Suburban Birmingham: spaces and places: 1880-1960

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: Languages Cultures Art History & Music

Abstract

Suburban Birmingham: spaces and places: 1880-1960' is a research project led by University of Birmingham academics working in partnership with curators from Birmingham Museum and Art Galleries, and archivists and librarians from Birmingham Libraries and Archives, and University of Birmingham Special Collections. Together, the team will use the partner institutions' extensive collections of documents, images, and artefacts to research and recount the history of Birmingham's suburbs. As its title suggests, the project will focus on the suburban spaces in which increasingly large numbers of Birmingham's inhabitants worked, rested, and played from the late-nineteenth century onwards. The researchers will explore how public spaces (e.g. streets, squares, lidos, parks, meeting halls), semi-public spaces (e.g. pubs, clubs, music halls, shops, cafés, allotments, places of worship), and private spaces (homes and gardens) were built, used, thought about, and represented over an 80 year period of great social, economic, political and cultural change. At the end of the two and a half year project, the team will make available to the public a new interactive website that will include a VODcast documentary film, articles about the history of Birmingham's suburbs, and 300 images of historical documents, paintings, photographs, maps, and artefacts. This innovative website will also be accessible in the new displays about the history of suburban Birmingham that will be opened to the public at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, and at the University of Birmingham Special Collection's exhibition space. Birmingham Central Library will also host a new display that will, in due course, tour the city's Community Libraries. To mark the launch of the website and displays, University of Birmingham will hold a Day School for members of the public interested in learning more about the history of Birmingham's suburban spaces and places. It is hoped that the new website, displays, and the Day chool will provoke public interest in, and further scholarly research on, the historical significance of the extensive, and previously under-studied, suburbs of Britain's second city.

The project's research will be conducted by two teams. Each team will have one member from Birmingham Museum and Art Galleries, one from Birmingham Libraries and Archives, and one from University of Birmingham Special Collections - all working closely with University of Birmingham historians. The partner institutions have extensive experience of working on AHRC-funded collaborative research together: University of Birmingham and Birmingham Libraries and Archives ran the 'Connecting Histories' project and continue to work on 'Birmingham Stories' (www.connectinghistories.org.uk); University of Birmingham and Birmingham Museums and Art Galleries run 3 collaborative PhDs together, and University of Birmingham and Birmingham Libraries and Archives have applied for 6 more; all three institutions have been partners in a series of workshops held as part of their collective preparations to mark together the bicentenary of 'The Father of Birmingham', Matthew Boulton, in 2009. However, 'Suburban Birmingham: spaces and places' will be the first time that AHRC funding has afforded curators, archivists and librarians much more time to focus on research than their work schedules usually allow. This is important because such staff are enormously knowledgeable about Birmingham's history and the city's collections in which that history is recorded. The project will enable curators, archivists, and librarians to share their knowledge with one another, to develop it through research, and to communicate the results in innovative ways to the public of Birmingham and beyond. In the process, the partners' ability to produce outstanding research by working together will be further improved, boding well for the future of history in Birmingham.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Title The Birmingham History Galleries 
Description At the end of the first year of the Suburban Birmingham project, the designs for the new £10m HLF-funded Birmingham History Galleries (opened October 2012) were redrawn to accommodate the research findings of curators who were 'fellows' on the project, specifically by creating more space dedicated to the history of the suburbs. As part of its Community Engagement strategy, BMAG also conducted additional research in 2012 to complement the work of the Suburban Birmingham project - commissioning 4 oral history interviews with elder residents of the areas studied by the project and feeding in to the new galleries display. Figures show that an average of 515 people visit the galleries each weekday. BMT, LoB and the University of Birmingham's Cadburys Research Library all installed in their display spaces a multi-user, multi-touch interactive whose content was based on the research conducted by the original project and that was also available on the project website. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2012 
Impact The project's research was used by Birmingham Museums Trust (BMT - previously known as Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery or BMAG) to inform the development of their new, HLF-funded, £10m 'Birmingham History Galleries' that opened in October 2012. That gallery was redesigned as a result of this project and the floor space devoted to the histories of Suburban Birmingham was expanded. This project's follow on project, 'Suburban Birmingham: Hands On' produced a multi-user, multi-touch interactive that based on research from the original project and otherwise available via its website (www.suburbanbirmingham.org). This digital output (developed by partners and an SME) was also installed in the display spaces of the new £190m Library of Birmingham (LoB) when it opened in 2013 and in the new Cadburys Research Library (CRL) at the University of Birmingham. All of these collaboratively produced research outputs impacted on the visitor experience of people going to the cultural partners' display spaces. As such, the outputs had clear cultural impact and improved the visitor offer of Birmingham, thereby, having economic impact on the local economy (albeit, it difficult to evidence). Importantly, the process of producing such research-based outputs in collaboration had signficant social impact, shaping the working cultures and pratices of all partner organisations as project partners learned about each others' knowledge, expertise, and collections. As BMT's then interim director noted in 2013, BMAG's Interim Director, Simon Cane, says, 'The project has made a real impact and delivered tangible benefits not least of which is [...] the continuing professional development of partners' staff'. 
URL http://www.suburbanbirmingham.org
 
