Assignment Four: Exercise 4.1: Sourcing Your Archive: Initial Personal Resource concepts

Personal resource ideas: 

Family members and myself:

Mum

Liberty Prints, due to her making dresses from it when young.  She still has a fondness for the material and this has been passed on to myself.

Poetry and scrap bits of writing, I have one of her sketchbooks full of her text; could I be inspired by this, the words or the writing in the book itself?  This love of writing has been passed down to myself too.

I asked mum what item was most precious to her?  She thought of her granddad’s Fob watch and a necklace made from a part of it.

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Dad

Tartan and the emotional links for him.  Scottish born, sent to an army boarding school.  I could discover how he feels about his own clan tartan and the difference between this and the tartan he wore at boarding school.  This idea of cloth being a memory aid or emotion builder.

There are other objects which remind me of my dad, such as a tiny robot necklace he bought me after he had got well from being seriously ill and a French dictionary he had at boarding school, which he passed on to me.  Only in later life do we begin to appreciate these family connections.

Some of this comes under the heading of Heritage, what’s my heritage? etc.

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Grandad (mums side as I never met dads)

He wrote loads of poetry and letters while at sea in the war.  To be honest that’s the main fragment I have of him.  I could look at the poetry itself, or use the book he wrote it in as inspiration.

Narg (mums mum, that’s what I call her)

I asked her what she held as dear?  She could only come up with her wedding ring.  Coming from a historical point of view, in the era in which she lived, it was more a case of “here and now”, not a hoarding society.  This she was not a collector, she simply worked and looked after her family.

From my own point of view, I have lots of memories with her and about her, which I could use as fuel.  The stories she told me, the photos I have with her…etc.  She is still going, aged 94.

Nargs mum (Florence Bennet)

I had an interest in her, as she sold clothes she had made to the store Fenwicks and also worked there in tailoring.  I wondered if I could delve into the archives of Fenwick, to see what could be found about her, as there are no images of what she made and in those days, you didn’t keep anything, you sold it all.

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Blanche (a close friend of my grandmas, like a gran to me)

I inherited her Singer sewing machine and button box and a few other items.  Arefacts?

Me

What do I hold dear?

Below I have scanned in a few pages from my notebooks and sketchbooks:

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A useful exercise may be delving into my room and studio to question myself on this.  I wonder if I could gather a collection of thoughts and items together and curate them in some way?

I also have many photographs of certain travels which have meaning; i.e. Paris, palace of Versailles, including the artefacts there etc.

Paris as a theme has family connections, as my dad’s brother lives there with his wife.  In line with this, she has given me some of her families clothing and lace, including a beautiful scarf which I lost, yet have images of.  It has travelled a bit itself, thus something could be researched in line with this.

I have to ask myself what first comes to mind, when looking at Personal History?  The word CLOTH, as it has so many links to the idea of artefacts.  Made by hand and often an object which reminds us of our loved ones, the look of it, the pattern, its owner, its smell etc.  I have made a few more notes on this below; they are an extension of the above first thoughts on looking to family history as part of collecting information.

This led me on to the pairing down of the “textiles” theme and using the word “cloth”. Could this be something I look into?

Of course, when visiting museums and looking at family history in general, I don’t want to box myself out only a limited scope for subject matter.  I can collate a wide group of findings and pair them down.  However it is also vital to produce quality findings, thus some pairing down will be needed. 

Initial vision:

I believe we are all “made” from cloth in some way; what I mean by this, is that we all have connections with it, from birth we are wrapped in it, when we lose someone, sometimes we find a piece of clothing or fabric owned by them, and in a sense it reminds us of the person, both in form and smell.  We may have family members who make “cloth”, I know members in my history have.  Cloth can evoke strong emotional senses in us; for example my father who went to army boarding school, would be repulsed by the tartan of the area, due to bad memories.  Yet he would not have the same feeling towards his own family’s clan tartan.

When I walk into a fabric store, I am drawn to Liberty print fabrics.  Not for the fabric in itself, as I am not one for pattern.  However it reminds me of my mother, thus I feel a connection and fondness for it.

My grandmother never had the time to do much other than knit, however her mother (Florence Bennet) was a seamstress for Fenwick’s (Newcastle branch) and sold fine crochet women’s tops to the store in the twenties and thirties.  Sadly none were left in the family; back then it was a case of making items to be sold.  However she did make children’s clothing, for family members.

What can I make of all of this?

I will now look deeper into the ideas annotated above.

The scanned pages above represent a carefully selected few from my sketchbooks and notebooks.  I myself, will turn to these books and decide which ideas to move forward with.  Some may be decided for me; i.e. maybe when researching a point of family history I will come across a dead end.

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