Votegraphy: digital photography

A guest blog by Anthony Firmin, WEA course tutor

Votegraphy- digital photography WEA course @ People's History MuseumWorkers’ Education Association (WEA) in association with the People’s History Museum are presenting a seven week photography course to run alongside the current exhibition: Election! Britain Votes

So, with the excitement of Election 2015 over, the ballot papers counted and a new government appointed it is time to reflect and look at photography, voting and the issues that surround elections.

The course will cover technical and creative aspects of photography and there will be an emphasis on documenting the home, our lives and social issues.  Additionally we will be having a tour of the exhibits as well as visiting the museum’s Labour History Archive & Study Centre.

One of the outcomes from the course will be to put together a book of students’ photographs taken during the course.

This looks to be a really interesting and varied course and both the People’s History Museum and WEA look forward to you coming along and taking part.

WEA course Votegraphy: digital photography runs from Friday 5 June 2015 – Friday 17 July, 9.00am -12.00pm           

*Please note this is a seven week course; attendees are required to book onto all seven weeks of the course*

Suitable for adults aged 19 and over, all levels and abilities welcome.

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A sticky situation

A guest blog by Conservator Jenny Barsby

At PHM we collect objects which have a story and this is often told through the physical condition of the piece, if a banner has holes or stains these may be a clue to how, where or why it was used. As is often the case with social history collections we sometimes deal with complex objects made from a variety of materials, many of the textiles I treat show signs of wear and tear or may be disfiguring if viewed in a different context. It is my job as a conservator to preserve this evidence while ensuring that the object is safe for storage and display.

As well as maintaining our existing collection and preparing objects for display we treat new objects as they come in. When a new object comes into the Textile Conservation Studio the first thing I do is a condition report, this is a detailed document which I use to assess the current condition and will help me to track any future changes so the next time it is taken out I can compare against the report. I also note down as much information as possible about the object including a physical description, take measurements and lots of photos.

Banner face during treatmentAn example of this approach is a banner I recently worked on, it was donated by York and District Trades Union Council in 2014. It was made in 1975 but was used by the York TUC in fairly recent rallies. It is a single sided banner made from one length of red cotton sateen with appliquéd black cotton lettering cut out and machine sewn to the cloth. The interesting thing about this banner is that it is adorned with 21 self adhesive stickers pertaining to different campaigns when the banner was used.

We know from images provided by York TUC that the banner was taken on several marches from an anti-nuclear demo in 1980 where the banner appears to be fairly plain to the signal workers rally in 1994 when you can see from the photo that many stickers have been added. As part of the conservation I carefully assessed each sticker and noted its condition, although most are now well adhered to the fabric beneath, this could change over time meaning I may need to adjust my treatment. When these stickers were made they were probably not expected to last long, but this ephemeral nature is part of the reason we value such items, if they weren’t being cared for in museums they might be lost forever.

RMT sticker before conservation RMT sticker after conservationSome of the stickers were coming loose so they required treatment to make them stable and fit for display. To do this I used small amounts of conservation grade adhesive applied in patches underneath the loose areas. This provides adequate support without forming too strong a bond and can be removed if necessary in the future.

The banner was also quite creased from folding in storage, and in diagonal lines running across from the corners. As a rule we do try to smooth out creases because they can distort the fabric and eventually lead to splits and tears along the crease. With this banner, the fold lines were eased by introducing moisture as vapour and weighting down the creases, basically a really gentle form of ironing! The diagonal creases however were not treated because they demonstrate how it was carried, between two poles with little or no tension across the top. Of course this creasing will need to be monitored to make sure it doesn’t deteriorate and cause further damage. This is the balancing act we play as conservators, trying to preserve as much physical evidence as we can without putting the object at further risk.

York TUC banner after conservationFor the time being the York TUC banner has been wrapped up for storage but it will hopefully be on display soon. In the meantime please come and see some of the other wonderful banners which have been lovingly treated and installed by our conservation team.

Parliament Week 2015: get involved!

PW conference slideA guest blog by our friends at Parliament Week

Parliament Week is a programme of events and activities that connects people across the UK with Parliament and democracy.

Parliament Week is coordinated by the House of Commons with support from the House of Lords. However, it is the hard work and passion of our partner organisations that help make Parliament Week so successful each year.

Throughout Parliament Week, our partner organisations run events and activities across the UK which explore what democracy means to them and their community. Through their members and colleagues, our partners help us reach thousands of people across the UK.

Rachael Farrington, founder of Voting CountsThis year, we held our Parliament Week partners’ conference at the People’s History Museum in Manchester on 16 April. This was a free day of talks, workshops and networking to engage current partners, and inspire new ones to come on board. We also used the day to kick off our planning for Parliament Week 2015.

It was the first time we’d held our partners’ conference in Manchester and we had an absolutely brilliant day. We felt right at home among the Election! Britain Votes exhibition currently on show.

Resources from the day

If you want to have a look at our slides from the day, or a great presentation on how to use social media to support your Parliament Week (or any other) event, you can just download them from Dropbox.

Tom Bowtell presents Early Days of a Batter NationDuring one of the workshops at the conference, Tom Bowtell from Coney theatre company introduced us to Early Days of a Better Nation. This interactive theatre experience explores the possibilities of nationhood and democracy. If you want to find out more, you can have a look at Coney’s website.

What next?

While we are busy finalising the theme for Parliament Week 2015, we would love you to take part in LiberTeas on 14 June. This is a commemoration of the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, and a chance to celebrate, debate and reflect on our freedoms and rights. The LiberTeas website has lots more information, tips and ideas, and details of how to register your LiberTea.

And if you’re interested in signing up to be a Parliament Week partner, all the information you need is on our website. You can also follow what we’re doing on Twitter. We would love to have you on board!