploring too many avenues can take the researcher off topic and take up a great deal of time.

Trust and Citation

The issue of trust is important.  A first-hand experience, whether of a place you are researching, or using physical archive sources, is the most trustworthy, because you are seeing with your own eyes, experiencing first hand or looking at primary sources first hand; a library provides the next level of trust, as a book is an interpretation, and you may feel it requires corroboration; the online world is the least trustworthy. You will have the least trust if you are looking at a website where you don’t know about who or what is behind it. There was agreement that trust can come through crowd sourced information, but also some discussion around how to cite this (for example, using the Harvard system to reference web pages and crowd sourced resources). This led on to a short discussion around the credibility of what is cited within research. Maybe attitudes to Wikipedia are slowly changing, but at present there is generally still a feeling that a researcher cannot cite it as a source. There are traditions within disciplines around how to cite and what are the ‘right’ things to cite.

[Further posts on Exploring British Design will follow, with reflections on our workshops and updates on the project generally]

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Twelve Days of Christmas – archives style!

Archives Hub feature for December 2014

The Twelve Days of Christmas song poster

“The Twelve Days of Christmas song poster” by Xavier Romero-Frias is
licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

There are several versions of the traditional folk melody The Twelve Days of Christmas (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Twelve_Days_of_Christmas_%28song%29). This feature is based on the 1909 publication by English composer Frederic Austin.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me…

Twelve drummers drumming

Max Abrams Collection, 1920s-1992. Max Abrams was a drummer, teacher of drums and author of drum tutors. He kept detailed diaries between 1943 and 1992, which document his performance career and information about his pupils, as well as personal information. He wrote around 50 jazz tutor books.
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb2942-ma

Logo for Seven Stories

Logo for Seven Stories, the Centre for Children’s Books

‘The Little Drummer Boy’ greetings card, c. 1968-1999. An illustration of the well-known carol, the card is part of a collection of publications, prints and original artwork by the illustrators, twins Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone. The Johnston Memorial Collection is held by Seven Stories, the Centre for Children’s Books.
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb1840-jaj/jaj/02/04/10

Beat The Retreat On Thy Drum (Sam, Sam, Beat the Retreat!), 1932.
Printed score of a musical monologue performed by Stanley Holloway, part
of the Stanley Holloway Archive held by the V&A Department of Theatre and Performance. Stanley Holloway (1890-1982) made over 50 films, but he loved performing in the theatre and the comic monologues, for which he was so well known.
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb71-thm/18/thm/18/1/7

Eleven pipers piping

Papers of John and Myfanwy Piper, 1882-1990s. John Piper (1903-1992) was a major figure in modern British art. He was a painter in oils and water colour, designed stained glass, ceramics and for the stage, made prints and devised ingenious firework displays. In addition to this he was also a gifted photographer of buildings and landscapes. Piper also wrote poetry, art criticism and several guidebooks on landscape and architecture.
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb70-tga200410

W.T. Piper papers, 1914-1919. W.T. Piper was a Private, 5th Battalion, East Surrey Regiment, serving in India.
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb206-liddlecollectionind31

Ten lords a-leaping

Papers of Horatio Nelson, Viscount and First Admiral, 1758-1805. Held by Glasgow University Library, Special Collections Department, comprising correspondence concerning the promotion of Lieutenant Scott of Monmouth.
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb247-msgen512/35

Manuscript of speeches made by Lord Crewe, Lord Lansdowne, and Lord Loreburn in the Library of the House of Lords, 1908. The speeches were made on Monday, 27th July, 1908, on the occasion of the presentation to the Lord Chancellor, Lord Loreburn, of his portrait painted by Sir George Reid.
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb206-brothertoncollectionms19creid

Transcription of Thomas Hope, Major Practicks, c. 1670. Sir Thomas Hope (1573-1646) of Craighall, advocate and politician. He was solicitor to the Church of Scotland, became a very successful advocate, then worked for Charles I and was appointed Lord Advocate in 1626 and admitted to the Scottish privy council 2 years later.
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb227-mske.l2

Nine ladies dancing

Photograph of ballet dancer, Anthony Crickmay Dance Photographs, © V&A Department of Theatre and Performance.

