Round up of Explore Your Archive Week 2018

November 26th 2018 by Guy Boocock

“Explore Your Archive Week 2018”, organised by the Archives and Records Association, has drawn to a close, and we’ve enjoyed participating. Each year archives throughout the UK and Ireland take part in this initiative, showcasing material and shining a light on the mysterious happenings at archives. This year we took up the challenge and here is a round-up of our posts.
Poster Image

We kicked off Explore Your Archive Week with this postcard, stamped 18 November 1918, from a World War One soldier to his auntie informing her that he had escaped Germany and discovered the armistice was in effect. 

We managed to discover who his auntie was but alas not Syd’s full identity.  Read more about the story here.  The postcard features Kerkemolen in Groenlo, Gelderland which was demolished in 1938.  You can read more about the history of the windmill here.

On Monday we showcased this attractive architect’s drawing of Baltic Flour Mill in Gateshead.  The mill was constructed by Gelder and Kitchen for Joseph Rank Ltd around 1950.  It closed in 1981.  Most of the buildings were demolished, while the silos were converted into the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, opening in 2002.

In February 2017 our Archivist Nathanael and trustee Mildred personally salvaged the Gelder & Kitchen Collection from a damp disused basement when the company went into liquidation.  Their speedy efforts meant that a valuable part of the nation’s industrial heritage has been saved.  Intern Hannah wrote about some of the collection’s highlights in a blog.

From the end of the 19th century, the traditional technique of using stones to grind wheat into flour was superseded by the invention of roller mill machinery, which is still in use today.  Here at the Mills Archive we are building the first roller flour mill archive and library.  You can discover more about our growing roller mill archive here.

Tuesday allowed another sneak peek into our upcoming Gems of the Archive.

Some of the Mills Archive trustees were shown a selection of our Gems of the Archive, which are a mix of unusual documents and artefacts.  These artefacts will be featured in our new website section, Gems of the Archive.  Do keep an eye out for the launch at the end of the year.

Wednesday’s featured hashtag focused on “Maritime Archives” and this attractive print of “Mr Woolsey’s Mill”, was recently found in the Niall Roberts Collection.  Otherwise known as High Mill in Great Yarmouth, it was dual purpose as a lighthouse for it had a lantern attached to the cap.  The Norfolk Mills Group has a full history of the mill.

High Mill, Southtown, Great Yarmouth

You might be surprised to learn that the maritime subject is not as challenging for the Mills Archive is it might first appear.  We also have material that covers tide mills and floating mills.

Volunteers are the lifeblood of our Archive.  The enthusiasm and energy they bring to the Archive helps to make it an enjoyable and friendly environment, not to mention the vital work they do in helping to preserve our collections for future generations.  It is a mutually beneficial relationship: the volunteers are able to develop useful archiving skills which many go on to develop into careers.

Volunteers at work

Each year we celebrate National Volunteers’ Week in June, and this year was no exception.  Some of our volunteers shared their personal stories behind what brought them to volunteer at the Mills Archive, such as this post by Kolja.

This postcard shows an ox powering a mortar mill in India for #ArchiveAnimals day.

MCFC-14244 - Indian Mortar Mill

Animal power has been used in milling and turning wheels for centuries.  Animals were first used to turn millstones in Greece and Italy in the 4th century BC.  This ‘hour-glass’ or Pompeiian mill, turned by a donkey or horse, was probably the earliest form of powered mill used in Britain, introduced by the Romans in the 1st century AD.  Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight still uses a donkey wheel for raising water from the well.  Discover our animal-powered items here and read more about the use of animal-power in our From Quern to Computer feature.

On Saturday we chose to showcase an attractive indenture preserved at the Mills Archive.  This conveyance, dated 1871, relates to Silk Mill, Leek, Staffordshire and owner George Davenport selling the mill to William Young.

Indenture, Leek Silk Mill, Staffordshire

This is one of several records in our safekeeping that relates to the textile industry which includes woollen, cotton, flax, carding, fulling, lace and silk to name a few!  Mills have been used to power more than 80 different industries, and plans are afoot to build up our resources on industrial mills.  In the coming months we will be highlighting key industries in which mills have played a vital role, some of which may surprise you!

The concluding day of “Explore Your Archive Week” focused on international archives and we highlighted this South African postcard showing a multi-tasking mother grinding corn on a saddle quern whilst keeping her baby close.

WPAC-1125892 - Woman with baby grinding corn

Our scope of mills extends beyond the borders of the United Kingdom and Ireland.  We have many collections which contain documents relating to mills as far as Australia, South Africa, Russia, and the Americas...and beyond!

We already attract visitors from around the world, and even hosted a visit from staff at the National Archives of Indonesia last year.  As part of our wider strategic plan, we will be making more of our international material and improving how our resource is accessed around the world.

We hope you've enjoyed exploring items and life at the Mills Archive.  If anything has caught your eye and you're keen to discover more, take a look at our website and catalogue, or get in touch with us.