Hello everyone to another round up of news on the Sparrows’ Nest, giving you an idea of what we have been getting up to.
First of all the big exciting news (well, exciting for us, and if you ended up on this website hopefully exciting for you as well!): we are very are very happy to announce that we are now also able to digitise newspapers, posters, etc., that is all those documents that are too large to fit on our scanner!
The first batch of these has been added to the Public Archive section in the Digital Library. This initial set c.350 pages of newspapers (and one poster) notably feature an almost complete set of Freedom issues for the years 1926-27, for instance covering the Sacco and Vanzetti trial (and their murder by the authorities – see e.g. the issue for September-October 1927) and the General Strike of 1926 (see e.g. the issue for April-May 1926). There are also a number of fascinating issues of the Glasgow based paper The Word, a publication edited for many years by Guy Aldred. This set of digitised issues, most initially published during the early stages of WWII, provides fascinating insights into the debates within the movement and the wider society at the time regarding ways and means of anti-fascist resistance, state repression, war, conscription etc.. A number of issues also debate the subject of conscientious objectors during WWI (see e.g. the issue for March 1940).
It is probably best if you have a browse yourselves!
You will see in the files that we are still tweaking our (very Blue Peter style) setup for the digitisation of oversized documents, e.g. after we digitised our issues of The Word we purchased some plastic sheeting to support/smooth out the documents, resulting in considerably improved results with the Freedom issues. We will continue our efforts and work on resolving the remaining issues (especially regarding lighting). Sooner or later we will have to upgrade our camera though. We are using the highest resolution digital camera we could afford (i.e. a fairly basic one!) and although the resolution is really quite good, whenever the documents get very large indeed (see e.g. this issue of Freedom from the late 1940s), our valiant little camera is stretched to its limits (still readable though). For exceptional documents, like this awesome poster regarding the trial of the ‘Stoke Newington Eight’ (prosecuted for their alleged involvement with the ‘Angry Brigade’), we can take several shots and merge them. However, this would simply not be practicable for the mass of documents awaiting digitisation (at the moment we estimate that all steps necessary to process a single oversized page add up to about five minutes, i.e. these c.350 pages took nearly 30 hours to process!). So for the moment we will focus on the smaller newspapers etc. until such a time that we can upgrade our still quite feeble equipment.
When accessing all these documents you can choose between two pdf versions, one with higher contrast. If you are struggling with one page in one version, just try the other one.
In any case, we are very happy indeed to be able to work on digitising (very gradually) all the newspapers and posters in our collections and are very optimistic to be able to constantly improve the results. As always we would be more than happy if people would like to offer their ideas and suggestions.
Furthermore we had the pleasure to welcome a few new faces to the Sparrows’ Nest, some locals who had not visited before as well as a few visitors from further afield. We are of course always happy to welcome people to the Nest and if you should be unable to visit during normal opening hours (every Tuesday 11am-2pm), please get in touch to arrange a suitable date/time.
We also had a researcher from the continent emailing us recently, hunting for a text that could not be found elsewhere. We were very happy to find it on our shelves and digitise it. Please never hesitate to get in touch if you are struggling to locate a rare text or looking for some obscure document, even if it is not on the catalogue or the Digital Library, we may well have it in our collections, given that the tasks of cataloguing and digitising are a (luckily) never ending work in progress.
We were once again delighted to open our doors to those participating in this year’s Inclosure Walk. Being situated along the route we could once again offer cool drinks, ice-pops, Sparrows’ Nest and People’s Histreh promo materials and (this was apparently especially welcome to some of the walkers) an opportunity to nip to the loo. Now already in their 12th year and still going very strong, the Inclosure Walks have become an institution in the local history scene. All of us in the Nest collective did it one time or another and can only recommend you joining the 13th walk, presumably held on the first Sunday of July 2015 (it always starts at Queens Walk – river end – The Meadows, Nottingham).
We also returned with a stall to the Sheffield Anarchist Bookfair last weekend where we once more met great people and were able to spread the word about the Nest and the opportunities we can offer with regards to entertaining browsing and fruitful research (not mutually exclusive of course!). At the bookfair we purchased a good number of the latest publications, including a new anthology on Kropotkin and a Malatesta reader (AK Press), and one on CNT defence committees (KSL/AK publications). We also made purchases from PM Press including writings of Elisee Reclus. In the end we had found something of interest on almost every stall, whether this was a book, a pamphlet or a paper. We very much appreciate the discounts and donations granted by many of the publishers/stallholders. We will be cataloguing these newest additions to our collections and everything will be available to enjoy at the Nest.
Lastly, we also have been using our latest leaflet and poster (if you would be able to distribute some among your friends, comrades and colleagues please get in touch) in a big outreach campaign to academics all over the country (about 50 persons situated at about 40 universities and colleges), which will hopefully result in even more people finding their way onto our website or through our doors.