Visit to the Imperial War Museum by Sarah Bartey

On Sunday 14 May Team New Focus ventured to the Imperial War Museum in London. We had all been looking forward to the trip since we started the project back in autumn last year and for me it has been one of the major highlights of the project so far. For lots of us it was our first time visiting the Imperial War Museum and for some members it was their first-time visiting London! Weary eyed but full of excitement, we caught an early train from Bradford at 9:00am.

We stayed at the Days Hotel, Waterloo, just a 5-minute walk from the Imperial War Museum. Once we had checked in at the hotel and dropped off our bags. We had lunch in the gardens of the museum. This gave us all afternoon to look around, starting with the WWI gallery. The gallery was very impressive and covered all aspects of the First World War, including the roles of women. Once we had finished looking around the WWI gallery we had some time to look around the rest of the museum. I wish we had more time to see everything, but it would probably take a whole two days to look around the entire museum.


The next day, we visited the Imperial War Museum Archive, where we met with world-famous curator of photography Hilary Roberts, who provided us with an inspiring and insightful talk on the history of the museum and women in war photography. She spoke of how ‘training and profession are not everything’ and for many conflict photographers ‘access is key’. This is certainly true for many of the female photographers we have been learning about.

During our research session at the archive we looked at albums relating to Olive Edis, Florence Farmborough, and a professional photographer who we hadn’t come across before, Christina Broom, who was commissioned to photograph guard’s regiments and household cavalry and became an official photographer for the Royal family. We split up into three groups each focusing on a different photographer, and we picked two of our favourite images to write about. We then swapped around and looked at the other albums. It was difficult to pick just two photographs to focus on as there were so many thought-provoking images. The whole experience was very special and completely different to viewing the photographs online. I felt we could connect with the physical photographs and the stories they told on a much deeper level than we were able to from viewing them online.


After lunch, we discussed as a team the images we had chosen, what we thought they depicted and why we had chosen them. Before heading home, we were also given a mini tour behind the scenes of the archive and a final chance to look around the museum.

We are all extremely grateful the staff at the Imperial War Museum Archive for allowing us to visit and we would also like to offer special thanks to Hilary Roberts for her time and help.

This project is supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund ‘Young Roots’ scheme



‘Reprinting the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom printing blocks’ by Sarah Bartey

On Thursday 11 May, Team New Focus took a visit to Leeds Beckett University, with Collections and Outreach Officer Charlotte Hall from The Peace Museum, Bradford. The purpose of the visit was to try and reprint images relating to the 1919 Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) conference in Zurich using printing blocks made from copper and wood found in The Peace Museum collection. Each copper plate had a negative image made up of dots, a process called half-tone. This is a mechanical process used at the beginning of the 20th century to reproduce images in newspapers.

Upon our arrival at the University, we met with Andy Edwards, lecturer at Leeds Beckett and designer of our publication No Man’s Land. Andy showed us the printing facilities and introduced us to other staff members who helped us with the printing process. There was a huge range of many different printing machines. Our first attempt at reprinting was made using one of the oldest looking machines in the room, an Albion Press. The process of using this machine involved hand rolling ink onto the copper side of the printing block, placing it on the press, lowering paper onto the block, rolling it under the press, and pulling a lever to press the paper onto the block.

At first, we were uncertain as to how the images would turn out, and whether the process would even work, as the blocks are so old. But we were soon amazed. The images came out so well. New Focus member Ben commented on how the images were ‘brought to life’ through the printing process. It was brilliant to see the images how they would have been seen at the time, and not just from the blocks.

We were also given the opportunity to use the press ourselves, which was a fun experience. Every print was completely unique and some came out better than others, depending on how much ink was placed on the plate. We even experimented with some fun colours like bright pink!


© Peace Museum, Bradford


© Peace Museum, Bradford

We hope to use the reprints from the WILPF block in our final publication. So watch this space!
Review by Sarah Bartey

This project is supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund ‘Young Roots’ scheme

Planning the publication blog by Abigail Brook-Petty

Following our visits to the Peace Museum and the Liddle collection, on Thursday 20th April we began to plan how our publication will look and discussed what it will contain. The session started with a chat about the images we thought were most relevant and should be included in the publication. This was done by using stickers to mark our favourite images and photographers we had previously learned about. We were then introduced to Andy the designer of our publication and we discussed potentially how the images would look as well as initial ideas for front covers etc.


Following this discussion Andy showed us a collection of publications he has designed which included interactive books and newspaper like publications. Seeing the wide range of possibilities got us thinking about what we want the publication to achieve as it will be distributed to every secondary school in Bradford. We spent some time discussing ideas taken from publications we had looked at.

After deciding some initial ideas we moved into the meeting room in the library and carried on looking at publications. After a long break and tea and cake we had a discussion session about exactly how we want the publication to look and we wrote down ideas we were interested in on large pieces of paper.


