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Here Come the Girls: Cataloguing the King Edward VI High School for Girls archive

In our October blog we mentioned that we’d soon have our hands on a new archive cataloguing system called Epexio. We’re happy to say that Santa (aka a company called Metadatis) delivered this present in time for Christmas! The Excel catalogues that Charlotte and I have worked on for the King Edward’s School, Aston and Balaam Wood collections have been imported into Epexio and are now accessible for anyone to search here: https://kevi.epexio.com/. It looks a bit bare as we’re still working on getting the Foundation branding and photos applied to it, but all the information is there. Having never used Epexio before, we’ve spent some time getting to grips with it and so far, we are happy with how it works. However, we’d love to hear some other opinions, so why not have a go at searching and browsing the collections and let us know what you think?

With catalogues for two boys’ school collections complete, we decided to do two girls’ school collections next to keep it balanced. Charlotte is now cataloguing King Edward VI Camp Hill School for Girls whilst I’m working on King Edward VI High School for Girls, which were both opened in 1883 and so are two of the oldest girls’ secondary schools  in Birmingham. We’ll be cataloguing these to the same structure we created for King Edward’s School where possible, to ensure consistency across all the collections.

We came across an unusual item where we’d least expect it earlier this month; in the ‘Administration’ series of records. Amongst the monochrome minutes and reports we found a selection of fabric samples for curtains and reupholstering chairs from Elizabeth Bretherton Design Ltd, which up until last year was still running from a premise in Harborne. They were tucked amongst papers of the Staff Amenities Committee and the patterns were used in the refurbishment of the staff room in 1993.

1 Staff Amenities Committee file featuring fabric samples from Elizabeth Bretherton Design Ltd, 1993, ref  KEHS/A/3/1.

A more typical document in the ‘Administration’ series are staff registers, and we recently used the earliest KEHS staff register for an enquiry from The Greyfriars, a National Trust property. They wanted to create an information panel about Florence Elsie Moore (1900-1985), who was a Worcestershire-based artist listed as an Assistant Teacher at KEHS in the 1921 census. Sure enough, she was in the staff register from 1917 - 1922, which also told us that she’d been a KEHS student until 1917, meaning she went straight from being a KEHS student to being employed by the school as an assistant to the Art Mistress.

For anyone interested in Moore’s career, this article provides a good overview. The staff register is also an interesting document for those interested in the salaries of women in the early 20th century. For example, the salary of the KEHS Head Mistress in 1921 was, in today’s money, about £50,000 less than that of the KES Chief Master.

2 Extract from Moore's entry in the staff register, ref KEHS/A/6/2/1

Something else that caught our eye was this striped airmail envelope. Inside was a letter from a 13-year-old KEHS student in 1969 to a potential new pen pal in Brazil. She talks about her family, neighbours, a bit about school and the upcoming investiture of the Prince of Wales (now King Charles III). As the letter was returned to England, it seems that the pen pal didn’t receive it. There are notes on the reverse which may explain why it wasn’t delivered, but they’re in Portuguese (if there are any Portuguese speakers reading this do get in touch if you’d like to have a go at transcribing/translating!)

3 Airmail envelope which has been all the way to Brazil and back!  Ref KES/K/BAR (address redacted for Data Protections)

As we are an archive that continues to collect records, cataloguing can seem like a never-ending task. Just when I thought I’d finished listing the KEHS records, an Alumni Relations Officer brought us a bag of records collected by Jean Lowe [nee Shakespeare], a KEHS student 1938-1945. This included scrapbooks of political cartoons originally published in various countries around the world relating to World War Two. Some, if not all, were taken from the K-H News-Letter Supplement, published by Stephen King-Hall, London. These aren’t specific to KEHS of course, but interesting all the same and we’re always happy to receive new deposits of records from former students and staff.

We’re now working on renumbering and repackaging the KEHS records, and they should be available to search on Epexio shortly.

Page 4 from a WW2 cartoon scrapbook, 1939, ref KES/C/4/SHA