Digging for gold in our community collections: Round Three!

Yep- it’s time for another one of these posts where I pick out some of our lovely community collections to show you again.
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This time, I’ve chosen to tell you about a collection that is very special to me, as it was the first-ever collection that I catalogued! It is the York Penitentiary Society collection (PEN). And just in case you’re thinking ‘what is ‘penitentiary’’? like I was when I was first handed this collection, fear not- I will explain! The York Penitentiary Society was established in 1822 with the aim of reforming girls who were thought to have ‘sinned’ through work and religious instruction. To give you a bit more of a flavour of what the society was all about, here are their rules and an agreement that girls had to sign before entering the Penitentiary:


It seems that those signing the agreement promised to remain in the Penitentiary home for two years, and abide by some very strict rules!

 
Another personal highlight amongst the collections I have worked with is a bundle of letters written by artist William Powell Frith to his sister, Jennie. These feature in the Raine family collection (JAR). Frith was a Victorian artist, who painted wonderful scenes of Victorian life. A favourite of mine is the Railway Station (1862), which- as hinted at by its title- depicts a station platform scene at London’s Paddington Station. Amongst the bustling platform are a bridge and groom presumably setting off on their honeymoon, a thief being arrested by the police, and even the artist himself surrounded by his family.

Anyway, enough of me going off on a tangent! What makes these letters so fantastic is the way in which they really give you an insight into the life of the artist behind the paintings. He writes of exhibitions, his progress on painting and even more mundane aspects of life. These little treasures are well worth a read!

Letters from Frith to his sister, based in York

Letters from Frith to his sister, based in York

A collection I have catalogued more recently that caught my eye was the Allen family collection. The Allens were clearly keen history researchers, and their collection contains these lovely volumes…


They contain detailed notes on ‘antique and armourial collections’, and beautiful sketches accompany them. What a fantastic way of combining artistic talent with historical research! This lovely collection will be searchable on Explore’s online catalogue from next week onwards.

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I hope you’ve enjoyed this little snippet of our community collections. Once again, if you have any particular favourites from our community collections then please let us know about it! Tweet us @YorkArchivesUK using #voicesofthearchives, or drop me an email at jennifer.mcgarvey@exploreyork.org.uk.

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