We discussed that we wanted to keep the publication in keeping with the albums we had seen at the Liddle collection by putting one of the images on the front cover. We also decided that another interactive section could include letters and prints created by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom printing blocks we found in the peace museum archive. There may also be a mini guide which will be created by New Focus members which explains how to use an archive. Other elements we have decided to put in the, publication include a timeline showing womens journeys through the war. We may also include a map as some of the albums in the archives had images from areas mainly in Europe where nurses we had researched were sent to work. We have also decided that the publication should be bright and colourful to help make the publication interesting and appealing with colours that are relevant for example the colours of nurses uniforms.


At the end of the meeting we came up with 5 buzzwords about how we want the publication to feel. The words we decided on were welcoming, informative, eye catching, interactive and hand-made. We would like to make the publication feel unique and not mass produced and these words will help us to write the publication brief after we have visited the Imperial War museum archive in May.

Review by Abigail Brook-Petty

This project is supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund ‘Young Roots’ scheme


Imperial War Museum Digital Archive meeting, Thursday 13th April 2017. Review by Mollie Wiggins


Firstly, we met at Impressions Gallery at 2pm and used the facilities available at Bradford Library to look at the online archives at the Imperial War Museum in London. We split into three groups and began to each look at either Florence Flanborough’s work, Mairi Chisholm and Elsie Knocker’s work or Olive Edis’ work. We then each picked a picture and began to answer specific questions on this work.


We did this for an hour and half and then began to watch some videos we had found on Mairi and Elsie. These videos featured them having a fun time during the war, and even showed them riding motorcycles, as we had learnt that they had previously, before coming nurses, been professional motorcyclists. We also listened to an audio recording of Mari which was very interesting. She talked about her experiences within the First World War alongside her best friend, Elsie, and how she was in a way “being a grouse” (being shot at)and was joking about not being killed during the war. She explained how they never left the ambulance and was just there to help the soldiers but had an inspiring companion to help her during this time. We also listened to an audio recording of Florence Farnborough. She sounded very posh and came from a very wealthy background in Buckinghamshire. She spoke about how she had met a Russian family during the war and wanted to go to their country to explore.

Following this we fed back the information we had all written about within the first half of the session. We found out that Olive Edis photographed woman mainly and her photos were very serious as she chose very powerful subject matter to capture. We looked at an image of woman engineers working on First World War aircrafts, this reflected other sources we had studied before at different archives. From this set of photos, we learnt that her work evolved during the period and she set her mind to taking these photos, and therefore was very inspiring. We then began looking at Mairi Chisholm’s work. She mainly took images of Elsie and vice versa. As a result, all her work was very casually staged and therefore all her photos were very reserved and calm. In one of her images she had climbed a tree and took a gripping image of a 19 foot shell hole, this showed she was very curious and wanted to capture everything about the war she could.

Finally, we looked at Florence Farnborough’s images. We learnt that she had moved to Moscow and become a nursing sister, even teaching Russian children. We looked at a photograph she had taken of soldiers getting their haircut, this showed a part of the soldier’s lifestyle we had never seen before, they also had a pet goat and this showed they were caring. In a way, this photo showed that the soldiers had to adapt their home lifestyles to fit the war lifestyle. Another image we looked at was very graphic, showing a deceased soldier in a trench, this showed what everyday soldiers had to witness and the traumatic events which happened. The images overall showed she was very adventurous and interested in travelling and was interested in helping others rather than focusing on herself.

Review by Mollie Wiggins

This project is supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund ‘Young Roots’ scheme


The Liddle Collection at the Brotherton Library, University of Leeds Visit; Unveiling the Treasures of Women’s Lives during the War by Emily Coghlan

During our January visit to The Peace Museum in Bradford we discovered their incredible collection of First World War propaganda and tested out archival systems ourselves. Our New Focus group had gained a foundation of knowledge on the war and was ready to move our project on to the next stage; a trip to the Leeds University Special Collections. The Brotherton Library’s public ‘Treasures Gallery’ shows many samples of their expansive historical and literary collection to the public, including a rare copy of some of William Shakespeare’s early plays.

After being shown around the Leeds University Libraries grand reading room and seeing its stone pillars and old books, we went to view the Special Collections section which we were glad to find out can be used by anyone through booking an appointment. We headed back to view the material Professor Alison Fell and Laura Wilson Learning and Engagement Officer (Treasures Gallery) had helpfully found for us.

We wanted to find out more about women’s perspectives and experiences of the war, and so our concern was with the ‘Liddle Collection’ curated by Peter Liddle, a preacher from Sunderland, who in the 1960s realised that important memories from the First World War were being lost. He collected material relating to five thousand people, including many women. These were recollections as well as contemporary papers, diaries, registrations, and of most interest to us, loose photographs and photo albums. In order to handle the precious material, we were instructed to leave food and drink out of the room and that it was best to use clean, dry hands (a few of us were surprised we wouldn’t need gloves for handling such old paper) and to be as delicate and careful as possible.

