Pencils only: drawing our collection

Example of a drawing produced in the workshop

Example of a drawing produced in the workshop

We recently ran a pilot drawing workshop where participants 1 had an opportunity to view a selection of original documents and sketch them for the afternoon.

The aim?

We wanted to encourage people to engage in our collections in a different way and be inspired by the physicality of our collections as well as the stories behind them. 2

The drawback?

The participants were only allowed pencils to draw a selection of archives curated by archivists and collection experts.

A fascinating range of records formed part of the documents display on the day  3 and showed the vast variety of objects and visual sources held in our collections.

Unusual physical objects

Cast of hand – J Burgess Junior, aged 7 1820 (catalogue reference: PROB 49/43/3)

Cast of hand – J Burgess Junior, aged 7 1820 (catalogue reference: PROB 49/43/3)

We have unusual physical objects in a variety of collections held at The National Archives, some of which we included in our selection for the participants to draw.

We included the delicate hand and foot casts of the child J Burgess Junior. These physical casts relate to the probate lawsuit Wormsley v Burgess (by guardian). 4

Thomas Look (deceased) was the guardian to J Burgess Junior. The court case relates to whether J Burgess was entitled to any inheritance.

The Prerogative Court of Canterbury will of Thomas Look (PROB 11/1749/160) showed that he bequeathed his possessions to John Burgess Junior. However, this was contested by Wormsley.

Cast of foot – J Burgess Junior, aged 5 1818 (catalogue reference: PROB 49/43/1)

Cast of foot – J Burgess Junior, aged 5 1818 (catalogue reference: PROB 49/43/1)

Foot and hand casts as well as a silhouette portrait were used as evidence to prove that Thomas Look regarded J Burgess as his son, and therefore he should be entitled to inheritance (as taking a cast and photo was something a father would do).

Illustrating illustrations

We also included some of our visual collections as part of the document selection for participants. We included some hand drawn playing cards (with a handwritten laundry list) from the High Court of Admiralty records – specifically within HCA 65 (which contains artefacts taken from ships). 5

 

Four loose playing cards, two of which have laundry lists [1773] (catalogue reference: HCA 65/47)

Four loose playing cards, two of which have laundry lists [1773] (catalogue reference: HCA 65/47)

Some examples of illustrations from the Ministry of Information INF 3 collection were also included in the document selection, such as ‘Feeding Birds’.

 

Feeding birds (catalogue reference: INF 3/1108 (A))

Feeding birds (catalogue reference: INF 3/1108 (A))

The drawing workshop

The participants were introduced to the archive selection and discussed the stories behind them. They were then given free reign to be inspired and draw our collections (suggested activities and guidelines were given out to help participants get started and think about how they could engage in our collections).

Drawing documents in the workshop

Drawing documents in the workshop

The feedback on the workshop was positive and gave us a lot to think about how we can incorporate these workshops into the work we do in the future.

Illustrating archives

Here are some lovely examples of drawings produced in the workshop:

Capturing textures and shapes

Capturing textures and shapes

 

Illustration depicting documents from the HCA 65 collection

Illustration depicting documents from the HCA 65 collection

 

Sketching in progress

Sketching in progress

 

Tonal drawing, Diamond Jubilee Addresses to Queen in PP 1/248/1

Tonal drawing, Diamond Jubilee Addresses to Queen in PP 1/248/1

Interested in drawing? We need your help!

We want people to connect with archives in a variety of ways and this includes using archives as a source of artistic inspiration or a starting point for a creative drawing project.

Please fill out this creative drawing survey which will help shape any future drawing events held at The National Archives.

Used our archives already?

If you have used our archives as a starting point for an artistic or creative project please let us know by replying this this blog. We are keen to hear how artists have interpreted our collections or who have already engaged in our collections.

Many thanks to…

Many thanks to Tony Wakeford, Vice Chairman and Editor at Friends of The National Archives, who helped make this event happen. Thanks to all the participants and staff behind the scenes and on the day who got involved to make this a great event. 6

Notes:

  1. 1. Participants included members of The Friends of The National Archives and staff. ^
  2. 2. See also Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre example where artists were invited to engage with a collection of documents selected by staff at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre. ^
  3. 3. The document selection was loosely inspired by Barbara Hepworth to tie in with the Barbara Hepworth programme of events (which included series of talks Barbara Hepworth: life and selected archives). ^
  4. 4. Document references: PROB 49/43/1 (foot – J Burgess Junior, aged 5 1818); PROB 49/43/2 (picture – J Burgess Junior, aged 6 1819); PROB 49/43/3 (hand – J Burgess Junior, aged 7 1820); PROB 18/122/64 & PROB 18/122/65. ^
  5.  5. See the research guide on High Court of Admiralty for more information on these records. ^
  6. 6. Big thanks to Kate Wheeler and Fleur Soper for suggesting the idea and their support; Adrian Ailes, Julie Halls, Helen Pye-Smith and other staff from the Advice and Records Knowledge department who suggested items for the document display; Fleur Soper and Julie Halls for participating and providing valuable feedback; Vicky Iglikowski and Emily Stidston who delivered parts of the workshop. ^

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