Team Work Makes the Dream Work: My Experience at Durham University

By Amber Russell

Becoming a book conservator isn’t easy. Finding a program that will teach you the necessary skills and techniques is difficult enough, then you have to find a job. That’s normally when a post graduate work placement comes into play. Work placement is like a mini-internship, you will generally end up emailing every conservation lab, library, university, or museum you know and ask them, in a politely begging tone, to let you come and do volunteer work with them for a handful of weeks. If you’re very lucky and find someone kind enough to say yes then you get the opportunity to walk into a conservation lab as a volunteer conservator complete with responsibilities and goals and a few projects on your desk, and you do your very best not to blow it. Like I said: not easy. But if you’re very, very lucky you get to work in one of the most incredible settings in the world, with a collection people only dream of, and with a amazing team of not just conservators, but archivists, librarians, and the various staff that keep a collection available to the public. It just so happens, I am very, very lucky, because I was able to spend my work placement at Durham University.

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Item of the Month: Photograph Album from the White Russian Camp in Kellerberg

The Kellerberg (also spelled Kellerburg) and Feffernitz Camps in Austria housed 10,000 displaced persons between them in the late 1940s. The Camp was located near the town of Kellerberg in the Drava River valley, northwest of Villach, Austria. Largely new barracks, the camp consisted of, at minimum, beds and basic structures, although it was built up to include a Church, Cemetery, Theatre Hall, and barracks for living quarters as more persons arrived. The camp was multinational, Slovenes were the largest group followed by persons from the Baltic countries and other Eastern and Southeastern countries of Europe. While families had their own barracks for privacy, single men and women had separate barracks, one for women and one for men.

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Item of the month: An Account of the loss of HMS Athenienne in October 1806

Athenienne, a 64 gun third-rate ship of the line saw service during the War of the Second Coalition in the French Revolutionary Wars. She also supplied the British fleet following the Battle of Trafalgar. She sank in 1806 with the loss of over 300 lives. GRE A2229 details an account of the loss of the ship on 20 October when it ran aground on a submerged reef in the channel between Sardinia, Sicily and Africa.

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Library by the sea: the first printed catalogue of the Bamburgh Castle Library

Way before the existence of the large online library catalogues we are now familiar with, libraries users would have had to visit a library to find if it held the material they were interested in, or they might be able to consult a printed catalogue. Today, these printed catalogues are valuable to researchers and librarians interested in what libraries used to have on their shelves and how the library’s contents changed over time. They tell us about former library management practices and collection development. They offer an insight into what was considered appropriate reading material. Where libraries no longer exist, historic catalogues are important witnesses to how knowledge and information circulated among communities. They are occasionally also a source of information about who could use the library and on what terms.

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Item of the month: From tea rooms to decontamination centres – developments at South Shields sea front in the 1920s 

A post by archivist Andrew Gray

August means summer holidays.  And for many of us, summer holidays means days at the beach.  So this month, we celebrate the beaches at South Shields, and in particular the development of the foreshore north of the pier (Littlehaven beach) in the 1920s. 

Our item of the month comes in the middle of this development, so first some context.  The end of the 19th century saw the transformation of local government, culminating locally in the formation of South Shields County Borough in 1889. In 1896, the Corporation had got Parliament to pass the South Shields Corporation Act, “… to make better provision for the health and good government of the Borough and for other purposes.”  This gave the local authority extensive powers (among others) to acquire new lands, to regulate the use of the seafront and public bathing, and to lay out and manage public parks. During the first decades of the 20th century, they took advantage of their new powers, and development of the foreshores at South Shields was typical of this new ambition. 

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Item of the month: First world war novel or anonymised memoir: ‘The Crown Prince’s Jewels’

The Sudan Archive recently accessioned the papers of Philip Ingleson (1892-1985) and his wife Gwen (née Fulton, 1896-1986). Philip Ingleson was Governor of Darfur from 1935 until his retirement in 1944, his period in office probably extended due to the war. Unusually, Ingleson also served as governor in Halfa (1931-1932), Berber (1932-1934) and Bahr el Ghazal provinces as well. He thus must be one of the few people to have governed in north, south and west Sudan; he began his career in the Sudan Political Service in 1919 as an Inspector in Um Kedada, Darfur.

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Item of the month: 1933 Essay Book of Georg Backhaus

A post by Jenny Coulton, Archives and Special Collections Graduate Intern

This month marks ninety years since a series of events which culminated in the Nazi monopolisation of power in Germany. On March 23rd 1933, the Enabling Act was passed, allowing the Nazi party to pass legislation without the approval of the Reichstag. From this point onwards, a slew of vitriolic propaganda and indoctrination was produced, mentally preparing citizens for war, and encouraging them to denigrate certain social groups. Much of this indoctrination occurred within the classroom, and this month’s item was produced in such an environment.

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Graduate intern update: Jenny

Graduate intern Jenny Coulton tells us what she’s been up to recently…

Hello again readers! I’m here to give another update on what I’ve been up to since October as an intern with Durham’s Archives and Special Collections.

One of the biggest projects I’ve been working on has been cataloguing my first collection. I’ve been working on the Backhaus family papers – a small group of material that will be part of our larger Else Headlam-Morley collection. The papers are centred around a woman (Frieda Backhaus nee Herzberg), her life in Germany 1893-1950, and her emigration and final years living in the UK under the employment of the Headlam-Morleys. It’s a fascinating insight into a family, and a great source for life in Germany just before and after the Second World War. One of the most interesting items, in my opinion, is a letter from Frieda’s father, Max, to the commander of the Russian occupation of Berlin, praising the Red Army and even sending the commander a copy of a manuscript he had been working on – and all this on a letter written only a few days after the end of the war! I’ve also been really enjoying the process of cataloguing, although learning how to not get sucked into reading every detail is surprisingly difficult. Nevertheless, it’s very satisfying to summarise, and even more fulfilling to realise that my work means that these collections are now mor easily accessible for future academics and research.

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