Anthony Crickmay Dance Photographs (THM/20), © V&A Department of Theatre and Performance, Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Collection of material relating to Anna Pavlova, 1875-1965. Anna Pavlova (1881-1931) was the most celebrated ballerina of her generation. The collection includes accessories originally worn by Pavlova in performance, scrapbooks containing many assorted press and illustrated magazine cuttings featuring Pavlova and sepia prints of Pavlova at a young age.
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb3208-rbs/pav

Adeline Genée Archive Collection, c. 1890-1970. Danish by birth, Adeline Genée (1878-1970), was a talented ballerina and the founder president of the Association of Teachers of Operatic Dancing of Great Britain (later the Royal Academy of Dance).
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb3370-rad/ag

Marie Rambert Collection, 1890s-1980s. Collection of films, costumes, photographs, correspondence, diaries, programmes, press cuttings, personal papers, autobiographical notes, awards and medals owned and collected by Dame Marie Rambert throughout her life as well as papers relating to her death and memorials.
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb2228-mr

Eight maids a-milking

M. Russell-Fergusson papers, 1914-1990. M. Russell-Fergusson, Women’s National Land Service Corps, served as a milk maid in Norfolk from Aug. 1917 and later in Leicestershire and at the Royal Dairy Farm, Windsor.
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb206-liddlecollectiondf112

Photograph of Audree Howard as the Milkmaid in ‘Facade’, 1930s. Part of a small collection relating to the artist Paul Nash at the Tate Gallery Archive.
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb70-tga769/tga769/5/13

Seven swans a-swimming

Logo: University of Leeds

Logo: University of Leeds (Leeds University Library Special Collections)

Books about Russia written by members of the Swan/Swann family, 1968-1989. The Swan/Swann family were members of the British community in pre-revolutionary Russia. Material held by Leeds University Library.
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb206-ms1036

Papers of and relating to Annie S. Swan, c. 1900-1946. Annie Shepherd Swan, daughter of Edward Swan, farmer and potato merchant, was born in Mountskip, near Edinburgh in 1859. She married James Burnett Smith in 1883, and in the early years of their marriage her writing supported him through medical school.
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb231-ms3517

Swan Land and Cattle Company, 1883-1947. The collection is composed of reminiscences of the Swan Land and Cattle Company. The home ranch of the Swan Land and Cattle Company was sited at Chugwater, Wyoming. Its corporate headquarters were in Cheyenne. This large corporate cattle company, with between 50,000 and 80,000 livestock, at one time controlled an area of land greater than the size of the State of Connecticut.
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb237-coll-162

Six geese a-laying

‘Taking a gander’. Article concerning the geese at the University, 1966. Part of the Lady Violet Deramore Collection (1881-2005) held by the Borthwick Institute, University of York.
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb193-vder/vder/3/1/2/10

As it’s pantomime season (oh no it’s not! Oh yes it is!), we also have:

Cuttings about Mother Goose pantomime, 1951. These records form part of the Unity Theatre, theatre company collection held by V&A Department of Theatre and Performance. Unity Theatre was founded in 1936 by a general meeting of the Rebel Players and Red Radio, left-wing theatre groups derived from the Workers’ Theatre Movement.
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb71-thm/9/thm/9/4/5/77

Five gold rings

Small printed notice “Unique and hitherto unknown variety of the Gold Ring Money of Ireland in the form of an Ear Ornament”, 1840s. Held by Chetham’s Library, this item forms part of the The Correspondence of John Bell, Antiquary and Land Surveyor, Gateshead, Newcastle Collection.
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb418-bell/bell/1/29

The rings may in fact refer to ringed-necked pheasants:

Pictorial tapestry rug featuring a pheasant, 1888.
Tapestry rug of worsted yarn and jute in acid colours featuring a pheasant in a floral landscape. Part of the Stoddard-Templeton Carpet and Textile Collection (c. 1840s-1960s). James Templeton and Co. was established in 1843, making Chenille, Axminster, Wilton and Brussels carpets. It employed artists of international calibre such as Charles Voysey, Walter Crane and Frank Brangwyn, with their carpets used in Coronations and in liners such as the Titanic. The collection is held by The Glasgow School of Art Archives and Collections Centre.
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb1694-dc077/2/1

Four calling birds

This could be song birds, such as Canaries, or may be ‘colly’ or black birds:

Descriptions of the Canary Islands and of the Azores, c. 1610.
The manuscript consists of two works, bound together. The first is a description of the Canary Islands, detailing the history, religion and laws of the natives, called the Guanches, as well as observations on the geography and fauna of the islands. The second work is a compilation from other works describing the Azores.The existence of the Canary Islands, a chain of seven islands off the northwest coast of Africa, was known to the Romans and later the Arabs, and European navigators reached the islands in the 13th century. The Azores, an archipelago in the Mid-Atlantic, were discovered in 1427 by the Portuguese and their colonisation by them began in 1432.
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb133-engms17

Image: Transport for London Metropolitan Line

Image: TfL Metropolitan Line, Transport for London Corporate Archives.

