Running our own workshop

2017 Education Intern, Dominika Blazewicz writes about running a workshop for schools with The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery.

SABG_BubblecollagefromFootstepspupils_2017Together with Penny, a volunteer artist, we were asked to design a short but enjoyable workshop for the Carousel Workshop on 26th January. The idea behind the Carousel Day was to have four one-hour long workshops to really engage the pupils and give them a taster of using and learning about different types of art and materials that can be used in just one day.

Penny and I never ran a workshop before – we were always the ones supporting the artists and children in sessions. As we would be working alongside artists, the pressure to create a workshop that would be highly enjoyable, was real. As the school theme was Harry Potter, we decided to go with the idea of ‘potion painting’ to explore the pupils’ relationship with colour. We did not want to make potions to drink; rather, we wanted to explore how a potion might look in 2 dimensional form, like a painting, using a technique which we called ‘potion painting’. In reality, it was all about bubble painting and using straws instead of brushes, which all fit within the theme of mark-making, as well as Harry Potter.

Before telling the students about being wizards and ‘potion painting’, we discussed the art of John Hoyland and Eric Atkinson in the Gallery, their use of colour and colour representation in their work, and explained how each artist had changed their preferred style of painting following a significant event which had changed them and their attitudes. This led to a discussion with the children on how different colours can affect our moods and feelings differently, i.e. warm, bright colours may make us feel a bit more energetic, and darker colours could represent mystery or sadness.

We also did a breathing exercise, where we asked the pupils to visualise their favourite colour, think of all the things that are their favourite colour, and really notice how their favourite colour makes them feel. This acted as a warm-up for the potion painting, where the students had to think about the ingredients of their potion as colours and how the colours represented what the use of their potion (we asked them to think about their potion in relation to colour and to give their potion painting a title which also gave an indication of what the potion would do if used).

The hour flew by; students really seemed to engage with the workshop, which was evident in the laughter, dirty hands, dirty aprons and generally positive atmosphere.

Some of the feedback we received on our session:

– The teacher was especially pleased with activities linked to the topic

– Colours can also convey feelings

– Using paint and fairy liquid can make nice pictures with bubbles

– I liked making bubbles with liquid and paint

– I had fun today

– I learnt about colour and emotion

– I enjoyed it all because it was so fun

Overall, we really enjoyed ‘training our wizards’, and despite our nerves and running around before the session, we are very much looking forward to running another workshop in the nearest future. Next time, if Penny and I were to do a similar workshop, we would make it last longer, as this would give us an opportunity to reflect on the pupils’ work with the pupils, and to even further discuss their relationship with colour.

The Lady with the Lamp: Florence Nightingale Letters now online

Letters by Florence Nightingale held at Special Collections are now available to view online.

Special Collections holds six complete and five partial letters from the famous nursing reformer, which have now been digitised and made available on our catalogue.  Explore the Florence Nightingale letters.

The letters are also available as part of the international digital collaborative The Florence Nightingale Digitization Project, hosted by the Howard Gotleib Archival Research Center at Boston University.

The aim of the project is to create a comprehensive database of digitised Nightingale correspondence – so far we are one of 18 partners who have added their letters to the database, which is available to search online. All of our letters can be found here.

The letters we hold originate from two separate archive collections. The first set of letters are all to Flora Masson, (1857-1937), who was a nurse and author from Edinburgh. She trained at St Thomas’ Hospital, London, and went on to become Matron at the Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford, and at the Eastern Fever Hospital, Homerton. The letters date from c.1880-1910, and one of them is a reference Nightingale supplied to Flora Masson for her application to the role of Matron at the Radcliffe Infirmary (dated 3rd August 1891).

There are also two letters within the BC Egerton Leigh Autograph Collection – one to a Mrs Richard Morris, and one to Lydia Leigh (d 1893).


Activism and Racism: cataloguing the Romany Collections

On 21 March, the United Nation’s International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination our Romany archivist, Caroline Bolton, reflects on the content of our Romany CollectionsTo date, the Romany Collections that have been catalogued have mainly offered a more celebratory, sometimes romanticised view of life for Gypsies, Travellers and Roma. In contrast as cataloguing continues the Collections are starting to show glimpses of the reality that has faced many of these communities.

Henry VIII’s ‘Egyptian Act’ (1530) which sought to expel from the country those ‘outlandish people calling themselves Egyptians’ is an early example of Gypsies and Travellers being criminalised and made stateless because of their ethnicity. Egyptian meant ‘Gypsies and Travellers’.  The word ‘Gypsy’ derives from them being wrongly identified as Egyptian.  Alongside this in the Angus Fraser Collection are over 150 official 17th and 18th century Spanish documents some of which contain early references to such discriminatory attitudes.

Fast forward to the 20th century and a sign from a public house in 1951 reading ‘No Gipsies Served Here’ offers a more recent example from the Collections.  This is accompanied by an account of how the neighbouring businesses then followed suit.  There are a wealth of 20th century press cuttings referencing Gypsies, Travellers and Roma.

However the Collections offer a counterpoint to this narrative of discrimination. The files relating to the business of the National Gypsy Council including its activities in the United Nations Year of Human Rights (1968), and the 1st Romani World Congress (1971) show the efforts of Gypsies, Traveller and Roma to assert their identity and defend their rights. Key Council members such as Grattan Puxon were involved in international efforts to gather evidence of the Gypsy/Roma genocide in Europe during the Nazi period.  Puxon later co-wrote a book ‘Gypsies under the Swastika‘ (1995).  It is not surprising that the national and international Gypsy/Traveller/Roma rights movement became so active and visible in light of the reality of extreme racial discrimination.

