“Our Letters Keep Us Very Busy.” 19th-Century Family Newspapers and How to Make Your Own

The mainstream news circles endlessly around the covid-19 pandemic. Our own movements, interactions, and activities are severely limited. Sometimes the days just seem to roll into one. So how can we find ways to delineate the hours and keep track of them? Is there a way to share our news with friends and family beyond exchanging text messages? How do we create personal records of this unprecedented time?

Perhaps we should begin by reconsidering what constitutes news: start celebrating small triumphs, seek inspiration from within our limited surroundings rather than looking beyond them. Making family newspapers can help your children tune out of the barrage of bad news and focus instead on the little things that so often fail to be recorded.

Copyright: George Charles Beresford

In the 1890s, ten-year-old Virginia Woolf began working on a family newspaper called ‘Hyde Park Gate News’. This collaborative production featured family news, jokes, poems, riddles, fictional letters, stories in serial form, and reports of visits to concerts and plays.  

Anyone with a family WhatsApp group may be inundated with jokes and riddles already. But with the speed of modern communication, these often tend to get lost. (Depending on the quality, you may consider that a good thing!) Could your own young journalists start recording these jokes or, even better, come up with their own? If screen time is increasing, perhaps they could take on the role of Family Media Critic, writing down their favourite quotes and providing star ratings on what they watch. We may not be attending concerts or plays, but the National Theatre is providing free YouTube screenings of their productions every Thursday night at 7PM. Who knows? You might have a budding theatre critic amongst you!

Family Newspapers in Yorkshire

 

Long before the precocious Virginia Woolf launched her writing career, the Gray children were already producing their own family newspapers. Looking through their archive, we found newspapers from the 1820s containing letters addressed to various family members, daily accounts of activities, and features on topics such as “Apple Gathering”, “Plumbs” (plums), “Fox”, “Asses” (the donkey kind), and “Hens”. In the “Measures” section we discovered a simple but ingenious method for keeping children occupied: “Papa made each of us a Yard-Wand … and we measure everything. The church is 22 yards, 2 feet, 5 inches long.”

 

As the young Gray journalists reveal, there is news to be uncovered everywhere. Sometimes they simply look to the sky and take notes on the moon and stars (“Wednesday: the moon being three weeks old presented an appearance”). Entire sections are devoted to pets, food, and outdoor activities. If your children have been helping in the kitchen perhaps they could include some recipes. And our exercise time is the perfect opportunity for gathering content. Did they do any running races? Perhaps they can try identifying the trees and flowers they spot on their walk. Did they meet any dogs today? Was there any drama with York’s increasingly audacious geese? If your children are learning crafts or engaging in new hobbies, they can record their progress with this too. There are so many options! They might even publish their newspaper by sending it to friends and relatives in the post.

 

 

How to Make a Family Newspaper

As the BBC Great Creative at Home Festival continues, there’s never been a better time to think about creating your own family newspapers! 

One of the best ways to make your own newspaper is to produce a zine. These are easy to make, you can print multiple copies from one original, and they are small enough to send to friends and family in the post. The small format also helps if your children are struggling to produce lots of content, as they can easily fill the pages with pictures or just a few lines.

All you need is an A4 piece of paper, a pen, scissors, and something to write about. If you want to get creative you can make more elaborate zines by cutting out pictures to make mini collages. You can also use colourful paints, add stickers, or copy any of the other techniques in the video below. Have fun! And if you want to share your newspapers with a wider audience, we would love to see pictures of your creations on Twitter and Facebook! Don’t forget to use the hastag #GetCreativeAtHome! 

Zine Tutorial

York Panorama: A Few of my Favourite Panels!

Those of you who follow us on Twitter and Facebook will know that we’ve been counting down the days to Christmas with an archive advent of different panels from our new public art installation. But if you don’t follow us on social media then fear not! I’m going to highlight a few of my favourite panels here- just for you!

I’m going to start off with this panel which is inspired by our wonderful Goodricke and Pigott collection (and is quite apt for those of you who loved watching Tim Peake take off into space last week like I did!).

As you can see, artist Emily Harvey has used the shapes mapped out by the stars in the sky to create this beautiful depiction of the night sky.

Next up is a panel illustrating one of my favourite things about summertime in York- the return of the ice cream boat!

The ice cream boat providing people with desserts for their picnics!

The ice cream boat providing people with desserts for their picnics!

The next panel is one of my favourites because it was inspired by a memory shared with us whilst we were doing some filming in Rowntree Park. We were asking people to share their memories of York- it could be anything from life events to details of everyday life. One lady told us how her husband proposed to her on the city walls- and now they both have their own special place in our art installation!

A proposal on the city walls

A proposal on the city walls

Another favourite is the chocolate factory production line. Well, we couldn’t really have an installation about York without featuring the city’s chocolate past and present could we?! And as a chocolate lover, it was bound to be one of my favourite panels!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And finally, the border to the entire art piece has to have a mention- it really is beautiful!

But don’t just take my word for it- pop into York Explore and see our fabulous art installation for yourself! Why not try and see how many chocolates you can spot, or how many insects you can find in the border?!

Our Art Installation has Landed!!

It’s been an exciting week here at Explore York Libraries and Archives! On Friday night, it was our community celebration event to mark the end of our Heritage Lottery Funded York: Gateway to History project. Not only that, it was also the launch of our fabulous new public art installation! The piece was produced by community artist Emily Harvey, and is now in place on the first floor landing here at Explore.

1

‘York Panorama: What York Means To Us’

Titled ‘York Panorama: What York Means To Us’, the installation was inspired by over 600 responses to the question ‘What Should York Remember?’ that we have put to York’s public throughout 2015. Since being installed at the start of last week, the piece has been covered by pop-up banners, so Friday night was also the first chance any staff at Explore had to take a step back and see it in its entirety. And what can I say- we’re delighted with it!

IMG_1262

Stepping back and looking at the bigger picture

Not only does the artwork offer a panorama of the city, it also contains people’s personal memories of York within each individual panel that makes up the panorama. For example, a rowing club are making their way down the river, a graduate is receiving her scroll, and there is even a lady being proposed to on the City Walls!

The installation really gives you a feel for not only the history of York, but what it means to individual people. And the artwork is not just something for you to look at! It has been designed as an interactive piece that you can touch as well. You’ll even find some Braille included.

But enough of me raving about it- why not pop into Explore York and have a look for yourself…?! For those of you that don’t know, we’re located right in the centre of York in Library Square, just off Museum Street- so why not pop in and take a break from all that Christmas shopping?!