Reflections on the Great British Fish & Chips – Exhibition launch and new blog series!

Welcome to the first blog in a series relating to our new exhibition – Reflections on the Great British Fish and Chips. In the middle of Refugee Week, on Wednesday 22nd June 2022, we celebrated the launch of our exhibition and the fantastic work of our volunteer Research and Curation Group! Over a some delicious refreshments we were able to give visitors the first taste of the new exhibition in the Templeman Gallery.

View of the exhibition launch speeches with a group of people in an exhibition gallery at the Templeman Library

Attendees at the launch hearing from Basma El Doukhi, Karen Brayshaw, Beth Astridge and Tom Green

The original exhibition – The Great British Fish and Chips – was commissioned by Counterpoint Arts in 2021, in partnership with Canterbury Cathedral and Turner Contemporary, Margate. Reportage artist Olivier Kugler, and writer Andrew Humphreys, interviewed and illustrated the stories and experiences of fish and chips shop owners across Kent. They explored the history of fish and chips, Britain’s national dish, and discovered that it could not exist without global trade and migration.

Our hosting of this travelling exhibition also includes a display of items from the University of Kent Special Collections & Archives. The exhibition and display will be open until the end of September 2022.

Research and Curation Group:

This exhibition and display has been co-curated with group of volunteers who formed a Research and Curation Group. The group spent two sessions exploring the original material in Special Collections & Archives, selecting items that particularly interested them, and writing captions to describe their item and explain their selection for the exhibition.

Themes explored by the Research and Curation Group included attitudes to migrant communities in Britain today and in the past, immigration policy in the UK, the development of the fishing industry, the maritime history of places in Kent, and expressions of British ‘ownership’ of the seas in the past as expressed in our theatre collections.

Photography and hand-stitched dress:

We are also delighted to display photography by Rania Saadalah, introduced to us by Basma El Doukhi, our colleague and one of the project leads for this exhibition. Rania’s photographs use visual storytelling to share the stories of inspiring people living in the Palestinian Camps in Lebanon, and depict the preparation of foods such as falafel, ma’amoul, and traditionally baked breads, as well as fisherman at work. Through these images we explore how people and be brought together by sharing food, stories and cultural traditions.

Basma El Doukhi with a group of other people looking at the Fish and Chips exhibition. Basma is gesturing and explaining the photographs on the wall.

Basma El Doukhi explains the background to the photographs by Rania Saadalah

Look out for future blogs in this series in the coming weeks – with contributions from participants in the Research and Curation Group and from Basma and Rania. The blogs will describe our volunteer’s experiences working on the project, and provide images of the items alongside the captions used in our exhibition.

 

Reflections on the Great British Fish & Chips Exhibition

We would be delighted if you would join us to launch our new exhibition and accompanying display of original material from Special Collections & Archives on Wednesday 22nd June at 1pm in the Templeman Library Gallery (first floor A block of the Templeman Library).

The display has been co-curated by a volunteer Research and Curation Group who have reflected on themes presented within the Great British Fish and Chips exhibition.

The original exhibition, the Great British Fish & Chips, revealed everyday stories of migration, movement and global trade by illustrating the lives and experiences of fish and chip shop owners across Kent. We are pleased to be able to redisplay this exhibition in the Templeman Gallery.

Using the exhibition as inspiration, sparking questions and ideas, the Research and Curation Group explored the Special Collections & Archives catalogues and discovered items of interest within our unique and distinctive collections. The group investigated a range of themes covering local history, immigration policy, migration of people and public perception of migrants, migration and food production, and the history of the British fishing industry.

A room including six people sitting at tables looking at archive material

The Research and Curation Group in action – studying the material at Special Collections & Archives

We are delighted to present the findings of the group in this co-curated display of material – Reflections on the Great British Fish & Chips Exhibition – selected, researched and described by the group members.

There will be some short introductory speakers launching the exhibition:

  • 13.00 – Karen Brayshaw (Special Collections & Archives Manager) and Beth Astridge (University Archivist)
  • 13.10 – Tom (Refugee Week)
  • 13.30 – Basma el Doukhi (PhD researcher)
Black, Red and White handstitched dress in traditional Palestinian style next to an exhibition board for the Great British Fish and Chips exhibition. The dress is exhibited in the exhibition.

Dress made by Basma’s grandmother for her Master’s graduation ceremony

One of the items on display in the exhibition is a dress made by the grandmother of one of the project leads, Basma el Doukhi. Basma’s grandmother, also called Basma el Doukhi, hand-stitched the dress over 6 months. It follows a traditional Palestinian design and reflects the colours of the Palestinian flag – red, black and white.

We look forward to welcoming you to the exhibition launch on Wednesday 22nd June at 1pm. Please contact us at Special Collections & Archives for further information, directions or if you have any access requirements. Email: specialcollections@kent.ac.uk

 

Important note – Content Warning: Please be aware that material displayed in this exhibition includes depictions of racism, othering and offensive language.

Great British Fish and Chips

Special Collections & Archives are delighted to be hosting a new exhibition in our Templeman Library Gallery – Great British Fish and Chips, which will run from 22nd June to September 2022.  

Colour illustration of a plate of fish and chips with condiments labelled with their place of origin, such as cod from the Faroe Islands, vinegar from the United States and lemon from Spain or Turkey

Copyright: Olivier Kugler and Andrew Humphreys

 

The exhibition, originally commissioned by Counterpoints Arts, explores how the history of Britain’s favourite dish is rooted in migration, movement and global trade. Reportage artist Olivier Kugler, and writer Andrew Humphreys, reveal everyday stories of migration through illustrating the lives and experiences of fish and chip shop owners across Kent.  

