The factory, the community, and de-industrialization

The project has moved on another stage in the past week, with additional learning resources and digitised primary resources being made available for our second two themes:

  • De-industrialization
  • The factory and the community (formerly The ecology of the industrial town or city)

The learning resources, produced by our Learning Technologist Terese Bird, are available both on our project website ( and our collection on

Donisthorpes craped hair - trade mark example

Donisthorpes craped hair – trade mark example

Terese has already blogged about her prezi on Frog Island (part of our de-industrialization theme), but she’s also produced one on Leicester’s Castle Ward for The factory and the community.  In addition she’s been busy listening to many hours of audio recordings of people who live in and around Walnut Street in Leicester (home of the old Liberty factory) as well as people who worked for the Corah factory, releasing extracts on certain topics, combining it with images in some cases.

Our project partners, the Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland Record Office have also digitised their selected primary resources which relate to de-industrialisation, many of which have now been uploaded and are available on

 Factories we have focussed on here are Friars’ Mills, owned by Donisthorpe & Co. Ltd (whose trade marks you can see in this blog), Frisby Jarvis (as Terese mentioned in her previous blog) and Hawley & Johnson (a local dyers), amongst others.

Donisthorpe were a major knitwear company in Leicester for 130 years.  We document the growth and changes experienced by the factory as it moved to computerised production, and the attempts to preserve the building once the factory closed. Sadly the building caught fire in late July, leaving only the shell remaining.  Read Terese’s blog post here: Capturing history before it goes.

At this stage we currently have 144 digitised primary resources and well over 20 learning resources across the four themes.

Donisthorpes beautiful hair - trade mark example


Building Shared Heritages and new collections

Last weekend Terese Bird and I presented a workshop at a conference organised by Building Shared Heritages: Cultural Diversity in Leicester, which is a co-sponsored project at the University of Leicester.

There was a good turnout for the conference, and many people signed up for our 45 minute workshop, which we ran twice. 

Following a brief introduction to the project and a demonstration of the Manufacturing Pasts collection on MyLeicestershire History, we asked our attendees to go on and use the collection.  Although the time available was short, we were very kindly given some feedback on the project/collection, which suggested we disseminate information further (ie. via special interest groups and local societies), so we will try and publicise the project using as many avenues as possible. 

All in all people agreed that the resources were very useful and that they could make direct use of them, either in a personal or teaching capacity.  One attendee also said the project was similar to something he was working on, so it’s good to know that more people out there are now starting to think about preserving the historical documents and heritage in a digital format.

The slides for the workshop can be found on slideshare.

In a separate development, we have taken the decision to split the project outputs into two separate collections on the MyLeicestershire History site.  The digitised primary resources will remain on the Manufacturing Pasts collection, but the learning resources (OERs) will now be housed on a new project, entitled ‘Manufacturing Pasts – Learning Resources’.  We took this decision as we felt that the learning resources might get lost amongst the wealth of primary materials in the collection, and we wanted people to be able to locate and access them easily.

Although the new collection has already been created on the site, we have yet to upload the learning resources, so if there are any keen people out there who want to see some now, you will have look in the Manufacturing Pasts collection for the moment.

Digitisation of selected archives begins at the Record Office

Following a delay caused by some teething problems with the collection management software and the County Council’s firewall, I’m pleased to report that the digitisation of Record Office material is now underway. We’ve started with items for the ‘Social Life of the Factory’ OER, which centres on Corah, the former Leicester hosiery manufacturing business.

I was aware that some records had been deposited in the Record Office on the closure of the business, but that only a small quantity had survived – six shelves of documents is not much to show for one of Leicester’s most significant businesses, established in the early 19th century. I was, however, pleasantly surprised by the range of material which has been available to select for use in the project. The collection is not yet catalogued, so it became a voyage of discovery through this untapped resource, as I stood on a ladder in the strongroom, opening up some 30 or so boxes. The next day, Professor Simon Gunn was able to choose records to digitise, ranging from staff and factory photographs and handbooks to company minutes, reports and brochures. These could be supplemented by council building plans, Ordnance Survey maps and a selection of company magazines – it was especially pleasing to find that our library contains an almost complete set of wonderfully detailed Corah magazines from 1949 to 1986.

It seems very topical, in the year of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the recent Royal Visit to Leicester, that one of the first items to be digitised is this special edition of ‘Encore News’ from 1958:

Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester & Rutland

Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester & Rutland

The Record Office is delighted to be part of this project which will provide better access, for academic and local history researchers alike, to a wide range of under-exploited business archives. The digitisation of Corah material is expected to be completed by the end of April and will be closely followed by items for the ‘Conservation and Regeneration’ OER, based on the Liberty Shoe Works.

Adam Goodwin, Archivist, Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester & Rutland.

OER3 Programme Meeting – Part II

Following on from my last post – OER3 Programme Meeting – Part I – in this blog I cover the afternoons events, where we discussed the issues and benefits of projects partnerships. 

Having split into three groups, each discussing one of three predetermined questions, our group focussed on Collaboration and Partnerships relating to OERs: what types of partnerships we had, what they brought to the project in relation to the different OER work packages (creation of and providing content, evaluation, re-use, dissemination) and how they impacted on academic practice. 

In our group we had partnerships with a variety of public and private organisations, who each had perhaps differing perspectives on our projects, as well as ideas about how the outputs would best benefit their audiences.  We discussed ways of managing their expectations by drawing up a design brief of our OERs and asking partners to sign it off, as well as our expectations on the input we could expect from them (e.g. accessing niche communities).  

Other issues raised by collaboration included the difficulties (but the necessity) of putting in place partnership agreements, tackling copyright concerns, increasing understanding of the goals of open educational resources and embedding openness in reward structures to encourage academic buy-in.

We all agreed that to engage appropriate partners we needed to sell the mutual benefits of a project, such as making their resources more open, providing a sustainable platform for them to be housed on, and enabling them to get evaluation feedback and reuse information, as well as ensuring that they remained an integral part of the project development.

It was good to meet people from other projects and find out what they were up, as well as discover that we were all dealing with similar issues, although I’m not sure we exactly cracked how to deal with them all! It also made me realise not only that we should value our project partnerships, but that our projects can only benefit if we ensure we get the most out our collaborations.