Manx National Heritage


Jude Dicken - Collections Information Manager

Jude Dicken, the Collections Information Manager for Manx National Heritage, speaks about the variety of collections she oversees. This ranges from Viking Archaeology to early daguerreotypes of the island, and the contemporary showcase of the Isle of Mann's TT motor festival.

Jude discusses ambitious projects from as far back as the 1940s when an archive of recordings was made of the last native Manx speakers, to the recent 3D scanning and modeling project of the 200 early Medieval Viking crosses on the Isle. The promotion of their freely available digitized archive of Manx newspapers dating from 1792 has led to very positive engagement from both locally and further afield.



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hello and welcome to the max communications 2020 podcast a series of podcasts where we explore various archives and collections my name is faith williams and i'm joined today by jude dicken collections information manager for the manx national heritage on the isle of man would you like to introduce yourself jude and tell us about how you came to be where you are today yeah hi um yeah thanks thanks for the invite um yes as i say i'm i work as collections information manager um for well the heritage agency on the isle of man which is manx national heritage i i joined um the organization wow wow back in 2004 wow that stands a long time ago it's flown by um and i joined here from having worked previously at um windsor castle um the british library and then laterally the vna so moving from london to the isle of man was was quite a change um moving from a big organization to a to a smaller smaller more integrated organization was also quite a change but you know i love it because we as an organization we we cover all of it so we look after the national archives library and museum collections as well as we have we are in effect the national trust for the isle of man so we own land um we own um various historical sites across the island and we also are home to the historic environment record which is what i helped look after as well so it's a really varied varied job and one which has become more and more digital um as the years have have gone on so you you're the trust is sorry the heritage body has got its finger in lots of pies on the island what is your specific role how do you spend an average day yeah absolutely i mean we are a charitable trust and um we are statutory party as well so um we perform that function for the island but my uh what is an average day for me well um because we have such broad collections um my role really is is looking at how we both safeguard and make accessible the information um about what we hold um and more generally about the heritage of the island so um a typical day can see me in the morning working on the ttt um motorcycle database we we look after the records for for for the tt um which started in 1907 and is still still going um you can see me working on that to next moving to looking at viking artifacts with our archaeologists we have an amazing viking history on the island um we're often more scandinavian than uk really um so we have a fantastic viking collection including um [Music] treasure hordes so i can be involved in working with the archaeologist on planning how we might 3d digitize those viking artifacts that's something we're working on at the moment um and then the afternoon can see me um working on our project to further digitize our our newspapers so we have the most comprehensive collection of isle of man newspapers um dating from 1792 right the way through to today and we're still collecting and we've made the years 1792 to 1960 available digitally already online and we're looking hopefully to release the next tranche of those newspapers so my role in all of that is very much um looking at safeguarding the basic management information about our collections but also making sure we make those collections and their information digitally accessible to as many people as we can online and and removing barriers to to to access um so yeah really varied really really varied you mentioned some of the material you have already and particularly viking stuff that's quite exciting but what makes up the rest of your collection [Music] oh well yeah of course i mean if we take each area in turn so maybe if we start with archives and we have extensive photographic archives um from you know the start of photography on the isle of man which really started getting going in the 1850s 60s we have um very early daguerreotypes um carp de vis cut the visits all the way through to um a modern photographer living photographer such as chris killip who is a internationally renowned uh photographer and we have some of his archive with us so within um so we have a photographic archive extensive photograph archive we also have an extensive manuscript archive um some wonderful 18th century collections um um when the island was very much always has been very much a maritime nation um right up again to present day um um you see your challenge me there's so much uh political art guys and even literary art archives we have the archive of nigel neal who was the um playwright behind quatermass some people may have heard of um really you know wonderful modern sci-fi writer so you have manuscript archives photographic we have film and sound so something quite unusual about the isle of man is it has its own language so we have what's called manx gaelic and that's very distinct from scots or irish or welsh gaelic it is a distinct language and it is a living language people use it so when i go to the pub tonight i will be ordering my point in monks and i will be served so um so anyway we have um in the archive um the earliest sound recordings of of the max language by native speakers obviously the language isn't we don't have native speakers anymore but back in 1948 the irish folklore commission came over and recorded the last of the native speakers we have those recordings on the original um wax cylinders and again right the way up to a modern oral history recording um another really important aspect of the island's history was internment so in the first world war and second world war the island became an internment camp um for the uk so those deemed as aliens in the uk germans um in the second world war that extended to italians as well were um brought over to the island and interned here not prisoners of war they were just interned here kept in camps well of course we have amazing archives on on that experience and we do have um first-hand oral history recordings of those people who were interned here so that's archives in itself huge we have a library so we collect printed items either published or relating to the isle of man we also have museum collections so we have the art collection for the