Hello there! Introducing Explore’s Newbie…

Hello there! I am Jenny McGarvey, the latest newbie here at York Explore (when I say “newbie”, that’s not technically correct. You might recognise me from my previous blog post, “Getting to Grips with Criminal Histories…”, posted back in March when I was a placement student here, but I am delighted to be back as a member of staff!).

Cataloguing at the end of my first week as Community Collections Assistant

Cataloguing at the end of my first week as Community Collections Assistant

I am the new Community Collections Assistant and I am very excited to be working on the fabulous York: Gateway to History project. My role is to work with Sarah to help her deliver different aspects of the project; from winding up the Archives Roadshow and cataloguing the collections though to helping deliver the Gateway to your Archives workshops and our Community Collections volunteering programme.


Some of our volunteers working hard cataloguing some of the community collections.

Some of our volunteers working hard cataloguing some of the community collections.

One aspect of the project that I am very excited about is the creation of an art installation that will reflect the different views of the local community on the question “What should York remember?”. This is the question that has been put to you, the general public, during our Archives Roadshow sessions that have taken place across all of York’s local libraries over the past few months. A local artist will be using your responses to create an installation that will be displayed in the first floor landing at York Explore.

I went along to my first Archives Roadshow session on Monday afternoon at Strensall library, which made for a very interesting first day! We also went along to Dunnington Library yesterday evening for our final stop in the Archives Roadshow journey. It was clear that local history is a popular passion in both Dunnington and Strensall, and it was lots of fun chatting to local residents about the things that they think are important to York’s past. I cannot wait to see the final outcome of the art piece, and how it reflects the huge range of responses we have had about what we should remember about York’s history.


“What should York remember?” - some responses given at Strensall library Archives Roadshow.

“What should York remember?” – some responses given at Strensall library Archives Roadshow.

I am also very much looking forward to being involved in the Gateway to your Archives workshops, where we will be encouraging local community groups to develop and manage their own archives. The workshops have been a fantastic success so far and they are an amazing opportunity for us to meet lots of local community group members and help them enhance their archival skills.


One of the Gateway to your Archives workshops.

One of the Gateway to your Archives workshops.

Today I have been busy doing my first bit of cataloguing which I am thoroughly enjoying. It has given me the opportunity to have a quick nosey at some very interesting documents and learn how to actually organise a collection logically. I am getting to know the catalogue system and finding it easier each time I log a new entry! I can tell already that I am really going to enjoy this aspect of my job.

You’ll certainly hear a lot more from me over the next few months on our outreach and cataloguing work as part of the Gateway to History project here at York Explore, as I’ll be keeping you updated on our latest events and progress through the blog as well as Twitter, Pinterest and Flickr.

Community Collections Spotlight: the Goodricke and Pigott astronomical archive

Forecasts for this Friday’s partial solar eclipse may be disappointingly cloudy, but did you know that you can still get your astronomy fix in the archives at York Explore?

As you may have seen in a recent article by the York Press our Goodricke & Pigott astronomy collection (collection code: GPP; 1760-1815) is now available. It is full of  measurements, drawings and descriptions of astronomical phenomena inclduing wonderfully detailed observations of solar (and lunar) eclipses seen from the UK and Europe. So even if you don’t get the chance to see the partial eclipse on Friday, this collection might just make up for it!

The collection contains of the journals of York astronomers, and neighbours, John Goodricke (1764-1786) and Nathaniel Pigott (1725–1804) who together famously observed the strange flickering of a star named Algol. It was Goodricke who later became the first astronomer to describe what may have been going on – that Algol was being eclipsed by ‘a large body’. He wasn’t far off – we now know that Algol is in fact made up of three stars orbiting around each other. This creates an effect of regular brightening and dimming that happens each time one passes in front of the other.

Pigott wrote about how the clouds often hindered his observations of eclipses

His discovery was so important that it was published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society and he was also awarded their Copley Medal. We not only have some of those original letters sent to the Society here in our collection but we also have the very journal where he first wrote down his observations of Algol.

Goodricke’s contribution to astronomy is an extraordinary feat considering he made many of his observations from a modest telescope at his family home in Treasurer’s House, York. It becomes even more impressive when you discover that he did all this before his death from pneumonia at the age of 21 and that from a young age he lived with being profoundly deaf. The John Goodricke collection is an important one. Pigott himself described Goodricke’s death as “a loss to astronomy” and it is not hard to imagine just what else he might have gone on to discover had he lived longer.

York Explore is home to the original letters written by John Goodricke and Nathaniel Pigott to the Royal Society

As well as containing the astronomical papers of Nathaniel Pigott, the collection also includes those of his son Edward (1753 – 1825), both of whom studied the night sky from their purpose-built garden observatory in Bootham. In his early life, Nathaniel moved around Europe with his wife and children before returning to England and at one point became settled in Caen, France, where he made many of his observations.

Nathaniel was especially noted for his observations of the transits of Venus and Mercury, as well as that of eclipses and comets. The latter of which also interested his son Edward who discovered a comet in 1793 and was subsequently named after him. Interestingly, Edward even wrote in his journals about seeing the northern lights (from London!).

