Cultural markers in the East of England

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Smithsonian Open Access – we had to sit down…

Sticky post

In the U.S. the Smithsonian Institution has created an Open Access resource of staggering diversity.

Swiss/German side chair, late 17thC – early 18thC – Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

“Smithsonian Open Access, where you can download, share, and reuse millions of the Smithsonian’s images—right now, without asking. With new platforms and tools, you have easier access to nearly 3 million 2D and 3D digital items from our collections—with many more to come. This includes images and data from across the Smithsonian’s 19 museums, nine research centers, libraries, archives, and the National Zoo”.


As always with Open Access resources, despite millions of electronic artifacts in the Public Domain on the Smithsonian web pages, some do have license/usage restrictions. Always check before use!

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, Gift of Joseph H. Hirshhorn, 1966

For the inquisitive, there is a wealth of subject matter and themes to explore on the Smithsonian pages. Whether your interest is art, ceramics, photography, science or zoology…there will be a reservoir of interesting items to peruse.

A search of the archive for ‘film’ produces a delightful range of posters, lobby cards and images of garments worn in Hollywood movies.

See an example search here.

This is a creative archive in the public domain, bar none. It is easy, even in a short time, to find resources that can inspire your next creative project.

We recommend a visit to the Smithsonian.


Writing: Making Your Mark

An exhibition at The British Library – Writing: Making Your Mark

 –  Book your tickets here

PACCAR 1, The British Library,  96 Euston Road, London, NW1 2DB

“Discover the extraordinary story behind one of humankind’s greatest achievements: through more than 100 objects spanning 5,000 years and seven continents

Follow the remarkable evolution of writing from ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs carved in stone and early printed text such as William Caxton’s edition of The Canterbury Tales, to the art of note-taking by some of history’s greatest minds, and on-wards to the digital communication tools we use today.”                                     Source: The British Library web pages

This new exhibition provides wonderful insights into the both the future of writing and the past development of the craft.

From quill pen to digital tablet, how we create and communicate has been beautifully illustrated for us, ‘…in an interactive exhibition gives you the chance to reflect on works of genius that wouldn’t exist without the writing traditions of civilisations past’.

Discover more at The British LIbrary here…arrive clutching your biro and notepad!

Into the library vortex…

Library vortex, image and web link

Into the library vortex of knowledge and imagination…

We have, with our new Libraries news-feed page, given our readers the opportunity to keep up with latest news from across the UK.

We are rotating our topical feeds across University libraries, feminist collections and featuring, as we must, the go to public library resource, PLN.

Library image by Jaredd Craig…

Check our our Libraries page below and keep coming back to stay informed.

    See more:

In The Guardian you can find an encompassing article that sums up the decline of the local library. Picturing a library using population that has tumbled by 30% in a decade. See more

The study it regales us with is Taking Part (.pdf) from the DCMS. It found that…

The greatest fall in adult library usage was seen among 16 to 24-year-olds, according to the DCMS report. In 2005, figures showed that 51% of this age group used the library. In 2015, the figure fell to 25.2%.

Statista, the Statistics Portal, offers detailed annual library visits data, from 2002 to 2014.  Here the analysis shows that from a peak in 2005/, with a total of £42 million visits, by 2013/14 this figure had declined to just over 282 million visits.

It is never too late to fight back and get into good library habits. We like the 10 Reasons to use Your Library article, on the web journal Ten Penny Dreams. Elegantly laid out, the author, a North of England writer, gently chides us to remember why using a library is such a joy and a revelation. See more here

If you need it, in the East of England are offering public tours of the Parker Library, including parts of Corpus Christi College. Where you can ‘…sample its amazing collection which includes the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, principal source book for early English history, the sixth-century Gospels of Saint Augustine, the Bury Bible and the best manuscript of Chaucer’s Troilus…

Proof, if proof were needed, that librarians are keepers of our collective culture, and that libraries, as buildings, are the engines of our future dreams. Don’t lose it, use it!

    See more:

Enlightenment in the East of England

Victorian throw-aways…

In London on the 26th?

After the hyper-consumerism of the recent festive season, were you the one carrying the old wrapping paper, used tinfoil and discarded detritus to the rubbish bin?

We follow in a long tradition, arguably in the foot steps of the Victorians, who were the first ‘throw-away society’ according to Dr. Tom Licence of the University of East Anglia.

