May 14, 2015, by Kathryn Steenson

Inky Fingers and Flyaway Footprints

It’s not every Saturday you run into Roman hairdressers and chain mail-clad Vikings, but that’s exactly what happened to MSC staff at a rather breezy Mayfest last weekend! It was the first year that the Humanities building had been used as a venue for the University’s annual community day, and we were based in the atrium alongside Classics, English and the Digital Humanities Centre.

Our brand new activities and giveaways for this year were Napoleonic Wars themed. These are based on our next exhibition in the Weston Gallery, ‘Charging Against Napoleon‘, timed to coincide with the bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo on the 18 June 1815. Although not quite as hi-tech as the Digital Humanities Time Travelling experience, visitors were keen to unleash their inner military leader and pose as the Duke of Wellington and Napoleon.

Mayfest 2015 portraits

We also had a selection of puzzles, jigsaws and board games based on our collection, with sweets awarded for successfully finishing them. Some of the puzzles are deceptively difficult, with only two people managing to complete our nine-piece WWI rat puzzle.

Mayfest 2015 Board games

As always, feather quill-writing proved irresistible to most of the children. It’s always impressive to see how many manage to write without blotting the ‘deed’ they’re signing. The indenture was based on actual apprenticeship deeds in the archives. Most of our visitors seemed happy to sign up for a seven year period learning a trade. They weren’t at all put off by having to promise not to frequent taverns or get married, although we did have one child refuse on the grounds that they wanted to be a vet instead!

Mayfest 2015 quills 3 Mayfest 2015 quills 4










For adults, we brought along copies of a few of our historic maps of Nottingham, showing the city from 1744 right up to the 20th century. The earlier maps are beautiful works of art in their own right, but there is something deeply interesting about finding familiar landmarks and seeing the change from small town surrounded by fields to a large, industrial city served by canals and railways.

Mayfest 2015 maps

Despite the new venue and cold wind, just over 400 people visited Manuscripts & Special Collections at Mayfest. Many took away one of our goody bags, containing bookmarks, 18th century recipes for cakes, exhibition guides, badges and sweets. This was the first time we had made goody bags, so if you had one, please let us know what you think! You can comment on the blog, send a tweet to @mssUniNott or contact us via our website.

Posted in Outreach