island which we look after for the island um major a major name in that is archibald knox archbold knox designed for liberty um an important arts and crafts designer and we have examples of his design work 3d design work as well as watercolors paintings that kind of thing um we have the archaeology collection um with arguably um the the star um the stars of that collection of the viking the viking collection which is on display in in in the mike's museum um in academy um we also have costume and textiles uh collection we have an extensive social history collection um which i won't go into because we would be here midnight if i tried to explain over we have ceramic collections but we also have um things like um well an 18th century boat um called the peggy which we're currently conserving um it is registered as um on the historic ships register it's a very unique and rare survival of an 18th century pleasure craft a sailing boat with mast and oars and um we we also own or we'll own the building where it was dry docked and that is an 18th century sort of dockyard that that um leads out in to the irish sea so we we have a couple of castles as well um we have an abbey um and we have a working farm all these things and and the victorian house up north all these things contain collections that aren't in themselves a collection so castle russian and peel castle we also um view as as as a collection object or beat very large ones and finally um we have the largest uh working water wheel in the world laxi wheel which we also look after and have museum collections archives library images related to that to that site so you did ask is really large really really large collections so obviously not on the par with some of the big nationals in terms of size but in terms of variety um certainly um i've never worked anywhere with with such a variety of collection you have pointed out you are i don't know what the official world would be but you're your own nation you've got your own parliament you've got your own flag you've got your own language would you say that the majority of people who engage with your collection are mags or do you get a lot of interest from elsewhere it's a really good question um obviously our local community i'm not monks by the way and um you know um in fact if you look at the makeup of the island um the majority now it's tipping into um non-banks people who live here i.e those who weren't born here have chosen to move here but i found as soon as i moved here in 2004 um you it gets under your skin this place and you can't help but be um intrigued by its history and yeah you start to you start to really engage with the variety of history on what is a very small island we are very small um a population of around 80 to 85 000 so we're small we're smaller than the average county you know but yes you're right we do have our own parliament and in terms of researchers and people using our collections yeah absolutely locals yeah local community local researchers family historians uh use our collection but that word family historian is an interesting one because as we've all small communities across the world they travel so we had something back certainly in the 19th century the monks diaspora when people moved off the island to settle in north america australia new zealand south africa and the people who now use our resources especially online and this is why digital collections are so important to us are those looking to trace their bank's roots um and we have a huge community doing that they not only want to trace their banks routes using our online resources they then want to come and visit you know the old country if i can term a phrase so we get lots of visitors in normal times um in the summer um from from north america australia uh new zealand south africa they're the main ones um coming to trace their their family family roots in terms of academics i mentioned before the island's links to scandinavia and that the viking heritage again we have huge interest from especially from norway academics working on the wider biking story use our resources and something which we launched a few years ago are 3d models of all of the viking manx crosses so these are crosses around 200 that were carved by the vikings and early medieval inhabitants as well um they're scattered across the island often um still in the place where they they were erected we actually brought a company over um in collaboration um with the university of lancaster to digitally scan in 3d in great detail we did it for conservation purposes primarily but we were also able to render those 3d models online and people can now access those for free on our sketchfab channel so if you go to sketchfab and search for banks national heritage you'll find all 200 models now just doing that um we've been amazed by the engagement um certainly by academics in being able for the first time to compare um crosses to one another and turn them around and zoom in 3d online now these crosses can be miles apart on the island they're not easy to compare so being able to use the digital to do that was a real really important recent project for us so and of course internment internment you know first and second world war has the international research appeal as well so we do get researchers coming to us from across the world but the online has really has really um encouraged that uh and made that made that even more possible what are your hopes for the future what kind of projects are you hoping to um to encourage yeah we've well we it seems to be that as we end one project we we've already started another and um um certainly within in the digital collections that's true so a project we're currently working on and we'll go live with in march next year is making a historic environment record accessible online so we have a very rich historic environment um both above ground in terms of the two castles for example i've just mentioned and one of which actually castle russian um is the most complete early medieval castle in uh i believe in northern europe and um that's not us saying that that's the likes of historic england um who came over and told us that so that was great it's a brilliant castle um so anyway in march we're looking to launch a historic invite record online using the software arches which is um also something that historic england are using and that will give people access to records about um not only understanding buildings like our castles but also fine spots so where um flint working has happened the industrial heritage of the island obviously mining happened here a lot hence the laxi wheel although we're seeing quite a um rural um place now in the past um we we did contribute to that industrial revolution through mining also our maritime history so part of our historic environment record we're looking to build on are the the maritime um