As you can see from some more highlights of their collections below, the archive is as much a work of art as it is a record of their scientific achievements.

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Search our online catalogue to discover more from the collection or pop in and see it for yourself at York Explore Library during our usual archive service opening hours.

Our new Community Collections Pinterest board: The highlights so far…

Over the past few weeks, the Explore team has been busy at the main library preparing the archive for when we open on the 5th of January. Me, Georgie and Sarah have been getting stuck into the Community Collections by organising, cataloguing and re-boxing them so that they can be easily navigated and used by everyone. Up until now, I have been doing this without actually seeing any of the archives themselves. But how? I hear you cry! Well thanks to the dedicated work of previous volunteers and archivists we have managed to use many of the existing lists to put entire collections on our CALM catalogue system, some of which will be searchable online when we reopen.


Our York Conservative Association collection (YCA), re-boxed and ready to go!

Since we opened up our first archive box a few weeks back, I have finally been able to set eyes on our collections for the first time and it is amazing just how diverse and visually impressive they are in the flesh! You can see some of our favourite items that we have discovered so far on our new Community Collections Pinterest board.

One of my personal favourites has been the York and District Boy Scouts Association collection, chock full of amazing scrapbooks containing drawings, photographs and memories from scout life like outings, events and cuttings like this one.

Then there is the Yorkshire Musical Festival collection which contains beautifully printed tickets and programmes from the 19th Century as well as a list of what was worn by attendees of the Fancy Ball, which we tweeted about last week.

On top of this, another highlight has been our York Mystery Plays collection which contains stunningly painted set designs, costume sketchbooks and annotated scripts from the 1960s and 1970s. But this only scratches the surface!

Over the course of 2015, we will gradually be able to make more collections available for you to have a rummage through and hopefully make some amazing discoveries of your own.

Make sure you stay tuned to the Community Collections Pinterest board for more archive sneak peeks in the near future!

The Community archive collections are coming!

January 5th is fast approaching and the whole team is busy preparing York Explore for opening. Right now a team of library and archive staff are hard at work stocking the shelves and preparing archive collections.

Preparing the archives has been a process that Francesca, Georgie and I have been working on since August and we were all so excited when we got a huge scale delivery from Deepstore two weeks ago. It was the first time since I started my job back in January that I had actually seen the community collections I manage.

The archives arrived from Deepstore, who are based in the salt mines in Cheshire

The archives arriving from Deepstore from the salt mines in Cheshire where the archives have been kept safely while we built our strongroom.

We had around 300 boxes delivered, most of which were Civic records to be processed by Justine but it also included some previously inaccessible community collections. We haven’t had everything sent back as we are doing this gradually to make sure that the collections we make accessible are catalogued and properly packaged.

The first of the community collections safely on shelves in the strongroom

The first of the community collections safely on shelves in the strongroom

Due to the hard work, and a real team effort, we’re pleased to announce that so far we have 15 community collections ready for researchers to use when our doors open.  Justine is hard at work making sections of the Civic archive ready, which will form the bulk of the archives ready for use.

Here’s a taster of what community collections you’ll be able to discover:

  • The York Art Society
  • York Rugby League Club
  • York Musical Theatre Society
  • Boy Scouts Association York
  • York Educational Settlement
  • Cundall Family Papers and Photographs

The Boy Scouts collection is full of exciting finds including loads of troop photographs and log books!

All of the collections we have available will be searchable via the Library catalogue and we’re currently working on a programme of work which will allow us to continue making collections accessible gradually throughout 2015. We’re creating a Pinterest board to showcase these collections, similar to the one we have for our First World War material. We’ll also be sharing collection updates via our website and here on the blog.

Finally, I just wanted to say a huge thanks to Georgie who is a Reading and Learning Advisor at York Explore. She came across to this project on secondment to gain archive experience and she has been responsible for half of the collections we’re making accessible in January. You’ll probably see Georgie around the library as she is returning to her previous role and will be working in all areas of the library and archive service.

Georgie, complete with high viz working on one of our collections

Georgie complete with high viz working on one of our collections

Francesca has been responsibe for the other half of the collections and you’ll also see her and myself around as she’ll be working with me throughout 2015 to deliver outreach activities. I’ll be blogging shortly with more details about what you can expect to see from the Gateway to History project next year.

We’ll see you in January!

It’s time to Explore Your Archive!

This week the Explore Your Archive campaign is running across the UK and Ireland. This annual campaign was launched last year by The National Archives and the Archives and Records Association (UK and Ireland) to ‘raise awareness of archives, their value to society and the impact they have on individual lives.’ Its aim is to promote archives to people who have previously never interacted with them, through a week-long programme of events and activities. Click on the video below to watch the advertisement for this year’s campaign:

Obviously we would have wanted to take part in Explore Your Archive this year, but as the building phase of the York: Gateway to History project hasn’t quite finished yet we are not able to offer tours of the new service or any exhibitions at the moment. Never fear, though, as yesterday I put on my hard hat and high vis jacket and took my camera to York Explore to give you a virtual tour of the new public spaces instead…

You are now entering the world of Archives and Local History…
When you arrive on the first floor landing at York Explore, you’ll see we’ve cleaned and re-grouted the floor tiles, and installed a new SmartTV screen next to the entrance to Archives and Local History, which we will use to provide useful information about our services and to advertise events. We have a similar screen on the other side of the landing for people using the lift.