The Victorian advances in packaging, branded products and new routes to market in retail confirmed the ‘disposability of things’ for the Victorian householder.

As part of the UEA in London series of events, you can hear Dr. Licence discussing ‘What the Victorians threw away’

Thursday 26 January, 6.30pm   – What the Victorians threw away – Dr Tom Licence, UEA

Regent Street Cinema, 309 Regent Street, London, W1B 2UW

‘In this lecture, Tom will use items excavated from rubbish dumps to show how our throwaway habits developed. He will explore Victorian ideas about re-use and re-cycling, and link emerging patterns of waste-creation to the growth of western consumerism’.


The event is free, but you can book on-line to secure your place here.

You can visit Tom’s archive of objects, disposed of by your great, great grandparents, on his web site – The web pages also contain fascinating insights to what the East Anglians threw away too.

His book is available here in both paperback and Kindle editions…

See more here…

The people who lived in England before the First World War now inhabit a realm of yellow photographs. Theirs is a world fast fading from ours, yet they do not appear overly distant.

Many of us can remember them as being much like ourselves. Nor is it too late for us to encounter them so intimately that we might catch ourselves worrying that we have invaded their privacy. Digging up their refuse is like peeping through the keyhole‘.

   Buy this book here from

Bin & boots image: David O’Farrell – Flickr


Distances travelled and a New Year

We are always excited about books and book production in the conversationsEast office. In 2016 we seemed to have a very ‘bookish’ year all in all.

We enjoyed a visit to Seven Stories in Newcastle to look at the development of an author and the creation of the written artefact through the work of Michael Mopurgo. See more here.

We also happily supported the a new issue of Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica, an endeavour delivered across the globe from the print works of Kronecker Wallis in Barcelona, Spain. Revisit the work here.

In 2017 the conversationsEAST team have sworn an oath to finally deliver their draft arts journal, artSUFFUSION, and to expand the range of contributors to our pages in the hope of stimulating interest in arts, culture, history and all the other things that occupy our minds during the working day.

As we were unpacking another delivery of books in the intervening quiet days betwixt the festive holiday and New Year, we were pondering, as we tackled another Open Office document and posted several WordPress pages onto our servers for clients. How far have we come in terms of print production?

The Italians took a long look at the subject, the now pre-historic hot metal typesetting process, in 1960.

Source: See the movie on YouTube

Whilst some time later, nearly sixty years in fact, an American production giant revealed how the introduction of micro-processor and the refinement of mechanical processes enabled tens of thousands of printed copies to be created within three short days.

Source: See the movie on YouTube

We thought the passage of time and socio-economic difference was wonderfully reflected in the the comparison between the be-suited operators of the Lino-type machines, half man, half machine, seemingly embedded in their mechanisms as their typing materialised from hot metal reservoirs, into hard gobbets of text, for onward transmission to other people and process.

The contrast underscored by the modern, casually dressed and processor driven work environment of a contemporary print house. We noted the lack of people populating the production landscape in the latter. The ‘white collar’ aspects of the book now taking place remotely, no longer a craft skill in an industrial setting.  A true sign of our times?

Whatever changes 2017 brings, a happy New Year to our readers from the conversationsEast team.



Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica – a reissue


A portait of Isaac Newton by Godfrey Kneller (1689)

Article update: 12.11.2016

1,076 backers pledged 56,504 euros to help bring this project to life, exceeding the original campaign target  of 35,000 euros. Brilliant.

This must be the Enlightenment project of the year.

On the eve of 2017, the 330th anniversary of the publication of Isaac Newton’s Principia (Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica), a small publishing house in Barcelona, Kronecker Wallis, are dedicated to issuing a new version of this master work.

Design and detail are the watch words of this small creative team, who are recruiting backers for the project on the pages of Kickstarter.

With only nine days to go of the campaign, as of the publication of this short article, why not take an intellectual punt and pledge a very modest amount to receive a copy of this great piece of literature, science and the art of book binding?

If completed this is the Christmas present to die for for those interested in the aesthetics of the book, the history of science and a love of independent, small studio making.

Discover the Principia and Kronecker Wallis on Kickstarter here.

About the book?

