Archives and History News: October 2014

On Thursday 30th October you can come to the Natural History Museum and hear me give a talk on Piltdown man – the greatest scientific hoax in history! In 1912 scientists at the Natural History Museum discovered Piltdown Man, the supposed missing evolutionary link between apes and humans. Forty years later the remains were found to be fake. Delve into the archives to uncover what really happened and decide who you think is the fraudster in this unsolved mystery…

This is part of the Halloween-themed trick or treat night safari of the museum. It should be a great night if you like to geek out about science and the natural world!

And there’s more science in the archives this month. American scientists have unearthed polar satellite images from the 1960s. These contain invaluable evidence of climatic patterns. Unfortunately they weren’t exactly in a useable format, and converting the data from long rolls of film into digital images was a rather long and expensive job. More proof that we really ought to think about the long-term viability of our digital data.

Satellite images of the Antarctic from the 1960s

The New York Times has released on online archive of vintage print advertising from the 1960s, and is crowd-sourcing information about them. I love historic advertising: it tells us so much about the aspirations and insecurities of people in the past, society’s expectations and attitudes. More than almost any other medium, it provides a startling record of social change.

They don’t make them this this anymore…

Napoleon’s been in the news – his extraordinary marriage deed to Josephine was bought at auction this month for a whopping 437,500 euros. And, apparently, a incorrectly drawn map may have hastened his defeat at Waterloo. It may help to explain why the Emperor appeared lost on the battlefield, and why his cannons were not aimed at the right place. A map, a map, my Kingdom for a map!!

And finally, here’s a fascinating listicle describing how forensic science and murder investigations have developed in response to different murder cases, mainly 19th century. This includes an awesomely weird where a hypnotist apparently used his skills to persuade his lover to assist him in a murder. Psychologists were called in to debate the concept of diminished responsibility.

Freud looks stern – he’s not sure he really believes you can hypnotise people into committing murder…

La Rentre: Ten books about the Victorians

We’re now well and truly into September, the nights are drawing in and it’s starting to feel a little autumnal. As the French would say, it’s la rentree – that time of year forever associated with going back to school after the holidays.

So why not make the most of that back-to-school feeling by brushing up on your knowledge? Here are ten wonderful books about the Victorians, to ease you back in to historical studies! Continue reading

Archives and History News: beetles, beer and black heritage!

The dress that actress Ellen Terry wore to play Lady MacBeth at the Lyceum theatre in 1888, has been restored by the National Trust. The dress was covered in the wings of iridescent green beetles. It’s horribly fascinating and suitably gothic!  Here she is, her famous performance and dress immortalized in fine Pre-Raphaelite style by John Singer Sergant. You can see the original at Tate Britain.

Ellen Terry as Lady MacBeth

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Archives and History News: First World War commemorations and child abuse cover-ups in the archives

Of all the First World War commemorations happening at the moment, this is the loveliest: a sea of 888,246 ceramic poppies, one for every British soldier killed in the conflict, pouring of of the Tower of London.

Commemorative art installation ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’

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Happy one-year blogoversary to me!

Today marks one year since I started this blog!

Happy birthday to katetyte.com!

Thanks to everyone who’s been following my ‘rather peculiar blog’, in the words of one reader.

In case you missed them, here are my ‘greatest hits’ from the past year:

Mysteries of the Mind 1: Mesmer’s Miraculous Magnetism

Animal Magnetism

Mysteries of the Mind 2: Mesmerism Mania in Britain – hundreds of people have read these posts. I suppose that’s because mesmerism is really wierd and fascinating!

Heroes of History: Grace Darling – this post is read by about a hundred people a month – I suspect they’re all GCSE students doing their research. I hope they get a good mark!!!

Image from the RNLI museum

How to Get Admitted to a Victorian Lunatic Asylum – again it’s the darker side of history that people love, and this was my chance to set the record straight on all those myths about asylums.

V0029708 Photograph: portraits of three female

Enjoy!

Archives and History News: Glastonbury Festival, women in the First World War, and sound recordings!

Glastonbury festival has gradually moved from from hippy counter-culture to mainstream middle-class staple. The V&A now keeps an archive about Glastonbury, the final nail in the counter-culture coffin. Glastonbury is dead. Long live Glastonbury!

An image from the V&A’s Glastonbury archive

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Heroes of History: Thomas Wakley

Have you ever gone to hospital for an operation and wondered whether your surgeon had any kind of training? Ever wondered whether your baby’s food is poisonous? Ever wondered whether coroners actually know anything about the causes of the causes of death, or whether they just make something up? No?? Say thank you to Thomas Wakley – boxer, surgeon, editor, coroner, MP, and one of the nineteenth century’s greatest heroes!!  Continue reading