Briefing on Canary Wharf Station, 1989.
Paper concerning delays and changes in the redesign of Canary Wharf Station. Subjects include construction and negotiations, unresolved issues and financial risk. Part of a series of minutes of meetings belonging to the Transport for London Group Archive.
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb2856-%28new%29lt000099/%28new%29lt000099/035

Production contracts for ‘Study from ‘Blackbird”, 2002. Part of the Rambert Dance Company Archive: Productions collection (1920s – 2010s), the folder includes choreographer contracts, production budget and correspondence concerning casting travel and rehearsals.
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb2228-rdc/pd/rdc/pd/06/01/0423

Three French hens

‘The Little White Hen’, 1989-2003.
Material relating to ‘The Little White Hen’, written by Philippa Pearce and illustrated by Gillian McClure (Scholastic, 1996). The series includes a dummy book; preliminary artwork; four pieces of finished artwork; a small amount of correspondence from Philippa Pearce, with some reviews of the book; and a copy of the first edition of the book.
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb1840-gmc/gmc/04

Hen Gapel, Llanbryn-mair Chapel Records, 1898-1932.
Hen Gapel (Old Chapel) in Llanbryn-mair, Montgomeryshire is one of the oldest and most famous chapels in Wales. As far back as 1635 the Rev Walter Craddoc had a small congregation in Llanbryn-mair. Initially, the cause had no home and meetings were held in houses or in a nearby forest. In 1739 a chapel was built (then re-built in 1821).
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb222-bmsshg

Two turtle doves

Ms transcript of song, ‘The Turtle Dove’. 2 leaves belonging to a series of ms and ts transcripts of songs and ballads (1925 to 1965) by the poet and author Robert Graves (1895-1985). The papers are held at St John’s College, Oxford.
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb473-rg/m/rg/m/ballads/4

Records for the Dove Brothers Ltd, builders, 1850-1970.
Dove Brothers Ltd was a prominent construction company based in Islington from 1781 to 1993 which worked with most of the major architects of the late 19th to 20th century. The company was founded by William Spencer Dove (1793-1869). His sons formed the Dove Brothers partnership in 1852.
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb1032-s/dov

And a partridge in a pear tree!

David Cassidy Collection, 1972-1976. The Amercian singer David Cassidy was best known for the musical sitcom The Partridge Family.
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb71-thm/378

Image of title page from "The 12 days of Christmas", 1780

Title page from the first known publication of “The 12 days of Christmas” in 1780.
Image in the public domain.

Bernard Partridge Drawings Collection, 1861-1905. Bernard Partridge (1861-1945) was a painter and illustrator who became the principal cartoonist of Punch magazine.
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb71-thm/227

Artworks by James Joshua Guthrie and relating to the Pear Tree Press, 1897-1930s. Designs and illustrations, along with other book illustration work and bookplates for the Pear Tree Press.
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb58-addms88957/addms88957/4/4

Trustees of W S Brown – proposed purchase of Deep Mines under Pear Tree House, Tyldesley. 1905. 2 items of correspondence, maintained by the trustees of the Bridgewater estate Ltd.
http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb427-bea/bea/i/1774

Related information

Birds of the Twelve Days of Christmas, 10,000 Birds blog post, 2013: http://10000birds.com/birds-of-the-twelve-days-of-christmas.htm

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James Phillips Kay-Shuttleworth – pioneering educational reformer

Archives Hub feature for November 2014

Funded by a grant from the John Rylands Research Institute, we have recently catalogued the papers of celebrated Victorian educationist Sir James Phillips Kay-Shuttleworth (1804-1877), opening up the rich content of this archive to researchers across the world.

