Find out first-hand what our volunteers have been up to over the last few weeks on our building recording project with Museum of Liverpool. Sharon Matthews explains all…
Do you remember the TV programme ‘Time Team’ hosted by Tony Robinson? Well I do, and I was always fascinated by what the time team got up to and what was found during the dig. I’m also interested in how old buildings can be regenerated and given new life with a new use. So volunteering at Lister Steps was a great fit for my interests, while being ‘in between jobs’.
I signed up to be a volunteer to help record the building before any of the changes start happening and was invited to an afternoon session to hear all about the Old Library and the Lister Steps project. Our first day was on 11th September, there were four of us volunteers and we were introduced to the archaeology team from the Museum of Liverpool. They showed us one of the walls that needed recording, and to my surprise it a wall full of graffiti! It was explained that archaeology wasn’t just about what’s under the ground, but also above. In fact archaeologists are interested in anything that’s historical, social and culturally significant.
Using a scale of 1:20 we were shown the painstaking method of measuring and recording on graph paper the multiple layers of graffiti we could see on the wall. It’s the same method that’s used during an archaeological dig. Even though it was only graffiti, I felt a bit of pressure to be as accurate as possible, as I knew this was going to be a historical record. It took me and my partner Ellen 4 hours to record the large white piece of graffiti.
On 15th September, I attended Lister Steps' first Heritage Open Day event. Vanessa, who is one of the archaeologists, explained some of the artefacts that had been found in dig sites around the Liverpool area. She wanted to show the visitors what might be found during the dig that will be taking place at the library next year...Time Team here I come! It was lovely to meet some of the visitors who were sharing their memories of the Old Library.
My final day of volunteering was on Wednesday 19th September. This is when I got an extra chance to glimpse into the life of an archaeologist. We were shown software that they use to turn the scaled pencil drawing into a digitised image which is then used to put into a project catalogue at the end. Clare, from the Museum of Liverpool, did all the technical stuff for me and I just did the nice bit, digitally drawing over the original work. This image shows what I did on the day, but it still needs the other layers adding, and it was undecided whether to change the colours to make them more representative of the actual colours.
So, what did I get out of my volunteering experience? I got to meet new people; I got to find out more about the project (it’s so much better being involved); I got to learn new skills and brush up on my maths; I got an insight into the work of an archaeologist...and although it was too early for the ‘Time Team’ experience, I’m certainly looking forward to the dig next year.
I’d encourage anyone interested to get involved, Olivia and her team are very welcoming.
On Saturday 15th September, we ran our first ever Heritage Open Days event, linking into a national network of heritage sites and organisations who opened their doors to visitors for free across two weeks in September.
Visitors were able to look around the grounds of The Old Library and get up close to the building with our Conservation Architect Alan Gardner, who gave some really interesting talks about the history of the building and its key architectural features. We then encouraged people to follow our blue chalk arrows round the corner to Lister Steps nursery where we were joined by some of the teams helping us throughout the project.
Our design team from OMI Architects talked people through the plans for the building and created an interactive ‘fly-through’ of the interior, giving visitors an idea of how the finished building might look.
Periscope CIC, who are helping to document and film the project as it progresses, were on hand to talk about our community journalism training programme next year and showed off some of the work they’ve produced on similar projects.
The community archaeology team from the Museum of Liverpool and our building recording volunteers revealed the multiple layers of graffiti they recorded on the building last week and got hands on with some finds from previous archaeological digs; this gave visitors a flavour of what we could find when we run our own dig in the grounds of The Old Library next year!
Overall, we had 185 visitors throughout the day which is an amazing turnout. Lots of people signed up to hear more about our upcoming volunteering opportunities and added their fond memories to our Memory Line (we’ll share some of these soon). Everyone was so supportive of the project and it was really encouraging to hear that so many people are looking forward to using the building once again. Thank you to everyone who came along, especially our volunteers Azuka & Andrew, who were on hand to welcome people at the library, and Anthony who was busy snapping photographs throughout the day.
We’re hoping this is the first of many successful Heritage Open Days events for The Old Library!
This week we’ve been at hard work at The Old Library getting the grounds ready for our upcoming activities and events. With our archaeology volunteers and the Museum of Liverpool team on site soon to carry out external building recording, we needed to make sure they could access the outside of the building. We also wanted to make everything is safe for visitors to our Heritage Open Day event where our design team will be running guided tours around the grounds.
After 12 years with no gardener, the grounds were very overgrown so we had our work cut out. Luckily we enlisted the help of our amazing volunteers, some of whom do similar work in Newsham Park on a regular basis, and they joined us for a walk-around where we came up our plan of attack. Then earlier this week, Don, Denise, Vinny, Karen, Mark & Laura arrived armed with shovels, loppers, wheelbarrows, litter-pickers, rakes and elbow grease to get stuck in.