The book will be set in Lucas de Groot‘s font The Serif, created in 1994. To get the finest reproduction the publishers have chosen Munken Polar paper, giving a high quality white tonality to the page and a natural feel. Paper weights of 100 grams for the inner pages and covers produced in 260 grams.

the serif font example image

Buy The Serif office fonts here…


The binding is what really sets this book apart. We wanted its “wrapping” to be visually appealing and different. Therefore, we have opted for visible binding that leaves the spine bare, displaying a part of the books that usually remains hidden. This type of binding also helps us when reading the book, as it allows us to open it wider‘.

Source: Kronecker Wallis Kickstarter page

The text is set from the 1846 first American edition, edited by N.W. Chittenden. You can see this text here.

principia page layout image

Page layout image from Kronecker Wallis…

You can make a Kickstarter pledge from as little as 5 Euro’s, a tiny investment in a project of such aesthetic magnitude.

If you do and the bindngs are completed, have a great Christmas festive holiday when your package arrives.

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Chelmsford Ideas Festival 2016


Discover more here…

It’s that time of year again. We are packing our notebooks, pencils and cameras for a series of editorial visits, as usual, to the Chelmsford Ideas Festival 2016.

22nd October till the 12th November 2016.

”The Chelmsford Ideas Festival aims to stimulate and inspire people through a set of innovative events, talks and workshops”.

With a much improved web site this year, you can find a range of activities and interests to stimulate the intellect across a variety of themes. Each category of event has its own diary section. See below for what might interest you most.

Arts  |  Heritage  | Kids  |  Technology  |  Your City  | Wellbeing  |  Food

You can see last years event article on conversationsEAST here. This year, 2016, the programme is diverse, inclusive and accessible.

To book individual workshops and events simply open the calendar entry on the web page to get full details of the event and how to book.

Highlights from the programme? We liked…

Rooted Art – Public Art Workshops   25th October, 2016   10.00 to 12.00

‘Let’s make history! Join Artist Nick Haydon (known for his large scale printmaking) and Artist Victoria Button in creating a massive historic mural in Chelmsford city centre, depicting stories of the city’s heritage. Funded by Essex County Council’.

See more about artists Victoria Button and Nick Haydon

We also liked…

Chat About the Old Days – 27th October and 27th November, 2016  – 14.00 to 16.30

‘Come along to this free session – enjoy a cup of tea/coffee and a cake for just £1 and join us in reminiscing about the ‘old days’. (Don’t forget: even teenagers have an ‘old days’ – what do you remember about times past?) 

Our idea is to have a jolly good nostalgic chat session over a cup of tea and then for some of the memories and stories that come out to form the basis of a new community artwork to be displayed at the Ideas Hub. Maybe it will be the start of a series of artworks…who knows?’

Organiser: Artist Max Dolding – see more here.

And also…

ESA’S COPERNICUS PROGRAMME: How is E2V protecting Planet earth?    24th October 19:00 – 21:00

‘Paul Jerram is Chief Engineer for Space Imaging at e2v, Chelmsford. Headquartered in Chelmsford, e2v is bringing life to technology and employs 1750 people globally. e2v partners with customers to provide world-class image sensors and detection subsystems that can help solve the mysteries of the Universe, understand climate change on Earth and much, much more…’

Event follows the Festival launch at Anglia Ruskin University.

The Ideas Festival Chelmsford,  22nd October till the 12th November 2016, is certainly now a premier intellectual and cultural landmark in the regional festival landscape. Visit the web site and book to join in the work. You will not be disappointed.

See the Festival full contact details here.

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Soldiers and trauma in any conflict…

Chelmsford Remembers Banner2 image




On 9th February RSA Chelmsford Fellows and Civic Society members listened to presentations by Air Vice Marshall Ray Lock CBE, Chief Executive of the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) and Professor Jamie Hacker Hughes from Anglia Ruskin University’s Veterans and Families Institute. Professor Hacker Hughes is President Designate of the British Psychological Society.

Chelmsford Remembers is a Heritage Lottery funded project on the First World War centenary. The presentations and discussion concerned the mental health of Service personnel involved in conflict.

The speakers compared the support available for soldiers suffering from ‘shell shock’ between 1914 and 1918 and those with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) today. The FiMT charity and Anglia Ruskin’s Veterans and Families Institute are engaged in research on the impact of war on veterans and their families. The intention is to develop a ‘curated research hub’ centred on the impact of war on veterans and their families.

This session will assist the Chelmsford Remembers project in showing how the First World War affected the City at the time and in addition, providing some comparison with recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan

Image of Malcolm NobleMalcolm Noble FRSA

Project Director

If you are interested in wider research and engagement with this subject the Open University have, through Futurelearn, a new on-line course upcoming.

