Student Experience – Kevin

Over the course of the Historic England Project, we have been able to offer placements to some of the undergraduates in the Department of Archaeology at Liverpool University. The aim was to give the students an opportunity to work in a museum environment; a chance for them try their hand at the sort of tasks a museum curator might be expected to undertake on a day-to-day basis. This could be anything from re-bagging or boxing objects, to cataloguing and photography.

We thought it might be quite nice to let our students tell you, in their own words, what they thought of their time with the Archive.  The first student up is Kevin …

During my time with the Pipe Archive at Liverpool University I’ve learnt valuable skills within a professional setting. Working in a museum setting has always been a professional goal of mine, whilst here I’ve learnt more about the meticulous approach needed to succeed in such a field and feel more focused than ever to reach my goal.

In the Pipe Archive I’ve experienced the development of important databases, the archiving of large collections and the art behind photography. My favourite part of the experience was the photography, the art behind creating the perfect photo that captures everything important about the item in one sitting was a learning curve for me but one that I enjoyed attempting.

My item was a pipe, which had a hand wrapped around the bowl, it was nothing eccentric or special especially when compared to some of the French made pipes in the collection, but its odd shape and peculiar details made it a challenge to photograph. I had to move the object a number of times and there was a lot of trial and error on the lighting to find the perfect balance with the contrast.It was also important to make sure all elements of the pipe were on display and looked natural. Not only did this exercise help me learn a lot about photography itself, but it made me appreciate the craftsmanship behind the pipe itself – something I wouldn’t have thought about before my time here.

Clay pipe in the form of a hand holding an egg. This has a meerschaum wash and was made by Charles Crop of London (Green Collection LIVNP 1999.01)

Another challenging piece was a glass ash tray. In certain light it changed colour and during photography some parts became transparent. With so many points of light it was a huge test to photograph and present exactly what it was. This piece is so peculiar, but crafted so well.

Green glass ash-tray from the Cole Collection (LIVNP 2014.03)

I’m much more confident in my ability to work in a professional setting like this in the future. Working alongside the Curator, Susie White, who has an enormous passion for her work, has encouraged me to do the same.While pipes may not be my own personal passion I can now appreciate the skills and craftsmanship behind these pieces, their significance in understanding the past and just how important the Pipe Archive is in achieving this.”

Have you missed us?

If it is not too late – Happy New Year!  We’ve been a bit quiet on here lately and you may have thought we were not up to much, but things have been very busy.  Back in November the Archive was invited by the Académie Internationale de la Pipe to give a paper at their conference, which was being held in Japan at the Tobacco and Salt Museum in Tokyo. This was the perfect opportunity, and setting, for us to present a report on how  the Historic England project that we have been working on has been progressing, and to highlight some of the Archive’s collections.

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Members of the Archive giving an update on the Historic England Project (Photo. B. van der Lingen).

The whole smoking culture in Japan is very different from here.  The pipes look completely different – called Kiseru – and the tobacco is also very different, being incredibly finely shredded.

As part of the conference we were very lucky to have been given the opportunity to visit a traditional kiseru maker in Tsubame.

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Last traditional Kiseru maker with a show pipe outside his workshop in Tsubame, Japan (Photo D. Higgins).

He makes his pipes out of metal.  The basic pattern is cut out of metal and then the maker painstakingly hammers them into shape.  In order to help us understand the process he had a series of different stages of the process laid out for us.  Gradually the pipe emerges from a flat piece of metal into a full formed pipe.

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Different stages of making a metal kiseru – from a flat cut out to a finished pipe. (Photo S. White).

The whole process is far too time consuming for him to show us the production of a pipe from start to finish during the short time we had with him, but he did allow us to film him at work (see the video below).  This gave a chance to get a feel for how it was done.

Video of a Tsubame kiseru maker.

Some Kiseru are made completely out of metal, but others have a metal bowl and metal mouthpiece section, with a simple bamboo stem in between.  We have two such examples in the Archive’s collection.

The first example is from the Cole Collection (LIVNP 2014.03.099).  This pipe has not been hand crafted as the examples we saw in Tsubame, but has been cast.  Both the bowl and the mouthpiece have intertwined animals.  The stem is made of bamboo.

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The second example is from the Orlik Collection (LIVNP 2016.13.01). This pipe also has a bamboo stem and but this time the bowl and mouthpiece are made of silver, which has been engraved with flowers.

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Since we have been back we have been working hard on the Archive website; putting up lots more pages with even more pipe information.  There is still more to come and now we are back, regular posts will resume.

Pipes from the Thames, 10 years on!

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Part of the Jarzembowski Collection (LIVNP 2005.24).

This week’s blog entry is a combination of an update on the current Historic England project on one hand, and a nostalgic look back at an ongoing project,  the Jarzemboswki Collection (LIVNP 2005.24), on the other.

Back in 2005, thanks to support from the Worshipful Company of Tobacco Pipe Makers and Tobacco Blenders, the Archive was able to acquire a very substantial collection of clay tobacco pipes from Ed Jarzembowsk and his wife. The vast majority of the fragments had been collected by the couple from the Thames Foreshore from around Blackfriars and Queenhithe, but it also included a large of fragments from Salisbury that were collected following dredging work on the River Avon.

