Week six of my internship in the Special Collections department at Liverpool Hope University’s Sheppard-Worlock library brought both change and familiarity. Week seven brought restraint and arguably a premature end to the project. With just a week left, and despite the hundreds of catalogued and uncatalogued volumes waiting to be entered into the History database I have been compiling for the university’s undergraduate students, it was time to stop. When I say stop, I don’t mean simply to use the final week as a holiday or the excuse to do absolutely nothing and probably get away with it, I mean it was time to stop one task in preparation for another. I had already decided at the beginning of my internship in January that I would reserve the final week for checks, the tying up of loose ends and handover notes for the three different departments that this project will benefit initially: History, English, and of course, the library.
I spent the week continuing with the local history section, determined to search through as many texts as I could, but unfortunately knowing that I would not have the time to finish the entire section, unless I neglected my planned notes and checks in week eight. It was with sadness that I finished work on Friday, knowing that my part in the expansion of the database was over. However, the week, as usual had been full of beautiful books, interesting information, and of course, countless opportunities of refining my research skills which had been sadly neglected since graduation due to a combination of retail work and real life.
Some of this week’s highlights include more fascinating Chetham Society volumes, some striking printers’ ornaments, and the beautiful gilded cover of Thomas Baines’ History of Lancashire. Unearthing these treasures is what I will miss most about the project; it is one thing to see photographs of rare editions and old books, and another thing entirely to handle and experience them. This for me is what makes archival research so special and certainly helped me with my dissertation on the Brontë siblings’ famous tiny books a few years ago, with my work experience in Special Collections giving me both the confidence to handle original material and a new perspective on it afterwards.
If you have been reading this blog from the start of the project, my interest in provenance is apparent, and rather fittingly for another week spent digging through the treasures of the local history section, my thoughts this week turned towards the histories of the institutions where the texts in both the Talbot and Gradwell Collections were originally housed. It is not simply the lives of individual owners which fascinate me, but also the institutions they are attached to. Many of the texts from the Gradwell Collection that I have entered into the database once belonged to St. Joseph’s College, a Catholic seminary in Upholland, Lancashire. Information about St. Joseph’s College, its history, and its priests is on display in the department, however, I was curious about the actual building itself and its current status.
A little bit of research told me that the building is still standing, but unfortunately has been abandoned for many years now. This neglect has obviously resulted in decay and damage, and the building has become a haven for urban explorers dedicated to capturing images of places where although decay creeps in, time seems to stand still. St. Joseph’s College is no exception as these eerie but stunning photographs show. Look past the rather grim headline of the story, which has nothing to do with any of the priests whose names can be found in the volumes of the Gradwell Collection, and the beauty and history of the place is evident. Fortunately I have also discovered that there are plans to rescue this stunning and historic building by by converting it for residential use, demonstrating how this internship has really helped to re-awaken my research skills.
Next week will be very different indeed as I tie up all of the loose ends and reflect on the internship, what use I have been to the project, what it has taught me, and how this will benefit me in the future. Until next week…
By Nicola F. a.k.a. The Brontë Babe
Thanks for reading. Find me on twitter @BronteBabeBlog where I tweet about books, the Brontës, and animal rights, or on my Brontë Babe Blog Facebook page. Look me up on Goodreads too. I also have a side project where I blog about my love of Classic Crime Fiction over at The Classic Crime Chonicle. I’d love it if you joined me there.
All photos appear with the kind permission of Liverpool Hope University. Please do not copy or share any of these images.