It is against this background of more general social activism in the 1960s and 1970s that the Collections capture the involvement of non-Gypsies and Travellers. Such people include screenwriter, Jeremy Sandford, editor of the Gypsy Council’s ‘Romano Drom‘ publication and solicitor Diana Allen.  Allen’s Collection tells the story of her involvement in campaigning for Gypsy/Traveller sites in the UK up to the early 2000s. Jenny Smith’s Collection continues this theme but broadens to reference wider protest movements of the 1980s and 1990s.

The Collections offer a wealth of material for the study of racism and activism. When there are global events run in support of the United Nation’s International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination today 21 March, they also offer a wider appeal in the insight they provide to the stories of the past and the ability to inspire change for the future.


Juliet Drouet Letters in Special Collections

Special Collections holds over 440 letters written by Juliette Drouet (1806-1883) to Victor Hugo (1802-1885). This is the largest collection of her letters outside France, and is of international significance. Drouet was the long term mistress of Hugo, and wrote him at least one letter per day during their 50 year relationship. Her correspondence is voluminous, amounting to a staggering 22,000 letters.

The collection was originally acquired in the 1920s, but was not fully catalogued until 2016, when we were contacted by Josselin Blieck, a French archivist. Josselin made us aware of a project led by Prof. Florence Naugritte at the University of Rouen to create a collected digital edition of Drouet’s letters. The letters in Leeds would be able to fill in substantial gaps in this project.

Will Josselin’s help, Special Collections was able to fully catalogue and digitise the Leeds collection. These letters will now be able to can form part of the international collected digital edition of Drouet’s work. We were also able to create an online exhibition exploring some of the major themes of the letters, from medical history to experimental literary forms. We hope that this will encourage a range of research interests in the material at Leeds.

By listing and digitising the Drouet collection of letters, Special Collections have been able to support international scholarship, and hope to encourage further research on the collection.

Launching into a new exhibition

On 1 March a substantial crowd came to the unveiling of our new exhibition in the Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery.

LRA Exh launch

On Weds 1 March, around 200 people gathered outside the Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery, all eagerly awaiting the launch of the new special exhibition. Caught in the Russian Revolution: The British Community in Petrograd, 1917-1918 showcases eyewitness accounts in the form of diaries, letters, photographs and objects from the Leeds Russian Archive to explore what happened to British people living in St Petersburg during the tumultuous events of 1917.

Stella Butler introduced the evening with a speech praising the work of Richard Davies, the curator of the exhibition and archivist of the Leeds Russian Archive. Richard himself then took to the podium and gave an eloquent, insightful speech, thanking the academics and volunteers who have collaborated with him over the years. Richard also gave visitors a ‘virtual tour’ of the objects on display in the gallery and highlighted the continuing impact of the Russian Revolution in world politics today. There was much applause.  Visitors then crowded round the exhibition cases and afterwards enjoyed refreshments in Parkinson Court.

A lively programme of events accompanies the exhibition, including free lectures that explore everything from Russian Art and theatre to life in St Petersburg/Petrograd in 1917.  Please visit the Treasures of the Brotherton events webpage for more information.

Caught in the Russian Revolution: The British Community in Petrograd, 1917-1918 is open until 31 July 2017.

New accessions – February 2017

From Georgian gardens to the upbringing of 20th century teenagers, our accessions in February cover a wide range of subjects.

We have received a large collection of pamphlets to enhance our existing Quaker Collection. These cover many aspects of Quaker life. The “peace testimony”, so central to their thought, features prominently. There are a number of reports on relief projects at home and abroad. One cannot help feeling for the unemployed Welsh miners pictured sawing up old railway sleepers to make fence-posts for allotments in the Depression of the 1920s.

Report of the York deputation of representative working-men appointed to visit the Board Schools of Huddersfield, Leeds and Scarborough‘ (1892) is a fascinating description of local schools and their workings.  The deputation were very much in favour of mixed schools: “The girls exercise a refining influence on the boys and improve their reading, whilst the boys stimulate the girls and impart vigour to the joint classes”. There is high praise for the Leeds Higher Grade School in Woodhouse Lane, said to be “the finest and best equipped school in this or any country”.

The problems of adolescents (not yet called ‘teenagers’) was making itself felt in 1930. T.C. Elliott in ‘The adolescent and the modern world‘ asks: ‘What sort of brains will your children have if you let the wireless play through your conversation at meal times?’

The most recent accession to the Kevin Crossley-Holland archive is a complete record of his work over the last 5 years. It includes a wide range of material from drafts and proofs for new work and related correspondence to press cuttings for interviews. The material shows the sheer range of work Crossley-Holland has been involved in, from writing for children and young adults, to poetry and choral commissions. This is an exceptional addition to Crossley-Holland’s existing Literary Archive, bringing it right up to date!

Many of us have admired Georgian landscaped gardens as works of art. But these gardens were not just to look at; they were for practical use. In ‘The secret life of the Georgian garden‘ Kate Felus explores the Georgian garden, and all the delights it offered – walking, boating, fishing, flirting, picnicking, music, fetes and fireworks. In some gardens there was a menagerie of exotic animals or a hired hermit to visit. There might even be a library, gently mouldering away in an unheated garden building. All these activities are brought to life with quotations and illustrations.