To complement the exhibition we are looking for people to join us in exploring our Special Collections & Archives in relation to the themes of migration and movement 

This project offers a unique opportunity for participants to join a Research and Curation Group to learn more about archive practice and gain skills and experience in researching and working with archive collections, while sharing perspectives and experiences in a safe and supportive environment.  

The group is open to members of the public across Kent as well as students and staff at the University of Kent. We especially would like to encourage people with lived experience of migration to join the group and explore the archives. Weekly sessions will include tours of the collections, with practical sessions of different aspects of researching and working with archives.  

Group members will co-curate a display of original items from the archive collections that will be displayed alongside the existing exhibition boards. They will research and write captions to describe their chosen items, develop blog posts and social media content about their experiences in the archives, and lead tours of the displayed archives.  

Places are free but numbers are limited so please get in touch to secure your place. Please note that to join the group you need to be able to take part in all three weekly sessions, taking place on Wednesday 8th June (10am-1pm), Wednesday 15th June (10am-4pm), and Wednesday 22nd June (10am-4pm).    

For more information about the project or to request to join the group please contact Beth Astridge or Karen Brayshaw in Special Collections & Archives: specialcollections@kent.ac.uk  

This project has been funded by the University of Kent Migration and Movement Research and Engagement Award Fund 2022.   

The original exhibition The Great British Fish and Chips was commissioned by Counterpoints Arts in partnership with Turner Contemporary and Canterbury Cathedral and was displayed in locations around Kent from June to November 2021. 

Exploring Early Modern Kent in the Archive (Part 1): An Introduction to the Ronald Baldwin Collection

SC&A are delighted to present the first of a series of blog posts by one of our volunteers, Dr. Daniella Gonzalez.

Having finished my doctoral studies and eager to get back into the archives to kick-start my career in the archival sector, I began to volunteer at Special Collections & Archives (hereafter SC&A) at the University of Kent in February 2020. There is nothing I like more than uncovering the mysteries that lie in the records before me. It is these materials that tie us back to the past and to the people who lived it. We get an insight into their experiences, thoughts and those they interacted with, as well as the processes that governed their everyday lives. In this piece I want to tell you a bit about what I’ve been doing and what I’ve learnt.

Ronald Baldwin in 1986

As a volunteer at SC&A, I had the fantastic opportunity to work with the early modern indentures that form part of the Ronald Baldwin collection, a selection of pre-1900 material that focuses on the county of Kent and which was collected by Baldwin, a local historian. The items in this part of the collection span the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries, informing us about the lives of those that lived in the county of Kent under the Plantagenet kings of England up to the first Georgian monarch. My task was to sort and list the documents into a spreadsheet so it could be uploaded into the online catalogue; to transcribe and translate the documents; and to repackage them into archival quality enclosures to ensure their long-term preservation.

As soon as I laid eyes on the documents I would be working on I knew that this was the perfect project for me. Opening the box was the familiar sight of vellum, parchment and paper, as well as the script that is typical of early modern legal documents – to my delight there was even a late medieval document dating to 1 July 1425!

Indenture dated 29 May 1609 RB/DOC/IND/9

Those utilising these records will also notice that some are written in Latin and others in English. Some, like in the document below, produced on 10 February 1645, whilst Charles I was still king, are even written in both (as you can see the document is divided into two section, the Latin section, which is a preamble of sorts is at the top, and below the document continues in English), so be ready to put your Latin skills to the test!

Indenture dated 10 February 1645 RB/DOC/IND/15

Several of these items are in relatively good condition seals that have been slightly damaged and some slight staining of particular records.

Indenture dated 14 July 1718 RB/DOC/IND/19

As part of my introduction to the project, the University Archivist explained to me how archive catalogues are structured as a hierarchy, with different levels representing different aspects of the collection. Whilst I’ve had my fair share of visits to archives, I’d never realised that there is a catalogue hierarchy of sorts.

Knowing this was key in order for me to carry out my work on the early modern legal records I had before me. Thanks to the introduction, I knew that when cataloguing material, archivists need to capture several key bits of information, such as the level of these records – in this case ‘item’ – the repository they are held in, the collection they belong to and their reference number, which uniquely identifies these records as particular items. Other essential information to include are the date they were produced, the language they were written in, the condition of the record, what type of record it is and a description of the records that describes its content.

Detail of indenture dated 22 May 1626 RB/DOC/IND/10

Whilst sorting them into chronological order and cataloguing these records has been the central part of this project, I have also been able to put my palaeography skills to the test. Palaeography is the study of old handwriting and, whilst a medievalist by trade and having studied palaeography previously, some of the early modern handwriting was a little tricky at times. Totally worth it though when you encounter such beautiful illustrated initials like that on the right, dating to the reign of Charles I!

I have also been putting my palaeography skills to good use and producing transcriptions for researchers and the general public alike, which will be made available soon!

I’ll be producing some posts about my archive experiences with SC&A, so watch this space for more on early modern indentures and the daily lives of Kent’s early modern communities!

The catalogue entries for this collection are now live and can be viewed here: https://archive.kent.ac.uk/TreeBrowse.aspx?src=CalmView.Catalog&field=RefNo&key=RB%2fDOC%2fIND