First floor landing

We have cleaned the landing and installed new benches to make it a more welcoming space.

Stop 1…Local History
This is the first room you come to in the new service, and as well as housing our Local History collections it is also the Quiet Study space for the library. We’ve installed a new staff desk, refurbished the bookcases, the parquet floor and some of the existing tables and chairs and laid a new carpet. There’s also new lighting, and behind the scenes we have installed a new ventilation system to regulate the temperature better. We are currently awaiting the delivery of six new height-adjustable desks, chairs and some additional bookcases, so when it’s finished the room will have space for 32 people, including four using public network PCs. The room will also be equipped with two computers for searching the library and archives catalogues, a SmartTV screen and a walk-up book scanner. The bookcases are currently empty, but I promise we will have the books on the shelves by 5th January!

Reception desk

The new staff reception desk in Local History

Local History

Not all the furniture has arrived yet but it is already looking great!

…and on your left
The new Archives Reading Room is located to the left of the staff desk as you enter Archives and Local History, and is now complete with a stunning glass door for security. The room will accommodate 12 archives users at once, and also has a new staff desk. By the time we open it will also have a SmartTV screen, book scanner and a height-adjustable digitisation table with a tripod for people wanting to photograph archives. We have managed to get the periodicals back on the shelves in this space already, and we will also have some council minutes, accounts and early electoral registers on open access for the first time.

Reading Room Door

Entry to the Archives Reading Room is through our new glass door.

Archives Reading Room

Part of the Archives Reading Room.

Through to…Family History
Our new Family History room is at the other end of Local History, in a space which was previously closed to the public. It’s also the room that has undergone the biggest transformation, as we have removed the old shelving and installed a mezzanine level which will hold a large table and chairs. It’s not the easiest space to photograph given its height, so rather than relying on my photography you might need to visit it for yourselves to see what a great room it is! The Family History room will also have three public network PCs, three new digital microfilm readers and a SmartTV, plus some comfortable chairs and tables for anyone wanting to use their own laptop or tablet to access the library Wifi.


The new mezzanine structure – it’s a feat of engineering!

PC tables

Our new desks awaiting their PC’s and microfilm readers

…and finally…
Our final port of call on this whistle-stop tour is most likely the one you have all been waiting for…the inside of the ‘gold box’. I can confirm that the new mobile shelving has been installed and we are waiting for our first batch of archives to come back (which we are very excited about!).


One of our new runs of shelving – it won’t be this empty for long!

And that concludes our virtual tour of the new service! I hope that it gives you an idea of some of the work we have done over the summer, and I look forward to seeing you all in the new service January! As I mentioned earlier this year’s Explore Your Archive campaign is running at the moment, so if you want to find out more about events in your area visit their website.

If you do have any first impressions on the new service, please let us know, either by commenting here or by emailing me direct (laura.yeoman@exploreyork.org.uk).

Can You See in 3D? Stereographic Images of York

Remember those Magic Eye pictures that were all the rage in the 90s? They were patterned images, that when stared at for long enough, revealed a hidden 3D shape. What about View-Masters where you looked through a pair of binocular like lenses at a reel of 3D images?

Sawyer Model View-Master

Sawyer Model G View-Master. Photo credit: Wikipedia


Holmes Stereoscope. Photo credit: Wikipedia








Although a seemingly recent invention, both had their origins in the late 19th and early 20th century, where stereographic images of scenery were a popular means of entertainment. Magic Eyes, View-Masters and stereographic images all rely upon the same principles to create the illusion of a 3D image.

After a nosy around our digitised archives last week I stumbled across a collection of stereographic images of places in York like Micklegate and Bootham Bar (see below). These images formed part of a series of “Stereoscopic views of English and Foreign Scenery” which would have been viewed using a stereoscope. Much like View-Masters they allow each eye to see a slightly different angle of the same image, producing a 3D effect. This is exactly how we see in three dimensions (or stereo) every day. Here is an explanation of how it works from the Getty Museum.

Micklegate Bar

Bootham Bar

Above stereographic images of Micklegate Bar (top) and Bootham Bar (bottom) from our Imagine York collection

But… it is possible to train your eyes to see stereoscopic images without a stereoscope! Have a go by staring at the images above and allowing your eyes to relax and cross over – can you see our York images in 3D?

If you need some help doing this, have a look at this guide.

Still finding it tricky? Here is what they should look like when you view them in 3D (without the movement), courtesy of the New York Public Library’s Stereogranimator Project. These are flashing images.

To see more, explore our Flickr album of Stereoscopic Images of York from our Imagine York collection.

More stereographic images can be found via the NYPL’s Stereogranimator Project website by browsing the New York and Boston Public Libraries’ Collections in the drop down list. You can even create your own – share these with us on twitter @YorkArchivesUK or on Facebook!