Kay-Shuttleworth was born James Kay in Rochdale, Lancashire, into a textile manufacturing family. After qualifying as a doctor, he went on to have a distinguished career. He was a pioneer of public health, an influential civil servant, and played a key part in nineteenth-century educational reform, laying the groundwork for today’s system of national school education.

Kay-Shuttleworth’s career

After training at Edinburgh University, James Kay returned to practise as a doctor in Manchester in 1827. The following year, he co-founded the Ardwick and Ancoats Dispensary, a charity based in one of the poorest areas of the city. Through this work, he witnessed the appalling living conditions of the urban poor, and became increasingly involved in public health initiatives.

In 1832, the year of the cholera epidemic, he published his seminal pamphlet, The Moral and Physical Condition of the Working Classes Employed in the Cotton Manufacture in Manchester. This predated by some 13 years Friedrich Engels’ better-known The Condition of the Working Class in England.

In 1835, he became an Assistant Poor Law Commissioner for Norfolk and Suffolk, a role which gave rise to his lifelong interest in education and his conviction that it held the key to society’s regeneration.

Image of pamphlet The Training of Pauper Children

The Training of Pauper Children (1839): Kay-Shuttleworth’s ideas about educational reform had their origins in his work with pauper children.

In 1839, he was appointed as Assistant Secretary to the Whig government’s Committee of the Privy Council on Education, which administered grants for public education, a post he held for nine years. He was a highly effective civil servant and much of what we take for granted today had its origins in his inspired reforms. In 1840, he established Battersea College, the first teacher training college in Britain. He created a school inspection system; he argued for state education; and he forced through regulations around how children were taught, the design of school buildings, the structure of the teaching profession and the ways in which schools were governed.

There are over 1,000 letters in Kay-Shuttleworth’s archive, reflecting his whole professional career. Correspondents include those involved in education and philanthropy like Matthew Arnold and Angela Burdett-Coutts, as well as many Liberal or Whig politicians, including Gladstone, W.E. Forster, Lord John Russell and John Bright. Most of his key publications are also represented.

Family ties

The archival material relating to Kay-Shuttleworth’s public life is complemented by extensive personal and family correspondence, providing a fascinating insight into family relationships, social and gender roles.

In 1842, he married Lady Janet Shuttleworth, the heiress of Gawthorpe Hall in Lancashire, and adopted her surname on marriage, becoming Kay-Shuttleworth. The couple had five children.

Photograph of Gawthorpe Hall

Gawthorpe Hall, Padiham, Lancashire. James Kay-Shuttleworth set his own stamp on his wife’s ancestral home, employing fashionable architect Charles Barry to undertake major renovations in the 1850s. Photograph courtesy of Lee Pilkington.

The letters between Kay-Shuttleworth and his son Ughtred James (1844-1939) show the closeness of their relationship. Ughtred inherited Gawthorpe Hall, and estate management is discussed in some detail, as is Ughtred’s early political career; he went on to become a successful Liberal MP.

Other relationships were less straightforward. Correspondence in the archive documents the young James Kay’s unsuccessful courtship of Helen Kennedy, daughter of a wealthy Manchester family. Later, he grew apart from his wife, Janet; in 1851 she moved permanently to the Continent, ultimately settling in Italy with her eldest child Janet, two youngest sons, and the family governess Rosa Poplawska.

Two of the Kay-Shuttleworth sons – Robert (known as Robin) and Stewart – caused ongoing anxiety to their father. Neither lived up to his expectations, either getting into debt or associating with people of whom their parents disapproved. Ultimately Kay-Shuttleworth arranged for Robin to travel to Australia and take up sheep-farming (although he proved a continued source of worry to his parents), and Stewart emigrated to Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) to run a plantation.

Literary circles

Kay-Shuttleworth’s literary aspirations are less well-known than his public career. Always passionate about literature, after his retirement he published two historical novels set in his home county of Lancashire, Scarsdale (1860) and Ribblesdale (1870). Correspondence and reviews relating to these two novels are included in his archive, as is the manuscript of a third novel, Cromwell in the North, which remained unpublished at his death, and his unpublished autobiography.

