This year to mark Heritage Open Days (HODs), we invited members of the public to take a peek behind the scenes, gave a talk about Richard Bright ‘The Man Behind the Discovery of Bright’s Disease’ and the Conservation project at the Norfolk Record Office (NRO), and hosted an online special Reading from the Archives.
Heritage Open Days is England’s largest festival of history and culture, and thanks to the help of local organisations and volunteers, it provides free access to events and local heritage sites, many of which are not normally open to the public. Each year there is a theme to the festival, and 2022 was ‘Astounding Inventions’.
In our special Reading from the Archives, an online event where volunteers read documents from our collection, we learnt how inventions changed the lives and shape of Norfolk, with the arrival of the railways in 1844, and the invention of the aeroplane led to Norfolk having 14 United States Army Air Force Bases during the Second World War. We also heard how the steam packet allowed people to travel to Norfolk by new routes, and we hear from the journal of Mr Martin of Plaistow, who, along with his wife and daughter travelled to Cromer in September 1825. They travelled on the steam packet Hero from London to Yarmouth, and onwards to Norwich on another steam vessel, and finally a coach to Cromer where they stayed for two weeks. You can hear all these stories and more on our YouTube channel.
To discuss Richard Bright and his research around Bright’s Disease, we had two great speakers. First was Conservator Yuki Russell, who was in charge of the project to conserve the papers of Richard Bright in the NRO collection. Yuki told us about the background to the project, from the arrival of the documents at the NRO in 1983, to the start of the project in 2014, and eventually employing a Conservator to work solely on the project. We also heard from local historian Frank Meeres, who gave us some background on Richard Bright himself and how he came to be the person to accurately describe Bright’s Disease. The talk was a hybrid event, so people joined us in person and online. Those who visited in person were treated to a display of original documents. You can view the talk about Richard Bright on our YouTube channel.
To mark the occasion of HODs 2022, we hosted a Behind the Scenes Tour, our first since before the pandemic. It was great to have a group back again, and we were delighted that everyone who booked a place turned up! Our group were treated to an introduction to the history of the NRO before a visit to our public searchroom, followed by one of our strongrooms where we hold our documents in a climate controlled environment. We then took the group into our conservation studio and had a talk by Nick Sellwood, our senior conservator, about the important work that goes on in the studio, and the equipment they have to help them carry out their task. Finally, the group had a display of some of our favourite documents from the archives including a Colman family recipe book, the Second World War Fire Watch log book from the Jarrold archive, and an early 19th century parish register with some remarkable comments from the vicar of Middleton!
We’ve got some more Behind the Scenes tours scheduled in October and we’d love you to join us. Take a look at our blog page with all our forthcoming events.