It took a full day and a half but by the end the sun came out and we had managed to clear some good spaces round the front and back of the building by strimming weeds & cutting down bushes. We also showed The Old Library some love after clearing the drive and picking up at least 15 bags of litter!
It was a fab team effort and we are so thankful for the help of our volunteers, we simply couldn’t have done it without them. If you’d like to come along and admire their efforts, our Heritage Open Day event will run on Saturday 15th September from 10am to 3pm!
Over the last few weeks, the children from our Lister Steps summer Play Scheme have been helping to create content for a time capsule display. The idea is that we can use what they’ve produced as part of our heritage interpretation in The Old Library once the building is finished, showing what life is like for children today compared to back in 1905 when the library first opened.
The children have drawn self portraits and made lists of their favourite foods, places & things to do, as well as making collages of the kind of toys they like to play with. They also looked at postcards from 1900 which were produced for the World Exhibition in Paris and displayed the artists’ predictions of what the world would be like in 2000. Although some were quite far off the mark, such as underwater whale buses and flying postmen, others have become a reality including machines that can sweep the floor (vacuum cleaners) and houses on wheels (caravans) . The children then created their own predictions of the future which included some equally outlandish and also perceptive ideas, ranging from jelly trampolines and flying armchairs to no more homelessness and sustainable energy.
Thank you to the children for helping out with The Old Library project and hopefully we can keep adding to our time capsule content over the next 18 months.
One of our partner organisations, Placed, invited us to get involved with their pop-up event ‘Ed’s Place’ this September. Over four weeks, Placed will be based in the old George Henry Lee building to provide a creative space for people, decision makers and developers to come together and share ideas about how our city centre can be a better place for everyone. There will be a programme of workshops, events and exhibitions focused on thinking about how Liverpool city centre could be reimagined and revived, including future uses for empty shops and greener outdoor spaces.
Last night we went along to a workshop with Placed & the University of Liverpool to get the ball rolling on some of these ideas. We were joined by others who have worked on regeneration and community projects across the city, such as Welsh Streets and Homebaked, to start coming up with some ideas for a new vision for our city centre. During the discussion, Atul Bansal illustrated these suggestions to create a visual map from Bold Street down to Derby Square, which will be on display in Ed’s Place once it opens to get people talking and thinking about possibilities for the future. It was a great evening and we were really pleased to be part of the conversation about how regeneration can have a positive impact for people living and working in the local area.
Ed’s Place will be open from Thursday 28th August until Sunday 23rd September and you can find out more on the Placed website. We’ll be helping out at the George Henry Lee building for a few days and possibly running our own workshop so watch this space for more news and make sure you come down to have your say on the future of our city.
Last week, Olivia visited the Archaeology team from the Museum of Liverpool on site at their exciting archaeological dig, undertaken as part of the ‘Galkoff’s and the Secrets of Pembroke Place’ project. In partnership with Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, they have been excavating the cellars of two demolished court houses, now located underneath a car park on Oakes Street. Court houses were typical homes for the working class in the mid 19th century and Pembroke Place is the location of the last surviving buildings of this kind in Liverpool. During the dig, the team have found everything from shoes, beer bottles, pottery, a soap dish and dominoes made from bone and it was amazing to see how much survived in such a small area. As part of the project, the iconic green tiles that formed the outside of Galkoff’s butcher’s shop have also been removed and will be displayed at the Museum of Liverpool in a special exhibition in October. For more information about the project, check out their website: http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/mol/galkoff/
Vanessa Oakden, Curator of Community Archaeology at Museum of Liverpool, was working on-site and it was a good opportunity to catch up about the archaeological test-pitting that we’ll be carrying out around The Old Library next year. From looking at historic maps, it seems that the land on which the library was built used to be fields, although that’s hard to imagine now! This means we might not find the same kind of items as in a built-up, urban environment but we will be recruiting volunteers later in the year to carry out research into the Tuebrook area, which we hope will give us some clues about where to dig and what we might find. Keep an eye on our volunteering page for more details about this exciting project.
The Museum of Liverpool will be using the research they’ve carried out and the finds from their excavation to build up a better picture of what life used to be like in Pembroke Place. We hope to do the same for our local area and will be working with the community to display what we find inside The Old Library when it re-opens, helping people to learn more about our heritage and preserve it for future generations.
We had a great turn-out for our project re-launch event this week with around 70 guests from the local community and our partner organisations turning up to hear about our plans for The Old Library.