data set the shipwrecks um that are all around our coastline um so that that project is coming up the other project we're really um hoping to get funding for is to add the isle of man newspapers from 1961 to um well the current year um add those to our existing website where you the existing website gives you access to the newspapers from 1792 to 1960 and that's full search access that's not just being able to open a pdf that's actually fully searchable um using quite a complex ocr software we love it we love our newspapers um so it's around um half a million pages of newsprint and it's proven so popular with our audience that we've we've always been asked well when are you gonna um add the more recent uh newspapers we're hoping to do just that in the next the next couple of years so those are two other really major major projects coming up as well as as well as the usual release of more images more photograph more images from certainly from our photographic archive um we're going to be releasing some film online as well um hopefully before march so yeah it it keeps going keeps going would you say there are any particular challenges that come with managing your collection you mean digitally or no just just overall yeah i think for us the challenge is that we're a very small team um in terms of our collections team oh there's i don't know around well we're hardly into double figures there's around 10 of us and we're engaged on such a variety of projects um for example we have our tt permanent gallery opening in 2022 which is you know really focusing uh you know we really have to focus in on something like that it takes a lot of resource so managing collections um as is true for all museums yeah it takes resource it takes stuff time and that has been a challenge for us but the way we've we've tackled that and i think where we've been really successful is use of volunteers um again on an island with a real proud sense of place and a heritage and um yeah wanting to really engage with that we've never had any problems really in attracting volunteers um and we've been very um focused on the projects we've got them involved in so um we have volunteers who help us with cataloging they don't help us with digitisation i'll come on to that but they help us with once we've digitized a collection they help us catalog that collection by using the digital i can give a really good example of that um during lockdown um [Music] certainly from april this year um we realized that we'd have to turn away all our volunteers from working in our reading room or in us in our you know in the museum and they were contacting us and saying we really want to do something what can we do you know is there anything we can do online and we came up with the tt who's 2 digital volunteers project which meant people could access um it's a newspaper called the tt special that was produced in the 40s 50s 60s which is online and they were able to access those and extract for us biographies of widers um from from the newspapers and we thought oh we might get a few people doing that wow we got quite a number of people wanting to do that and sending us the biographies which we were then able to upload to to my museum to our online website so that's volunteers in terms of what we're also i think really good at is partnering so we've partnered not only with the likes of yourself at max and we've partnered with you on a number of digitization projects now which has been fantastic and the results you've produced have been brilliant um so we've partnered with you uh in being able you being able to come over here and do on-site digitization for us um using the latest equipment which we couldn't afford to keep investing in so having you come over and do that and um stick to a schedule for digitizing and then delivering the digital product to us works beautifully but we also partner with um can i say non-commercial entities such as google arts and culture who we've recently launched a channel with um so we're able to push our content out more widely and when i say content it's our collections and that's something obviously i know most about digitally because that's what i tend to work with um so we we partner with likes to google arts and culture our uk archives club to name find my past ancestry to name just a few and that's met the challenge of us being a small team that manage quite a big and varied collection it's how we get things done is through partnering so your big ticket items are your biking collection um and then your sites like your castles will be draws to and visitors and things like that but what is your favorite item of the collection [Music] oh wow that's a great question it changes from week to week but i think at the moment you know what i think at the moment because i was looking at them this week um we've just had converted into a digital format we can use online some of our film archive and what you see if you ask me in a month time it will be something completely different but i'm going to go with this one because it's it's captured my imagination um so we've had that film archive converted we do have we do have uh technical expertise in-house so we do have a technical team in-house it's just that they're very busy um but i was able to book time with them for converting some of this film archive into something we could play digitally and you know i had great fun um earlier this week in clicking on each of the mp4 files to start viewing what's on this film archive because the cataloging kind of gave you an indication of what was on there but i'd never actually viewed it myself because this is like on old canister wheels you know so so there was that click and immediately what came up was um george vi and um well who became the queen mother um john cena six and the latter leader queen mother at um tin walled tin wall day is um the name we give to our national day tin world is the name of our parliament it's the oldest surviving uh parliament in the world the one most continuous parliament in the world so there's the isle of man again with these weird things that it has anyway anyway i digress um it's a viking word so tin tin world um we still call our parliament timur and george six and um the queen mother had come over i think it was in 47 or 48 so very soon after the war um to open open the island's parliament and the footage because tin world happens it happens on a hill outside um so obviously our parliament doesn't always happen outside we have a parliament building but our tim all day um you you go to timwald hill and it's outside and everybody can can go um it's it's a national day where you go to hear the laws i am typing the laws read out and um so i'll just pause because i want to just check something right i'll i'll begin i need to get this way so tim hold day is the island's national day and it happens on the 5th of