Image of a page from Gaskell’s manuscript of The Life of Charlotte Brontë

A page from Gaskell’s manuscript of The Life of Charlotte Brontë, from the Library’s Elizabeth Gaskell Collection

His own literary endeavours failed to attract much critical acclaim, and his greatest contribution to literature was probably his role in bringing together Charlotte Brontë and Elizabeth Gaskell. The two writers first met in August 1850, during a visit to the summer home of the Kay-Shuttleworths in the Lake District. Gaskell was already fascinated by what she knew of Brontë and her isolated life in Haworth, which was so different from Gaskell’s own bustling home in Manchester. Despite their many differences, the women immediately struck up a friendship which lasted until Brontë’s premature death in 1855. Gaskell went on to write the celebrated biography of her friend.

Photograph of Elizabeth Gaskell

Elizabeth Gaskell, c. 1864. Photograph by Alexander McGlashon

 

Having been refused access to the manuscript of Brontë’s unpublished novel, The Professor, by her widower, the Rev. Arthur Nicholls, Gaskell recruited Kay Shuttleworth’s assistance. They visited the parsonage at Haworth together in July 1856. The forceful personality of Sir James overcame the misgivings of Nicholls. He and Gaskell came away not only with The Professor manuscript, but also the fragment of a novel called Emma which Brontë had been working on before her marriage, and the now-famous miniature ‘Gondal’ and ‘Angria’ manuscripts created by Brontë and her siblings.

 

Fran Baker (Archivist) and Jane Speller (Project Archivist), The University of Manchester Library

Find out more and explore the collection:

Papers of Sir James Phillips Kay-Shuttleworthhttp://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb133-jks

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Big Data, Small Data and Meaning

Victorian joke. From the Victorian Meme Machine, a BL Labs project (http://www.digitalvictorianist.com/)

Victorian joke. From the Victorian Meme Machine, a BL Labs project (http://www.digitalvictorianist.com/)

The BL Labs is an initiative funded by the Mellon Foundation that invites researchers and developers to work with the BL and their digital data to address research questions.  The Symposium 2014 showcased some of the work funded by the Labs, presenting innovative and exploratory projects that have been funded through this initiative. This year’s competition winners are  the Victorian Meme Machine, creating a database of Victorian jokes,  and a Text to Image Linking Tool (TILT) for linking areas on a page image and a clear transcription of the content.

Tim Hitchcock, Professor of Digital History from the University of Sussex, opened with a great keynote talk. He started out by stressing the role of libraries, archives and museums in preserving memory and their central place in a complex ecology of knowledge discovery, dissemination and reflection. He felt it was essential to remember this when we get too caught up in pursuing shiny new ideas.  It is important to continually rethink what it is to be an information professional; whilst also respecting the basic principles that a library (archive, museum) was created to serve.

Tim Hitchcock’s talk was Big Data, Small Data and Meaning. He said that conundrums of size mean there is a danger of a concentration on Big Data and a corresponding neglect of Small Data. But can we view and explore a world encompassing both the minuscule and the massive? Hitchcock introduced the concept of the macroscope, a term coined in a science fiction novel  by Piers Anthony back in 1970. He used this term in his talk to consider the idea of a macro view of data. How has the principle of the macroscope influenced the digital humanities? Hitchcock referred to Katy Borner’s work with Plug-and-Play Macroscopesa: “Macroscopes let us observe what is at once too great or too slow or too complex for the human eye and mind to notice and comprehend.” (See http://vimeo.com/33413091 for an introductory video).

Hitchcock felt that ideally macroscopes should be to observe patterns across large data and at the same time show the detail within small data.  The way that he talked about Big Data within the context of both the big and the small helped me to make more sense of Big Data methods. I think that within the archive community there has been something of a collective head scratching around Big Data;  what its significance is, and how it relates to what we do. In a way it helps to think of it alongside the analysis that Small Data allows researchers to undertake.

Graph from Paper Machines

Paper Machines visualisation (http://papermachines.org/)

Hitchcock gave some further examples of Big Data projects. Paper Machines is a plugin for Zotero that enables topic modelling analysis. It allows the user to curate a large collection of works and explore its characteristics with some great results; but the analysis does not really address detail.

The History Manifesto, by Jo Guldi and David Armitage talks about how Big Data might be used to redefine the role of Digital Humanities. But Hitchcock criticised it for dismissing micro-history as essentially irrelevant.

