Birmingham History Day 2014

The miserable weather didn’t dampen the spirits of the 114 people who attended this year’s Birmingham History Day. As usual, there was an impressive and varied line up of talks and presentations reporting on the latest heritage projects taking place in the City, as well as the impact of past projects over the last year.

The First World War was very much the theme of the morning.

Dr Nicola Gould began with her talk ‘Suffragettes Project/Voices of War and peace: the Great War and its legacy’. The presentation focussed on the ‘Birmingham story’, revealing the history of women’s rights closer to home.

Collections Curator, Rachel MacGregor , continued with the First World War theme talking about the success of Voices of War exhibition at the Library of Birmingham and then Jo-ann Curtis, Curator of History from Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, brought us up-to-date with the Museum’s current collecting phase, presenting just some of the objects that have been acquired over the last year. These include the medals, photos and letters of Birmingham men who enlisted during the First World War, providing a personal and sometimes poignant insight on a local level.

Dr Betty Hagglund gave a fascinating insight into the involvement of the Quaker community in Birmingham and how they became central to helping interned aliens in Birmingham and even on the Isle of Man.

Norman Bartlam and The News Team were back to present their annual round up of projects documented throughout the year in the History Show DVD. This included features on a recent trip to Ypres, Remembrance Day in Centenary Square and the recently opened Newman Brothers at The Coffin Works.

The lunch break spelled a change of theme as we stepped away from the First World War and moved in to more general territory. Dr Malcolm Dick began by introducing David Encill’s new book, Chance Additions: the History of Domestic Glassware from Chance Brothers. We next took a ‘trip’ along the River Tame, as Jenni Dixon, Heritage Officer for the Tame Past Present Future project gave a visually stimulating PowerPoint presentation. The central aim of this project is to highlight the importance of the River Tame and the industries that were sited there, the people who worked there, and how this activity shaped the surrounding communities.

Doug Wilks, Chairman of The Jewellery Quarter Research Trust (JQRT) updated us on the research activities taking place in the quarter and highlighted the local collaborations the Trust is involved with such as Birmingham Conservation Trust, most recently in the research of Newman Brothers’ Coffin Fittings Factory.

Jane McArdle, Heritage Manager at Birmingham Cathedral spoke about the 300-year history of the Cathedral and in doing so reminded us of the forthcoming plans for the Tercentenary project.

After recently retiring as the City’s PlanningArcheologist, it seemed appropriate for Dr Mike Hodder to focus his presentation on 20 Years of Archaeology in Birmingham. His enthusiasm for the subject was the perfect note to end the day on and equally inspire greater interest in upcoming projects.

Report by Sarah Hayes