May 30, 2012, by Kathryn Steenson
Manuscripts at Mayfest
Before May Fest, which took place on the 19th May, can become a distant memory, we’ve been having a review in Manuscripts and Special Collections of how the day went for us. We had on offer presentations and interactive activities at two different venues on University Park, in Trent Building and at the D H Lawrence Pavion in Lakeside. In all, nine members of staff were involved in one way or another. Comparing our notes (and visitor feedback) has shown that for us this was certainly our most successful May Fest.
Engaging with the local residents who usually have no connection to Manuscripts & Special Collections is at the heart of May Fest, the University of Nottingham’s annual Community Open Day. We offered two separate events: ‘Marvellous Manuscripts’ and ‘Links to Lawrence’.
‘Marvellous Manuscripts’ was an opportunity for the public to see how documents are preserved and repaired so that more people can access them. Conservator Robert Pearce was on hand to demonstrate some of the conservation/preservation problems we encounter with our collections. The extent of damage that mould can cause was revealed, and the need to rebind manuscripts to give them better protection. As well as learning some repair techniques, the children – and adults! – enjoyed the opportunity to handle fragile papers, and look at how they were made and what from.
Also on display was the ‘Turning the Pages’ version of the Wollaton Antiphonal, a richly decorated 15th century church liturgical manuscript that has recently undergone extensive conservation treatment. The Virtual Antiphonal shows how we are using modern technology to improve access to this significant medieval volume, and proved very popular with the visitors.
‘Links to Lawrence’ was a drop-in family activity session held at Lakeside Arts Centre, featuring a series of challenges and games based on the current exhibition The Many Lives of D H Lawrence – Memoir, Legacy and Biography. Over 300 people visited the exhibition in the Gallery and engaged with our activities. Children turned detective to hunt messages hidden in invisible ink and photographs of “wanted fugitives” amongst the exhibition displays, earning a reward for successfully finding them. A selection of images from the exhibition had also been printed and made into jigsaws. They were deceptively simple at first glance; in fact, a pencil self-portrait sketched by D H Lawrence was particularly difficult.
Our review has inevitably made us ask if we should do things differently in another year. And the answer seems to be, probably not. It’s really rewarding as we get back to the routines of cataloguing, conservation etc. to see what an appetite there is for general public enjoyment of our historic collections.