March News from the Archive

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March 2020

Celebrating the East Sussex Women's Institute archives, an afternoon of talks on Jewish history in the local area, and how you can support our Friends!

This month's talks and tours, plus Brighton past and present captured on film

Volks Railway, still from Brighton: Symphony of a City

There's lots going on at The Keep in March! This week, we're looking forward to welcoming Christopher Whittick to talk about the history of criminal justice in Sussex - a fascinating subject. On 18 March, we will be exploring Jewish history in the archives in a special afternoon session - there'll be a display of original material from The Keep's collections, plus talks about the Sassoon family, prominent residents in the Victorian and Edwardian eras, and the Jewish community in Brighton & Hove in the early 20th century. And if you're interested in joining one of our popular behind-the-scenes tours, we've added extra dates on 13 and 14 March. Advance booking is essential for all events; to reserve a place, please see the Events page of our website.


By popular demand, our heritage film screening this month focuses on the local area. We're delighted to be showing Brighton: Symphony of a City, a film originally commissioned by the Brighton Festival that combines archive and contemporary footage to capture a day in the life of the city. The screening will take place on 25 March, and director Lizzie Thynne and composer Ed Hughes will be with us to introduce the film, and to answer questions at the end. A must for local historians, film fans and Brighton residents wanting to see the city in a new light! Numbers will be limited, so book your place now.


Pictured above: archive footage of Volks Railway, featured in Brighton: Symphony of a City.

Archive of the Month - the East Sussex WI

Image from Buxted WI scrapbook

The British WI movement was initially a response to the need to grow food during the First World War. The archive for the East Sussex Federation of Women's Institutes (ESFWI), held at The Keep by ESRO, dates back to 1918 and is thought to be one of the largest in the country. The archive includes photographs, committee minutes and wonderful scrapbooks that document WI activity over the past 100 years, providing a snapshot of life in towns and villages across the county, from Alfriston to Withyham. To celebrate Women's History Month, we will be sharing images from the ESFWI archives throughout March on our Twitter and Facebook pages, so if you'd like to see more and you're not following us already, now is a good time to start!


Pictured above: page from the Buxted WI Golden Jubilee scrapbook (1965), showing fabric samples from dresses, coats and suits worn by Buxted women (catalogue ref WI/71/7/22).

East Sussex young people explore the history of local LGBTQ+ communities

Artwork created by the project group

A cold, bright winter’s evening at Charleston Farmhouse was a beautiful setting for a celebratory event to mark the end of the LGBTQ+=Me project, a project highlighting the history of East Sussex’s LGBTQ+ communities. A group of young people, supported by East Sussex Youth Services, visited museums, galleries and The Keep, and undertook oral history interviews with older people as part of a project to uncover the histories of LGBTQ+ people in East Sussex across the 20th century.


The project culminated with the event at Charleston, along with an exhibition at Hastings Museum and Art Gallery (open until
3 May) and the publication of a teaching resource for use in schools. The oral history interviews recorded during the project will be deposited at The Keep. Esther Gill, Project Manager for Unlocking Our Sound Heritage, spoke at the launch event about the power of oral history in enabling people to share their stories in their own words and to add a richness to our understanding of a complex past.


BBC South East reported on the project, interviewing two of the young people involved - see their report on Hastings Museum's Facebook page


Pictured above: one of the pieces of artwork created by the project group.

What does your mantelpiece say about you?

Mantelpiece sketch

What’s on your mantelpiece? In 1937, Mass Observation asked its volunteers this very question; 158 reports were submitted, describing the items displayed on what for many was the heart of the home. In November 2019, a different generation of Mass Observers (volunteer writers from across the country) were asked to write about what was on their mantelpiece, or its equivalent. In 1937, carriage clocks were popular, and many respondents seemed to favour tidy, symmetrical arrangements; in 2019, people were more likely to emphasise the emotional connections to the objects they chose to display, such as those made by family members or brought back from holidays. You can find out more about the significance of the mantelpiece in a programme to be broadcast on Radio 4 on 24 March – listen out for Mass Observation’s Jessica Scantlebury, who was interviewed by presenter Dr Rachel Hurdley.


Pictured above: sketch and description from one of Mass Observation's 1937 responses.

The Keep needs Friends!

AMS 7344

The Friends of The Keep Archive (FoTKA) supports The Keep in many ways, from purchasing archival material so it can
be enjoyed today and preserved for the future, to assisting at public Open Days. Members enjoy a programme of guided visits to places of historical interest (many of which are not open to the general public), an illustrated newsletter, and a free annual lecture. You can support The Keep by joining FoTKA (membership costs £18 per person or £25 per couple), or by making a donation – every little helps! For more information, please visit the FoTKA website.


Pictured above: Map of Ashes Farm in Icklesham by Giles Burton (reference AMS 7344), dated 1638, purchased with support from FoTKA.