Concrete (and Gold) Poetry in Worcester

Like a few other library authorities, Worcestershire has a Young Poet Laureate to encourage young aspiring poets. An annual competition takes places each year at which they are chosen. The winner is then paid to write and perform poems through the year at events.

From a conversation with Natalie, who organises it, we thought it might be a good idea to ask for a poem about the collections in The Hive, Worcester’s library and history centre. We invited the current Laureate, C.J., to come for a tour round so they could see the amazing things held in the local studies library, archives and archaeological stores. It also gave us a chance to explain what we did, the importance of the sources, and why people come to us to use us.

It’s not a new idea and others have asked for poems or songs. The band Show of Hands wrote a song for Exeter Museum’s reopening called Home to a Million Thoughts which captures the museum’s atmosphere and what it means to people. Others have got people to write poems or song too, but we’ve never had anyone to do this for us.

CJ. performing
Concrete and Gold

After a while we received the final piece – Concrete and Gold. We were blown away with how C.J. had captured our essence. After talking with County Council colleagues (we were very excited wanted to tell lots of people how good it was!) we came up with the ideas of filming it so we could more easily share it. So colleagues who were more skilled at filming and edited helped when C.J. visited. This enabled us to share widely on social media, and the response has been great.

So if you have a Young (or not so young) Poet Laureate in your area why not see if they can write you a poem.

Paul Hudson
Learning & Outreach Manager
Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service

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New online photo archive for the West Midlands

3, 000 images from the Express & Star photo archive are now freely available online. This a great resource for those interested in daily life in the West Midlands during the 20th century. The initial digitisation concentrates on images of industry and covers the 1970s to 1990s.

The resource is the outcome of an Heritage Lottery Fund project run jointly by
Midland News Association Ltd, Wolverhampton City Archives, and the University of Wolverhampton. Based in Wolverhampton, the Express & Star newspaper has been covering the region since the 1880s. The paper’s photographic collection has c.
1 million images making it a major source for social history in the West Midlands.

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Archive of Local Population Studies now on Hathi Trust Digital Library

The archive of the Local Population Studies journal is now freely available on the Hathi Trust Digital Library.

Since 1968, Local Population Studies has published original research on the history of population and society. It has particularly encouraged the publication of local case studies by academic and non-academic authors. Being UK based, there are many studies on parishes and towns across Britain in the journal back issues. It also publishes articles on primary sources and research methods. Find out more about the journal and the Local Population Studies Society here. The archive covers the years 1968 to 2008.

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Alan Ball Award Winners 2018

We are delighted to announce the winners of the Alan Ball Awards for 2018. The awards recognise excellence in local history publishing. There were some exceptional nominations this year, which the judges found difficult to separate. Congratulations to all winners, runners-up and highly commended entries.

Best print publication

Winner: A Swindon Time Capsule: Working Class Life 1899-1984. Highlights from the Dixon-Attwell Collection held at Swindon Central Library – Swindon Libraries.

More details:

Runner-up: Devon during the First World War – Devon Remembers Heritage Project (South West Heritage Trust)

Highly Commended: Dock Street Memories, Ellesmere Port – Celia Webber ed. Ellesmere Port Local and Family history society, Cheshire West and Chester Council.

Best e-publication

Joint Winner: Poole, the First World War and its Legacy  (Poole Museum)

Joint Winner: Bristol Old Vic Heritage – Archive (Bristol Old Vic Theatre / Amy Spreadbury)

Highly Commended: Clements Hall Local History Group (First World War: Then and Now) –

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Event: Archives and Learning for All – Engaging Diverse Communities

A date for your diaries in 2019. The ARA are holding a free event on the 29 January  on how to engage diverse communities with archives.  This is a topic of interest to many involved in local studies collections, and would also be an good CPD opportunity.