The variation in nature and mood of each album was incredible and revealed much about how diverse women’s experiences of the war were. Some albums we found to be sombre and serious where as others contained photographs of uniformed women at work alongside very personal photos of fun days out with descriptions underneath like ‘enjoying the sunshine!’ It was clear that some women were experiencing more freedom than they’d ever had during the war and it was fascinating to see these small moments of happiness of the everyday lives of women. However, other albums were more sombre. Elsie Gledstanes, an artist who became a truck driver during the war, had organised more serious newspaper articles and photos chronologically. It was also sad to see photos of nurses treating men suffering with serious war injuries.

We had found plenty of fascinating photographs for our publication and exhibition! One of the most interesting parts of the day was comparing the style and form of the photo albums. Some had intricate, colourful patterns surrounding black and white, faded images where as others seemed like they were made out of address books and notebooks. Seeing these differing types of albums gave us inspiration for our own publication we will be producing on women’s perspectives of the war which we will be putting together after our next visit to the Imperial War Museum in London.

By Emily Coghlan

This project is supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund ‘Young Roots’ scheme

Peace Museum Archive visit by Abigail Brook-Petty

On the 23rd of February we made our first archive visit, to the Peace Museum in Bradford city centre. The session began by a discussion led by learning and administration officer, Shannen Lang about the significance of archives and the need to preserve artefacts in an age of digital archives. Following this discussion, we split into groups and were taught the MODES system by Charlotte Hall, Collections and Outreach Officer and Sarah Bartley Museum Assistant. We were then given a chance to look up items related to WW1 using MODES to locate them in the archive. This was a fun thing to experience as it is something we wouldn’t be allowed to do on visits to larger archives. New Focus member Olivia commented on the morning saying “It was great to be able to see the actual things that were used in protest”. Looking through the items was also very interesting, as we learned about groups and looked at propaganda we wouldn’t necessarily have known anything about before the visit. Notes were made about pieces we thought were more relevant to our publication focusing on roles of women in the attempt to bring about peace, and how women were portrayed in propaganda messages and leaflets. Perhaps the most interesting and relevant group we learned about were the Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom who believed in “Negotiation not War”. In 1915 a group of delegates from the WILPF were due to attend a conference in The Hague, however only a select few made it there, due to ferries being stopped. Images from a similar conference in 1919 are kept in the archive in the form of printing blocks.


The rest of the time at the museum was devoted to looking at the exhibitions. After a long lunch and many cups of tea, we sat down to discuss our findings from the museum and share what we had found in the archives. All of the artefacts we had found we photographed, and the day ended with a vote on the relevance of the things we found and a decision on what we thought should be included in the publication. There was a unanimous decision that the printing blocks from the WILPF conference should be considered. Overall the day was enjoyed by everyone as we were able to put some of the skills we learned in the previous workshop to use.


By Abigail Brook-Petty

This project is supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund ‘Young Roots’ scheme



‘No Man’s Land Young People Uncover Women’s Viewpoints on the First World War’ by Sarah Bartey

It is a very exciting time for the New Focus team right now; we have just begun an exciting new project entitled, No Man’s Land-Young People Uncover Women’s Viewpoints on the First World War.  For many members including myself, this will be our first project as part of New Focus and we are all very much looking forward to getting involved.

On the January 22nd at Impressions Gallery, we had our very first workshop. It was a great evening and it provided us with a solid grounding of knowledge and skills that will help us with our project.  The first part of the session was led by Co-Director of the Gateways to the First World War project at the University of Leeds, the wonderful Professor Alison Fell. The Professor provided us with an interactive introduction to ‘Women and the First World War’.  Many of us had to question ourselves to dig out what we already knew about the ‘Who? What? When? Where? and Why?’ of the First World War.


However, from the Professor we learnt a great deal about women’s roles before the War, and how these changed during the War. We learnt that lots of women took on new roles and job opportunities that were previously unavailable to them.  This included the introduction of a small number of pioneering women working in photography, which at the time was a well-respected male dominated profession. This in turn led us to look at portrayals of masculinity and femininity in propaganda posters.   For example, we discussed how women were shown as caring mothers, and campaigns appealed to women to use their skills to volunteer as Red Cross Nurses. On the other-hand men were shown to be brave and chivalrous, with many campaigns implying that if they did not sign up to fight, then they were not ‘real men’.


The second half of the session was led by the brilliant Dr.Pippa Oldfield, Curator of the upcoming No Man’s Land exhibition at Impressions Gallery.  Pippa taught us key skills in reading photographs.  We learnt to stop and look in detail at photographs and ask ourselves questions, to develop a deeper level of understanding.  For example: What are people wearing? Why was the photo taken? Was the image taken quickly or planned? We practised our newly learned techniques in small groups with some photos from the First World War that we knew nothing about.  I found this part of the evening particularly enjoyable and rewarding, as it is something I have never done before, and I felt I learnt a lot.  Now I just can’t wait to put my newly acquired knowledge and skills to use!

By Sarah Bartey

This project is supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund ‘Young Roots’ scheme