World War One: Trauma and Memory is delivered by Dr. Annika Mombauer of the OU, in collaboration with the BBC.

‘…you will study the subject of physical and mental trauma, its treatments and its representation. You will focus not only on the trauma experienced by combatants but also the effects of World War 1 on civilian populations’. Source: Open University

The work, for which a Statement of Completion will be available, provides the perfect contextual frame for the sessions created by Chelmsford Remembers.

The course starts on the 25th May, 2015. See more here…

Other articles on conversationsEAST relevant to Chelmsford Remembers:

Essex at War: See more here…

The Great War, the great wrong turn? – See more here…


Chelmsford Remembers
– Mental Health and the Armed Forces

Chelmsford Remembers Banner2 image

As part of the Fellow led Chelmsford Remembers Project there is an upcoming joint meeting of RSA Chelmsford and The Civic Society at Anglia Ruskin University , Chelmsford.

Date: Monday 9th February, 2015 – 5.45pm for 6.00pm start

Venue: Room 001, The Sawyer Building, Anglia Ruskin University.

We are very pleased to announce that our guest speakers for the event  will be Air Vice Marshall Ray Lock CBE, who is Chief Executive of the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) and Professor Jamie Hacker Hughes from the Veterans and Families Institute at Anglia Ruskin University.

This event, as part of Chelmsford Remembers, links the centenary commemorations of the First World War to the effects of deployment to war zones today. Other items include…

  • Final report on the Ideas Festival 2014 (IF2014) and the initial consultations on 2015. IF2015 will run from the 18th October 2015 to 1st November inclusive.
  • Update on negotiations on future uses for the Hall Street Marconi Factory.
  • Notifications on upcoming Chelmsford Remembers event with Dr. Paul Rusiecki author of The Impact of Catastrophe – The First World War.

If you are able to attend, do please confirm with Malcolm Noble – (mnoble3211 at, or use our ‘contact us’ panel above and send Malcolm a message directly from this web page.



Chelmsford remembers!

Essex at War

We wrote recently about how glorious was the summer of 1914 and how those balmy days before the Great War seemed to reach on into the Autumn. (Revisit the article here…). We were lucky enough to be at the 1st World War commemoration event at Hylands House, sponsored by Essex County Council, on the weekend of the 14th September 2014.

The machinery of war in Hylands Park...

The machinery of war in Hylands Park…

The fields of the estate provided a glorious backdrop for families and groups to enjoy the late sunshine, to listen to martial music from a band on the terrace and to enjoy the military re-enactments and be-uniformed attendants, at a variety of regimental stalls scattered like a canvas billet around the great house.

The inside of Hylands House  afforded visitors the chance to meet and greet a variety of historically textured projects from the Essex area. Enjoying views of the landscaped gardens and lawns from the restored windows, of the horse-drawn charabanc and the 574 acre landscape designed by Humphry Repton. Read more about the history of this lovely house here, on the web pages of Chelmsford City Council.

Drawn through the grounds in some style...

Drawn through the grounds in some style…

On the first floor of Hylands House that sunny morning were members of  project called Chelmsford Remembers.

The Heritage Lottery Fund project, led by Fellows of the RSA, is a history project designed to capture ‘…the history and of Chelmsford and its people during The First World War’.

Below you can see what we discovered, at conversationsEAST, about this great project…

Chelmsford Remembers

The project will have a major exhibition in place, generously supported by High Chelmer Shopping Centre, that will feature the work of project volunteers and to enable residents to see the findings of the research…as well as contribute information about their own family members, we hope.

Empire Plaquette image...

With kind thanks to Freddy Slater of the project…

It is intended to to transform the central square of the Centre into a replica trench, with artefacts and displays of Great War material relevant to the area.

The display at the High Chelmer Shopping Centre has a particularly poignant centrepiece. A large Memorial Plaquette, or ‘Dead Man’s Penny’, which was issued to the families of all those service personnel killed as a result of the war.

Tragically, some 1,355,000 placquettes were distributed, consuming some 450 tonnes of bronze in their manufacture. We were lucky to meet with members of the project who gave us permission to use an image of their precious artefact. We thank them.

Would you like to get involved in the Chelmsford Remembers Project? You can.