Speakers and topics include: 

Penny Allen (The Courtyard Hereford) & Elizabeth Semper O’Keefe (Herefordshire Archives and Records Centre)

Who lived in a house like this: creatively engaging care home residents’

Julie Melrose (Islington Local History Centre)

‘Lost Trades of Islington: a collaborative and cross-general project’

Paul Dudman,  University of East London

‘Archives, Activism and Action: Participatory Cultural Heritage and Hidden Voices – the Role of Civic Engagement in Enhancing Archives?’

See the full program and book details  here. 

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Wigan Archives and Local Studies receive their Alan Ball Award

Alex Miller (r) receives the certificate from Andrew Walmsley (LSG NW)

Recently, we were pleased to present Wigan Archives and Local Studies with their Alan Ball Award for local history publication of the Year. Wigan won in the print category for their new edition of the Diary of Miss Weeton, edited by Alan Roby (ISBN 978-1-5262-0553-7). Alex Miller, archivist at Wigan, received the certificate from 
Andrew Walmsley, chair of LSG North-West.

The book is based on personal writings by Nelly Weeton (1776–1849), the Lancashire governess and diarist. Nelly Weeton’s diary is an important source for women’s history in the early 19th century. Terry Bracher, convener of the judging panel, said: “Miss Weeton, Governess and Traveller is an outstanding publication in every sense, with engaging content that is accessible to a wide range of audiences. Alan’s skilful editing and research for this new edition has enhanced the reader’s enjoyment and is a story that can be appreciated by audiences across the country and beyond. Wigan Archives and Local Studies have been very active in local history publishing, so we are especially pleased that this book has been recognised.” 

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Report back: History Day 2018

Stella Wentworth reports back on History Day 2018 in London 

After eight months of semi-retirement and occasional judicious use of off-peak rail transport, catching the 07:25 train on a foggy morning in late November came as a bit of a shock to the system.  The friendly welcome from the reception team at Senate House when I arrived an hour and a half later with bicycle, heavy pannier bag and A3-sized portfolio case, followed shortly afterwards by a reviving tea and instant porridge from the Senate House cafe, were therefore very welcome. 

CILIP LSG (and CILIP Library & Information History Group) were among the 66 organisations attending this year’s History Day at Senate House, a one-day event bringing researchers together with information professionals from libraries, archives and research organisations. In addition to the ‘history fair’, there is a series of drop-in talks throughout the day.  To see this year’s talks programme and list of participants, go to . 

LSG’s representatives are, naturally, multi-talented.  Will Farrell was also promoting the local history collections of the University of Leicester whose table we were sharing.  I was quickly trained in the key message: their large specialist collection covers the historic counties of England, not just Leicestershire.  If you are not already familiar with this collection, do have a look at and their various online collections and to find out more. 

Our other rep, Tony Pilmer, collected our new banner and some bookmarks from Ridgmount Street then spent the morning as an advocate for the Engineering Institutions’ Libraries before taking over on the LSG stand, allowing me to attend the series of talks on ‘Digital tools and methods’.  I was interested to hear about the online, map-based history project Layers of London ( ) and about “training” computers with Transkribus software to transcribe handwritten historical documents as part of the UCL’s Bentham project ( ).

Will Farrell from LSG/Leicester in action

We had fairly detailed conversations with around thirty enquirers – probably more. Recurring themes included the value of local newspapers as contemporary sources of social and historical information, and the advisability of contacting specialist local history collections in the local authorities adjacent to the area you are primarily researching as well, because of boundary changes and anomalies over the years. 

To give some idea of the breadth of topics mentioned, they included: 

  • the post-1964 diaspora from Tanzania
  • a “lost” Oxfordshire ancestor
  • women’s history and women pioneers with particular reference to Croydon 
  • the Burma Campaign and its impact on Yorkshire 
  • advice on routes to a career in archives management 
  • population movement in WWII and its impact on Worcestershire 
  • the suffragette movement in south-east London 
  • statistics and pre-war experiences of BME communities 
  • history of medicine 
  • Occupations and industries: blacksmiths, knitting, the fur trade 
  • trade union records for tin and aluminium foundry workers 
  • navvies’ accommodation while building the Bridgewater Canal. 