Vanessa Oakden, Curator of Community Archaeology at the Museum of Liverpool, and Jo Harrop from Placed talked about some of the activities we’ll be running over the next 12 months. Vanessa will be leading our archaeology activities which include recording the historic features of the building, a social history research project that will contribute to our heritage interpretation inside the building and help to determine the location for our final project – a community archaeological dig in the grounds of The Old Library. We’ll need lots of volunteers to help out and the Museum of Liverpool team will be providing training so keep an eye on our Volunteering page for how you can get involved.
Jo from Placed talked about the workshops for young people that we’ll be running with local schools next year. Through hands-on activities such as site analysis, design-drawing and model making, students get a taste of real world challenges for architects, designers and engineers working in the world of heritage regeneration. Placed will also be running a five day summer school in 2019 for 13-17 year olds focusing on historic libraries across Liverpool and how these can be regenerated for future use, raising aspirations and awareness of opportunities for careers in architecture, planning, heritage and the built environment. We’re really keen for young people from the local area to take part in these inspiring projects so look out for these exciting opportunities early next year.
Then it was over to the design team. Nick Berry from OMI Architects gave us a brief history of The Old Library and why it’s so important to bring the building back to life before handing over to Alan Gardner from Arcadis who is leading on the conservation elements of the project. Alan explained how we will be restoring some parts of the building and creating new interventions in others, making the best use of our budget and ensuring that the new spaces are fit for both our childcare and community services. Nick then gave us a detailed overview of the thinking behind the new plans, particularly in terms of how we can create a safe, private space for our childcare facilities whilst also making a welcoming and open area for the public side of the building that will be used by our local community.
By creating a ‘secure line’ through the building, our design team have overcome these challenges and Nick went through our plans for each floor of the building which include a new extension on the south front (with a green tiled facade to match those that survive inside the building), a fire escape that doubles up a children’s slide and new doors and windows on all sides, opening the building up to the re-landscaped grounds and providing opportunities for outdoor play. We will be putting in a lift and creating equal access so that everyone can enjoy the building’s impressive original entrance hall which will house our heritage interpretation displays. We will have a café in the centre of the building which can flow out onto the new outdoor terrace and lots of flexible space throughout including a hall for events and community activities, work stations, offices for tenants and a meeting room in The Old Library’s iconic turret.
Work is due to start on-site early next year and the build should take around 12 months so The Old Library will be fully open in 2020. We were really pleased to receive such positive feedback on the plans which we’ve been working on for so long and it was lovely to catch up with some longstanding supporters, as well as meeting new members of our local community who are keen to get involved. Thank you to everyone who came along and for the generous donations we received on the night.
Over the next few months, we’ll be going out to tender for the contractors who are going to make these plans a reality, recruiting new volunteers and organising our next community activities. Keep an eye on our Volunteering page and Events & Activities page to see what’s going on or join our mailing list to receive monthly project updates.
As always, thanks for your continued support for The Old Library project.
Gaynor and Olivia attended Locality’s ‘Power of Community’ event last week, hosted by Safe Regeneration in Bootle. Locality provides support for community organisations and has built a national network of members so it was good opportunity to catch up with other groups based in the North West. Locality are also running a ‘Save our Spaces’ campaign to protect publicly owned places, such as libraries, parks and town halls, from being sold off for private use so it was very fitting that Gaynor was invited to speak about The Old Library project in the afternoon. It was a great chance to share our plans for the building as well as some ‘top tips’ for others embarking on similar projects and we were encouraged to receive such good feedback from other members.
We also loved learning more about the work of Safe Regeneration and their exciting plans for the future. CEO Brian Dawe gave us an overview of how this social enterprise has developed into a thriving centre for innovation, arts and the environment. They have not only created a positive change for their local community in Bootle but now work with community organisations across Europe to encourage neighbourhood regeneration.
Based on the Liverpool-Leeds canal, we enjoyed a tour of the Safe Regeneration hub and the land surrounding it, complete with chickens, a micro-brewery and community pub! With amazing plans for the future including building affordable housing, a hotel, a canoe club and sourcing geo-thermal energy to sustain it all, we were so inspired by the impact they have made on their local area and the opportunities created for the people living around them. We’re looking forward to supporting Safe Regeneration’s ongoing projects and continuing to learn from this fantastic community organisation.
Last week, we were visited by Oriel Prizeman who is a RIBA accredited specialist conservation architect from Cardiff University with a doctorate from the University of Cambridge in the environmental history of architecture. Oriel also has a keen academic interest in Carnegie libraries and is leading an international project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council looking into how these buildings are being re-imagined for future use across Britain and America. Oriel had previously carried out some 3D laser surveys of The Old Library and it was great to have her back on site to hear about her work; she’s currently travelling around photographing all the Carnegie libraries in the UK, over 600 of them! She’s offered to help us link into a network of organisations who are transforming Carnegie libraries to help local communities so we’re looking forward hopefully to visiting some other sites in the future. Take a look at some of the photos Oriel took for us.