july every year and the film i was watching it was george vi and the queen their first tin world after the second world war and it was just hugely emotive because after they'd opened tim rolled they then uh went to the um national war memorial which is on douglas promenade he looks out to sea and they laid a reef at the war memorial and then veterans of a war which had ended a couple of years ago less than that also put down reeves and it just felt really immediate um and as i was clicking through the other rest of the film stop there was i then found a film from 1938 in color of one of the holiday camps on the island the island before before the birth of the you know the cheap spanish holiday you know the island was and even after that actually the island was a real holiday draw for people not only from the north especially the northwest but people from ireland and all across you know in victorian times it was packed full of people you know oh anyway and in 1938 it was packed anyway there i am watching a piece of this film and it's in color of people enjoying their holiday on the island enjoying um walking on the beach enjoying walking through the gardens and as i looked at it and as i looked at people on that film waving at the camera they know they're being filmed i thought you know in a year's time you're gonna you're gonna be at war you know you're not gonna be coming for your annual holiday to the iron man it's all going to change and when i watched that it was like a film um it's that high benefit of hindsight isn't it that we always have with history sort of knowing that people are heading you know heading towards the second world war um but it's 1938 and you can enjoy your holiday and i don't know things like that when i'm not it that was unexpected i didn't expect to see a collar film of a place i know because it hasn't changed that much douglas um from 1958 and i think it made it made it more pertinent to me and you know you kind of you think of your own life and you think well gee a year ago none of us expected to be in a situation we found ourselves with a pandemic this year so i kind of felt i don't know it sort of it felt odd to see people 1938 ex experiencing their holidays with with a war i know award is on the horizon so um um yeah anyway that was the collection that i really love this this this week it will change next week did you manage to have tin ward this year oh good question um no we didn't um nor i have well we also had to cancel the tt races which has been hugely sad for the island um for those into motorcycling and motorbikes the tt is on your bucket list to do it is the world's greatest road race for motor bikes that's not me saying that because i'm not actually a motorbike fanatic that's you know saying that so we get visitors from around the world um i once met at one tt an australian who had brought his harley davidson over from australia just to be on the isle of man during tt so it's just funkers yeah um we got a lot of german french italian it's international appeal so this year it's been very sad and the only time actually the tt has been cancelled since 1907 when it started um was during the foot and mouth disease so this is only the second time it hasn't happened um and we're all really sad about that but hopefully we'll be back next year so yes tim wald as well was was cancer actually wasn't cancelled tim did happen um but socially dis a socially distanced tim old so tim ward did tim all day did actually happen because we've been very fortunate on the island in that we closed our borders very early which meant we have actually gone until very recently around 100 days without a covid case which meant for banks national heritage and museum sites um after after a couple of months i think i'm trying to recall we could reopen as our sites and they they've been open and there hasn't been any social distancing on the island for a few months now um so again being a small island nation um has meant we've been able to to do that so if you're on ireland you can uh visit your heritage sites as usual if you're not then there's plenty of online resources you can uh do newspapers and the sketchfab i'm sure the laser scanning and stuff like that is incredible and and i've been using that platform before it definitely worked especially the beautiful biking across it they really look gorgeous and is where's your gallery going to be 22 is that going to be in douglas yeah it's going to be our main our main site which is at the manx museum in douglas so it's um a really major gallery development for us and we're working um with um the the well it's called department for enterprise here who helped run the tt um we've been well actually the lead up to this gallery has been quite a few years in the making as we've been collecting um bikes but not only motorbikes any sort of tt collections as well so we're really excited about that it's it's a brand new gallery um we're working with a designer from a class called core who are based in i believe manchester um i'm not actually on the direct team but i am working on the um the digital collections are going to be delivering through the gallery and online as well so we're really really excited about that and you know what would be great as well as part of that gallery opening um we want to see tt back next year and then 20 to 22 and the tt is fully back um yeah that will be i'm smiling you can't see it i'm smiling that will be wonderful because it's not only about the motorbikes it's actually a real festival feeling on the island we have around 40 to 50 000 visitors come over for the uh two three weeks of racing um we have beer tents we have um all kinds of events going on music events and and the island just is rocking for those two to three weeks it's really wonderful so um we can't wait for that to be back and then we can't wait for people to absolutely flood that gallery and and enjoy um and enjoy all the new collections we can share with them i'm sure they will hopefully they'll pick up written banks while they're there i'm not i'm not a true bank speaker um but i can order a pint in a pub so that's all i got to do that's the most important thank you so much for joining me today dude um i'm i'm sure that in years to come they'll be looking at socially distant to more cultures and they'll be adding that to the collection too well it's interesting you should mention that because we did we have had and we still continue to run a project called collecting covid isle of man and um you know um as as is true of other museums across the uk um collections of that sort really um what's you know it's what museums are here to do we're here to to capture the now as as well as um what we call the past so um i think we can all agree we've we're we've lived and we're living through history here at the moment so absolutely thank you very much thank you