London-based research facilities, including the Guildhall Library and London Metropolitan Archives, were naturally well represented, but the day was a useful opportunity for LSG to promote local studies collections from further afield.  We spoke to people with research interests relating to Croydon, Dorset, Ealing, Hounslow, Leicester, south east London, the Midlands, Worcestershire and Yorkshire over the course of the day. 

It’s important to have a “hook” to encourage passers-by to come close enough to your stand to engage in conversation.  Will had brought a range of postcards and some pencils which were invaluable in this respect, as had quite a few other stands (if the collection of postcards and bookmarks I came away with is any indication). A number of tables had tubs of sweets; one had a free quiz (to be done on the spot for a prize draw); another had a free raffle for a copy of one of their publications.  The Geological Society’s Library had a “lucky dip” in a catalogue card drawer with beautifully-folded notes labelled “Discovery of Dinosaurs”, “Earth’s History” and so on, which unfolded to reveal several paragraphs of interesting facts about a scientist and their work in the appropriate geological sector.  I was intrigued to learn that the most well-known historical example of an early dinosaur bone appeared in the 17th century antiquary Robert Plot’s book “The natural history of Oxfordshire”. 

Our new bookmarks and postcards.

I had taken a selection of books and pamphlets, wondering whether they would justify the effort (weight?) of doing so, and was pleased to find that several did catch people’s eyes sufficiently for them to make a note of the titles.  Most frequently commented on was Historical research using British newspapers by Denise Bates (Pen & Sword 2016, ISBN 9781473859005), but Catherine Exley’s diary: the life and times of an army wife in the Peninsular War edited by Rebecca Probert (Brandram 2014, ISBN 9780956384799) also attracted attention. Joan Grundy’s Dictionary of medical and related terms for family historians (Swansong 2006, ISBN 9780955345005) was spotted by someone who exclaimed “that’s just what I need!”. 

I had also put together a portfolio of photocopies and leaflets to try to show the range of resources typically available in local studies collections.  With hindsight this probably took up rather too large a share of the limited space available, and it was a serious embarrassment when the handle broke just as I was lifting it up to the luggage rack on the train home, but I did refer to items in it myself quite a few times as examples, and Tony said people were browsing through it in the afternoon. 

We did not have access to electricity so my multi-way extension and numerous chargers were redundant, but I was pleased to find that my tablet connected to the wifi with no problem, the connection speed was good and the tablet’s battery held up well.  I forgot to take a tablecloth (useful for concealing surplus baggage and boxes) but fortunately Will had brought one with him – an additional advantage of the table-sharing arrangement!   

Hearty thanks are due to Tony for all his efforts beforehand in arranging for our new publicity material, and to the graphic design expert at CILIP who devised an attractive banner which won’t date too easily and which should help us to promote local studies libraries at this and similar events for several years to come.  We also now have a supply of bookmarks and postcards with the slogan “Searching for treasure? Unearth the gems from your local area”. 

They would be even more useful as outreach resources if they could cite a single gateway web address leading to a list of all the local studies collections / libraries / history centres in the country, or if there could be an obvious button on linking to a directory of local studies libraries etc., but that’s a whole new challenge – particularly in keeping such a list up-to-date! [Editor’s note: see a forthcoming blog post on this issue.]

I was let down by my usually-trusty bicycle which picked up a puncture on the way back to the station, but nevertheless I enjoyed the day. It was good to exchange ideas and enthusiasm both with researchers and fellow-practitioners from a wide range of institutions, and a useful opportunity to publicise local studies collections to researchers who might otherwise have overlooked their potential value.

Stella Wentworth 

Local Studies Librarian, Oxfordshire History Centre.

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