Scott Weingart is also a fan of the macroscope. He is a convincing advocate for network analysis, which he talks about in his blog, The modern role of DH in a data-driven world:

“distant reading occludes as much as it reveals, resulting in significant ethical breaches in our digital world. Network analysis and the humanities offers us a way out, a way to bridge personal stories with the big picture, and to bring a much-needed ethical eye to the modern world.”

Hitchcock posited that the large scale is often seen as a route to impact in policy formation, and this is an attractive inducement to think large. In working on a big data scale, Humanities can speak to power more convincingly; it can lead to a more powerful voice and more impact.

We were introduced to Ben Schmidt’s work, Prochronisms. This uses TV anachronisms to learn about changes in language scales of analysis around the analysis of text used, and Schmidt has done some work around particular TV programmes and films, looking at the overall use of language and the specifics of word use. One example of his work is the analysis of 12 Years a Slave:

visual representation of language in 12 Years a Slave

12 Years a Slave: Word Analysis (http://www.prochronism.com/)

‘the language Ridley introduces himself is full of dramatically modern words like “outcomes,” “cooperative,” and “internationally:” but that where he sticks to Northup’s own words, the film is giving us a good depiction of how things actually sounded. This is visible in the way that the orange ball is centered much higher than the blue one: higher translates to “more common than then now.”‘

Schmidt gives very entertaining examples of anachronisms, for example, the use of ‘parenting a child’ in the TV drama series Downton Abbey, which only shows up in literature 5 times during the 1920′s and in a rather different context to our modern use; his close reading of context also throws up surprises, such as his analysis of the use of the word ‘stuff’ in Downton Abbey (as in ‘family stuff’ or ‘general stuff’), which does not appear to be anachronistic and yet viewers feel that it is a modern term.  (A word of warning, the site is fascinating and it’s hard to stop reading it once you start!)

Professor Hitchcock gave this work as an example of using a macroscope effectively to combine the large and the small. Schmidt reveals narrative arcs; maybe showing us something that hasn’t been revealed before…and at the same time creates anxiety amongst script writers with his stark analysis!

Viewing data on a series of scales simultaneously seems a positive development, even with the pitfalls. But are humanists privileging social science types of analysis over more traditional humanist ones? Working with Big Data can be hugely productive and fun, and it can encourage collaboration, but are humanist scholars losing touch with what they traditionally do best? Language and art, cultural construction and human experience are complex things. Scholars therefore need to encompass close reading and Small Data in their work in order to get a nuanced reading.  Our urge towards the all-inclusive is largely irresistible, but in this fascination we may lose the detail. The global image needs to be balanced with a view from the other end of the macroscope.

It is important to represent and mobilise the powerless rather than always thinking about the relationship to the powerful; to analyse the construct of power rather than being held in the grip of power and technology. Histories of small things are often what gives voice to those who are marginalised. Humanists should encompass the peculiar and eccentric; they should not ignore the power of the particular.

Graph showing evidence for the Higgs boson particle

Graph showing evidence for the Higgs particle (http://www.atlas.ch/news/2012/latest-results-from-higgs-search.html)

Of course, Big Data can have huge and fundamental results. The discovery of the Higgs particle was the result of massive data crunching and finding a small ‘bump’ in the data that gave evidence to support its existence. The other smaller data variations needed to be ignored in this scenario. It was a case of millions of rolls of the dice to discover the elusive particle. But if this approach is applied across the board, the assumption is that the signal, or the evidence, will come through, despite the extraneous blips and bumps. It doesn’t matter if you are using dirty data because small hiccups are just ignored.  But humanists need to read data with an eye to peculiarities and they should consider the value of digital tools that allow them to think small.

Hitchcock believes that to perform humanities effectively we need to contextualise.  And the importance of context is never lost to an archivist, as this is a cornerstone of our work. Big Data analysis can lose this context; Small Data is all about understanding context to derive meaning.

Using the example of voice onset timing, which refers to the tiny breathy gap before speaking, Hitchcock showed that a couple of milliseconds of empty space can demand close reading, because it actually changes depending on who you are talking to, and it reveals some really interesting findings. A Big Data approach would simply miss this fascinating detail.

Big data has its advantages, but it can mean that you don’t look really closely at the data set itself. There is a danger you present your results in a compelling graph or visualisation, but it is hard to see whether it is a flawed reality. You may understand the whole thing, and you can draw valuable conclusions, but you don’t take note of what the single line can tell you.

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