When the pipes came to us each individual pipe had been placed in a paper envelope on which Ed and his wife had painstakingly recorded where the fragment had been found, the date it had been found and any mark that was on it. Not only that, but they had also attempted to identify the maker from that mark, which more often than not was a moulded mark. These envelopes were then placed into a large number of lettuce boxes. This storage system worked fine until it came to transporting it half way across the country to Liverpool. By the time the pipes had reached Liverpool, most of them had jumped out of their envelopes. It was only thanks to the Jarzembowskis’ excellent record keeping that we were able to get the fragments back in to their correct envelope!

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One of the many lettuce boxes of pipes.

Clearly priority had to be given to getting these fragments properly marked and bagged. Therefore, this was our first mammoth task and in 2006 the first of a long line of volunteers set about marking, bagging and cataloguing a collection with an estimated 10,000 fragments.

Our position within a university environment enables us to offer training and research opportunities for students from the departments of archaeology, history and archives. Since the NPA employs a comprehensive cataloguing and indexing system that conforms to Museum Documentation Association standards, we are able to provide training for students who wish to seek future employment with the museum and heritage sector.  Large collections, such as the Jarzemboswki’s mean there is plenty of material for them to get their teeth into.  It’s a win-win situation – they get the training and we get some much needed help.

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Our 2006 volunteers hard at work in our old workroom.

Each fragment within the collection has been given a unique accession number and has been carefully bagged.  All of the fragments with stamp marks have been impressed for inclusion in the National Clay Tobacco Pipe Stamp Index, which is another very important project that the Archive is associated with – but that is a whole other story!

Once marked with their accession number and, having had any stamped mark recorded, the full details of that fragment including details of any attribution Ed and his wife were able to make, were logged onto an Excel table.  This table is both sortable and searchable.  Great progress was made during the initial push from our volunteers who managed to fully catalogue over 6,000 of the estimated 10,000 fragments.  We are very pleased to say that many of those initial volunteers have gone on to pursue careers in the museum sector and we like to think that their time spent with the Archive has helped them on their way. Last week, a new set of volunteers started working with us. 

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Our 2016 volunteers in our posh new labs – well, sadly not really our labs, but we get to use them!

These new volunteers are working on a number of our collections, one of them being the Jarzembowski Collection and it is hoped that this last push will see the catalogue of this group of pipes finally completed.  At that point we’ll be able to upload the catalogue to our website so that it is fully available for researchers.  Yes it has taken nearly 10 years – but sometime things are worth waiting for!

Cash will buy you a pipe!

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Selection of publications from the Cole Collection (LIVNP 2014.03)

It is all happening in the Archive today!  Not one, but two volunteers are now beavering away to try and get more of the Archive’s collections available to the wider world.  Today was the first day for our latest recruit, Diana, who started working on the Jacques Cole Collection (LIVNP 2014.03).

Jacques was a briar pipe man and his donation provides the Archive with a valuable resource for the study and understanding of the briar pipe industry in both Britain and France.  The collection includes briar pipes from the likes of Charatan, Comoys, Ropp, and Lecroix, to name but a few, as well as smoking ephemera – such as ashtrays, lighters, snuff bottles, tobacco pouches and tobacco jars.

The element of the collection that Diana is working through at the moment, however, is the paper archive which includes a small library of pipe and smoking related publications, but also a large collection of correspondence relating to Jacques’ life as editor of the magazine Tobacco, and the newsletter Pipeline.

This is certainly going to keep us all busy for some time to come as the entire collection comprises some 34 boxes of material.  However, one gem from the collection stood out today, which is the source of today’s blog post.  Jacques had a note book in which he started to record useful pipe-related terminology – a sort of glossary – and this included an interesting take on his definition of “cash” and a “cheque” from the perspective of a pipe collector!

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Extract from one of Cole’s notebooks.

You can find out more about the Jacques Cole Collection on our website (http://www.pipearchive.co.uk/briar/cole.html).  We will keep you posted on progress as we slowly work our way through the cataloguing of this and other collections, so don’t forget to follow this blog in order to receive notifications of our updates.

Scanning the day away! A view from the trenches…

dan_scanningHello there! My name is Daniel. I am an Etruscan archaeologist. Yet, on Wednesday of every week I work at the National Pipe Archive digitising all sorts of pipe related documentation. I have, so far, scanned my way through a small sample of David Atkinson’s notebooks (those discussed below) and A through to F of Adrian Oswald’s pipe makers mark index (more coming soon). The collections of the National Pipe Archive to be digitised are as varied as they are vast. I certainly have a lot to be getting on with…

At the outset I envisioned I was in for a tedious (although undoubtedly worthwhile) task. Yet, as I progressed it became more and more difficult not to become engrossed in the material I was scanning. Surprisingly, the task was more absorbing than tedious. The character and charm of every document (be it notes, correspondence, or drawings) emerges from their meticulous detail and careful arrangement. I am consistently impressed by the level of thought, commitment, and time expended by their authors to create such useful resources.

The scanning can be a challenge (in more ways than one) but it is gratifying to be a part of the project that aims to facilitate improved access to so impressive an archive. The knowledge of the archive is now not only being more efficiently preserved, but also more efficiently opened to those who would put such knowledge to good use. I think those who so thoroughly devoted themselves to their study of pipes would be immensely gratified to see their work shared so widely. To see it continue to make an impact. To see it function as a key component of the National Pipe Archive. To see it digitised.

The scanning is absorbing because each scanned item more easily shares another amazing resource.

I best get back to work…