Blog

John Holt and post colonial development in West Africa

19 February 2019 by Charlotte Murray

Large ship

‘Jonathan Holt’ ship, built 1910, John Holt & Company. Copyright unknown. Maritime Archives & Library

While the Maritime Archives & Library was recently closed for refurbishment, a lot of work was going on behind the scenes. At our reserve store, which houses the archives of various local businesses, I have been cataloguing collections previously inaccessible to the public.

Here I’d like to highlight just one of the fascinating collections that are now available for the first time. Read more…

Volunteer spotlight: Randa Craig

12 February 2019 by Rachel O'Malley

Volunteers are an integral part of National Museums Liverpool, and without them, important work would not be able to take place. As part of the volunteer spotlight series we are meeting up with volunteers who have been making outstanding contributions to the organisation and finding out more about the work that they do.

Randa Craig and Anne Gleave in the Maritime Archives Library

This month, I had the pleasure of meeting Randa Craig, a volunteer with the Maritime Archives and Library, whose enthusiasm for the role was clear from the get go! Randa was introduced to National Museums Liverpool and volunteering through a friend in 2012 and began working with the Archives in 2014.  Her first project was working with Paper conservation: cleaning glass plate negatives from the Stewart Bale collection.

Randa told me that it is exciting to be surrounded by beautiful art and that it is a privilege to be so close to the works. Read more…

It’s Plimsoll Day! (and we’re talking about ships, not shoes)

8 February 2019 by Jen

Detail from 1968.42, Maritime History collections.

Sunday 10 February is Plimsoll Day. Named for 19th century politician and ‘Sailor’s Friend’ Samuel Plimsoll, it’s a chance to remember his great campaign to save and improve seafarers’ lives. The most significant achievement of this campaign was the Plimsoll Line, a line painted on the side of a ship to show how low in the water she should sit when safely loaded. It’s an innovation that’s still used today. It has saved thousands of lives and spared seafarers the anxiety of being sent to sea in overloaded and unsafe vessels. Not to mention it also inspired our web team to produce a fun game based on the principles of safe loading. Read more…

Documenting a deck apprentice’s journey

4 February 2019 by Vicki Caren

bundles of letters in air mail envelopes

The Jim Fitt collection, before

Today’s guest blog post is by Brenda McCafferty, who completed a placement with us in January as part of her Masters in Archives and Records Management (MARM) degree:

“Recently I was fortunate to receive a placement in the Maritime Archives and Library in partial fulfilment and completion of my Masters of Archives degree program at the University of Liverpool.

My work placement involved arranging and describing a recent acquisition of letters and photographs received from Jim Fitt, detailing his early experiences at sea as an 18-19 year old deck apprentice with Shell Tankers Ltd, 1962-1963.  Read more…

A tale about a toboggan from the Archives!

29 January 2019 by Vicki Caren

document next to computer screen showing info on George Ashworth Cobham Jr

This guest blog comes to you from Helen Ritchie, a University of Liverpool student currently undertaking a Masters in Archives and Records Management (MARM). Helen has reflected upon her recent placement here at the Maritime Archive and Library, which included the discovery of an unexpected tale:

“I was delighted to have the opportunity to complete a two-week volunteer placement at the Merseyside Maritime Museum.

During my time at the Maritime, I have witnessed what it takes to be an archivist within a museum setting and the constraints that the sector often endures such as funding and space management.

The collection I was asked to catalogue belongs to the Bryson-Cobham family collection which includes a large number of personal and business correspondence relating to the Cobhams Read more…

Don’t be fooled by fakes this Christmas!

7 December 2018 by Lisa Middleton

make up with 'Fake' stamped over the image

As the festive shopping frenzy continues, staff at the Seized! gallery are warning people not to be fooled by fakes.

The Seized! gallery – based in the Merseyside Maritime Museum at the Royal Albert Dock Liverpool – includes fakes that have been seized by the Border Force, from lice-infested make up brushes to rubbish electricals, fake goods are not the presents you want this Christmas.

The lure of fake goods is that they’re often cheaper. They’re invariably made to look like the real thing, but in the case of electronics, they won’t contain the same parts or be built to EU safety standards, which can be dangerous. Read more…

Maritime Archives and Library refurbishment

19 November 2018 by Vicki Caren

old arched doorway into empty room with some rubble on the floor

New entrance to the Maritime Archives and Library during the refurbishment, with a view through the library space towards the Three Graces on the waterfront

As part of the Sea Galleries development at Merseyside Maritime Museum, the Maritime Archives and Library has been closed for refurbishment. Works are currently underway to reconfigure the public search room and staff office.

The improved facilities will see the creation of a new entrance, utilising the original features of this listed dock warehouse. A spacious entrance area will also contain exhibition cases to showcase some of the treasures from the archive collections, along with a touchscreen allowing access to our information sheets and research guides outside of our opening hours.  Read more…

Helen Woolstencroft: from migration to me

30 October 2018 by Stephen Carl-Lokko

Dress with family photographs printed on the fabric

Detail of Helen’s dress ‘Eva’.

In this guest blog for the Sankofa project and as part of Black History Month, artist Helen Woolstencroft reveals how family and history play an important role in her sense of identity as an artist. In this moving tribute to her grandparents,  Helen tells us about the source of inspiration for her work:

“From a young age, I was always curious about my family. Being of mixed race heritage, I always wanted to know where I fit into the world. I was captivated by my Grandad Lionel, and always wondered what his life was like in Barbados before he came to England during the Second World War.  Read more…

A glimpse into the life of a historic seafarer for World Mental Health Day

10 October 2018 by Jen

Logo compromised of a lifebelt and phone receiver to look like an old fashioned phone with text giving the e-mail address for SeafarerHelp

SeafarerHelp run a free, confidential, multilingual helpline for seafarers and their families, offering support with whatever issues they may be facing. You can find a link to their website at the bottom of this page.

Earlier this year I wrote about a romantic story from the journals of young Captain William Porter, from the 1860s. He was dearly missing his wife, Bess, when he discovered, weeks out to sea, that she’d hidden a letter to him among his belongings.

This sweet story about William and Bess was not however what had drawn me to the journals in the first place. It was a rather less happy strand to his writing that had caught my eye on the summary transcript. I had been researching in the Archives for historic references to struggles with mental health, or simply the loneliness and isolation we know are often a part of life at sea. In the summary for William’s journals there were certainly mentions of loneliness, but also repeated references to worry about a variety of things and a note of a New Year’s Eve entry that particularly spoke about his state of mind. Read more…

Giant stories all year round in our Titanic exhibition!

3 October 2018 by Sam

Enormous wooden puppet of a diver, standing in the water by the Albert Dock

The Giant first arrived in Salthouse Dock back in April 2012. Photo © Pete Carr

With the discovery of a mysterious giant sandal last night, which is now suspended over the Canning Dock nearby, anticipation is building for the Giant Spectacular event in Liverpool this weekend. This will be the third and final time that the Royal de Luxe will take over the city to enchant and delight us with their epic tales. However did you know that their first visit to Liverpool back in 2012 was inspired by a simple letter from our Maritime ArchivesRead more…



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Welcome to the National Museums Liverpool blog! Written by our staff and volunteers, we’ll give you a peek behind the scenes of our museums and galleries.

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We try to ensure that the information provided on our blog is accurate and that appropriate permissions to use images have been sought. The opinions in each blog are very much those of the individuals writing.