June 6, 2013, by Kathryn Steenson
A Marvellous Time at Mayfest!
Manuscripts & Special Collections staff were kept very busy at this year’s Mayfest, the University’s annual Community Open Day held on the 18th May, as over 1000 people visited the two separate events: ‘Marvellous Manuscripts’ in the Portland Building and ‘Wade into Water’ at Lakeside Arts Centre.
Conservation staff were on hand at ‘Marvellous Manuscripts’ to show the public how they repair and care for the unique documents and rare books that we have. Although now kept safely in Manuscripts and Special Collections, the ravages of time, damp and general wear-and-tear mean that some documents and books require a lot of work to ensure they can be made available to the public.
Copies of nineteenth and twentieth century maps and photographs of Nottingham provoked great interest, as did an example of a crossed letter (where the paper was turned sideways and re-used to save space) that visitors were invited to try to read. It was also an opportunity to dispel the myth that archives are just ‘dusty documents’ by demonstrating our latest on-line exhibition ‘Windows on War’. The University of Nottingham’s rare collection of Soviet war posters is unique in the UK and one of the largest internationally, which we have blogged about previously.
‘Wade into Water’ was a drop-in family activity session held at Lakeside Arts Centre, featuring a series of challenges and games based on the exhibition ‘Water!’. Children caught magnetic fish out of a pond, which they swapped for a water-themed question. The answer was hidden somewhere in the exhibition, and there was a reward for all children who found the correct information.
Other activities on offer included join-the-dot puzzles, a ‘Find the Face’ activity using photos on the exhibition, and our take on the popular Snakes and Ladders game, ‘Divers and Eels’. Players threw the dice and climbed up divers’ air hoses or slid down eels. Squares with divers on also included information about ‘good’ things to do with the area’s water supply, whilst squares with eels included information about ‘bad’ water-related events.
Following the popularity of our jigsaws last year, we had four different puzzles on offer, all wonderful black and white photographs taken of flooding Nottingham. They were popular with children and sparked a great deal of interest and reminiscing from the adults.
There was much more available to see and do on the day than can be covered here, and we received a great deal of positive feedback from visitors. Thank you to everyone who helped make it our most successful Mayfest to date, and we look forward to seeing you next year!