Buy this book on

Buy this book on

All successful applicants to the project will get a free copy of Dr. Paul Rusiecki’s The Impact of Catastrophe, a book detailing his research into the people of Essex and the impact of war from 1914 to 1920.

You can join the team by making contact with Chelmsford Remembers.


The project is looking for ten volunteer researchers who are passionate about uncovering the past of Chelmsford. The project provides free training and support and will also be involved in the forthcoming Ideas Festival.

Talks were given…

In the Pavilion, adjacent to the main house, the day was spent in listening and watching a variety of talks from researchers and authors on the theme of the war in Essex. The event was sponsored by the Essex Records Office and was chaired and the business of the day guided by Malcolm Noble FRSA. (Malcolm is the Chair of the Eastern Region RSA Fellowship).

Malcolm Noble FRSA making a point during the opening talk...

Malcolm Noble FRSA making a point during the opening talk…

We illustrate below two quick samples of the talks, which were well received by the respective audiences. Providing attendees in the Pavilion with access to new information and insights into the The Great War in Essex.

Stylistically different, the programme afforded the interested listener with a wealth of data, images and reflection on this momentous time in the County.

The Lights Go Out in Essex: August 1914

Dr. Paul Rusiecki delivered a short paper to the morning audience around the emergence of war into the summer sunshine of summer 1914.

Paul’s principal thesis was that ‘…war crept up by stealth on the people of Essex’. He cited Dedham Church Choir, so oblivious to the impending storm, that on the day preceding the announcement of hostilities, ‘…the singers took an overnight visit to Cambridge’.

As further evidence of civil society behaving as normal, there was reflection given during the paper to a strike in the County by agricultural harvest workers. There was significant unrest during August of 1914, with police marshalled and shots fired to suppress the protest. This dispute rapidly came to an end as wages were able to rise as a result of war measures to secure food production, we were informed. Ferment was also current in August 1914 with regard to the Irish Home Rule Bill, with all the consequent fears of uprising.

Dr. Rusiecki informs his audience...

Dr. Rusiecki informs his audience…

The local Essex press made no mention of the assassination in Sarajevo, but by the end of August 1914 ‘…the cold hand of realism had fallen on Essex’. The air of unreality had dissipated, we were told. The early battles at Mons had led to an increase in the call for conscription in England.

By May 1915, Dr.Rusiecki enlightened us, attitudes to German and Austrians resident in the County had hardened. A shift in mindset driven by the sinking of the Lusitania, air raids over Southend and the publication of the Bryce Report, which detailed atrocities committed in Belgium during the early stages of the war.

phoneIcon(You can discover an animated film from 1918, about the sinking of the liner Lusitania here…)

A wonderfully lucid and well paced delivery, we thought.

Mobilisation and Land Defences in Essex

Clive Potter, a local county based historian, gave his audience a delightful visual and data festooned presentation. We were offered a variety of county maps, which showed us both the disposition of troops before hostilities and the numerous training grounds across the Essex landscape.

Strong visual presentation from Clive Potter, local historian...

Strong visual presentation from Clive Potter, local historian…

Similarly, Clive was able to reveal the likely landing places for small detachments of ‘enemy’ troops on the Essex coast. These visual elements were supported by notes and the detail from the 1914 UK battle plan, ‘The Land Defense of the United Kingdom (Eastern Region), which gave us detailed exposition on how our defense would be undertaken in the event of invasion.

Detailed maps were offered of inland defenses in the county, including a significant amount of trench works for troops to block advancing enemy forces. This was very enlightening, as we had always, as a ‘lay ‘audience, assumed that trench warfare was the sole remit of mainland European combatants.

Clive completed his image selection with a very interesting range of contemporary images from 1914 of troops in their billets. A strong section was presented on quartering troops under way in Witham and the various early training exercises undertaken in the hinterland of the town.

A refreshing story was told, that made the war in Europe a very local affair. We enjoyed it immensely.

In summary:


The band played on…a perfect backdrop to the activities…

This was a well planned and executed commemorative event for the people of Chelmsford and the county as a whole.

For the projects presented in Hylands House, the talks organised in the Pavilion, as well as the activities in the Park – all created some interest for every visitor.

We understand that nearly a thousand people entered Hylands House to engage with projects and that sixty visitors stayed on for the final talk of the day from Ivor Dallinger on the Stowe Maries Great War Aerodrome.

A great day in the last, lingering days of summer. Thank you.

Images by conversationsEAST, alternative sources as shown




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