Description We have developed understanding of the growth of Suburban Birmingham in the late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In particular, we digitised over 200 objects from partner collections, wrote texts for them, and made them accessible via a project website. We also wrote 6 historical and illustrated essays that accessible via the website and downloadable as illustrated PDFs.
Exploitation Route Our website is achieving c.500 unique hits per month since its launch and we expect the findings available there, in the partners' display spaces via a multi-user, multi-touch piece of software, and in BMT's 'Birmingham Histories Galleries' section devoted to the suburbs to shape the research of a wide range of scholars from diverse disciplines who are exploring the history of suburban areas globally. Curators, archivists and librarians with similar interests are likely to also take them forward by using the project's outputs. Furthermore, given that the Suburban Birmingham: Hands On follow on project was an early example of multi-user, multi-touch interfaces being used in public display spaces (and that a scholarly publication reported its development), it is likely that this output will impact on Human Computer Interaction research within HE and on digital creative industries and the cultural sector more broadly.
Sectors Creative Economy,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL http://www.suburbanbirmingham.org.uk/
 
Description The project's research was used by Birmingham Museums Trust (BMT - previously known as Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery or BMAG) to inform the development of their new, HLF-funded, £10m 'Birmingham History Galleries' that opened in October 2012. That gallery was redesigned as a result of this project and the floor space devoted to the histories of Suburban Birmingham was expanded. This project's follow on project, 'Suburban Birmingham: Hands On' produced a multi-user, multi-touch interactive that based on research from the original project and otherwise available via its website (www.suburbanbirmingham.org). This digital output (developed by partners and an SME) was also installed in the display spaces of the new £190m Library of Birmingham (LoB) when it opened in 2013 and in the new Cadburys Research Library (CRL) at the University of Birmingham. All of these collaboratively produced research outputs impacted on the visitor experience of people going to the cultural partners' display spaces. As such, the outputs had clear cultural impact and improved the visitor offer of Birmingham, thereby, having economic impact on the local economy (albeit, it difficult to evidence). Importantly, the process of producing such research-based outputs in collaboration had signficant social impact, shaping the working cultures and pratices of all partner organisations as project partners learned about each others' knowledge, expertise, and collections. As BMT's then interim director noted in 2013, BMAG's Interim Director, Simon Cane, says, 'The project has made a real impact and delivered tangible benefits not least of which is [...] the continuing professional development of partners' staff'.
First Year Of Impact 2010
Sector Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic

 
Description Partnerships emerging from the Suburban Birmingham project 
Organisation Birmingham Museums Trust
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution The Library of Birmingham (LoB) and BMAG (now known at the Birmingham Museums Trust - BMT) were so impressed by the impact of Suburban Birmingham and the follow-on AHRC funded Suburban Birmingham: Hands On upon their staff?s professional development and on audience experiences that they became partners on a £2.4m ERDF project , The Digital Heritage Demonstrator (DHD), led by Clay and Dr Chapman (Department of Archaeology, University of Birmingham) that began in October 2011. As the Interim Director of BMAG has noted, the Suburban Birmingham project has enabled a 'blossoming relationship with UB, not least the ERDF project' (email of 11 March 2013). The committment of LoB and BMT to the ERDF project was born of their engagement with a UB research team lead by Clay. As such, the growing partnership had relied upon experience gained by Clay in working across sectors as PI of the Suburban Birmingham team.
Collaborator Contribution As a result of the engagement of LoB and BMT on the Suburban Birmingham project, they helped to bring the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust (IGMT) and the Worcestershire HIVE archive as partners on the ERDF project mentioned above. All 4 of those partners on the ERDF have have considerable amounts of in kind match in the form of staff time dedicated to the ERDF project. The ERDF project enables academics to work with SMEs and the cultural partners (plus, a wider set of cultural sector collaborators) to produce multi-user, multi-touch, and other kinds of digital solutions (from smartphone and tablet apps to LEAP motion and Occulus Rift), that enrich visitor experiences in the partners' and collaborators' display spaces by enabling intuitive access to collections and interpretative materials. The ERDF project also has offered 35+ business assists to digital SMEs engaging with the cultural sector (including the aforementioned partners) and helped improve understanding across the cultural sector in the West Midlands of the value added by digital engagement and by SMEs.
Impact Outputs: - 35+ business assists to SMEs. Some conducted by a UB art historian (Clay), some by a UB archaeologist (Chapman), some by a UB Human Computer Interaction expert (Dr Chris Creed), some by a UB computer coder (John Sear), some by a UB creative director (Joseph Sivell). - 6 pieces of multi-user, multi-touch software for public display spaces (2 for IGMT, 1 for LoB, 2 for BMT, 1 for the HIVE). The production of these outputs involved the art historian, archaeologist, HCI expert, computer coder, and creative director noted above. Outcomes - social impact on the working practices of all three sectors involved in the ERDF project (SMEs, cultural organisations, academics) - cultural impact on the end users of the various end outputs noted (particularly, the public facing touch table solutions) - econoimic impact on the West Midlands in terms of an enhanced visitor offer for all 4 ERDF cultural partners organisations
Start Year 2011
 
Description Partnerships emerging from the Suburban Birmingham project 
Organisation Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The Library of Birmingham (LoB) and BMAG (now known at the Birmingham Museums Trust - BMT) were so impressed by the impact of Suburban Birmingham and the follow-on AHRC funded Suburban Birmingham: Hands On upon their staff?s professional development and on audience experiences that they became partners on a £2.4m ERDF project , The Digital Heritage Demonstrator (DHD), led by Clay and Dr Chapman (Department of Archaeology, University of Birmingham) that began in October 2011. As the Interim Director of BMAG has noted, the Suburban Birmingham project has enabled a 'blossoming relationship with UB, not least the ERDF project' (email of 11 March 2013). The committment of LoB and BMT to the ERDF project was born of their engagement with a UB research team lead by Clay. As such, the growing partnership had relied upon experience gained by Clay in working across sectors as PI of the Suburban Birmingham team.
Collaborator Contribution As a result of the engagement of LoB and BMT on the Suburban Birmingham project, they helped to bring the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust (IGMT) and the Worcestershire HIVE archive as partners on the ERDF project mentioned above. All 4 of those partners on the ERDF have have considerable amounts of in kind match in the form of staff time dedicated to the ERDF project. The ERDF project enables academics to work with SMEs and the cultural partners (plus, a wider set of cultural sector collaborators) to produce multi-user, multi-touch, and other kinds of digital solutions (from smartphone and tablet apps to LEAP motion and Occulus Rift), that enrich visitor experiences in the partners' and collaborators' display spaces by enabling intuitive access to collections and interpretative materials. The ERDF project also has offered 35+ business assists to digital SMEs engaging with the cultural sector (including the aforementioned partners) and helped improve understanding across the cultural sector in the West Midlands of the value added by digital engagement and by SMEs.
Impact Outputs: - 35+ business assists to SMEs. Some conducted by a UB art historian (Clay), some by a UB archaeologist (Chapman), some by a UB Human Computer Interaction expert (Dr Chris Creed), some by a UB computer coder (John Sear), some by a UB creative director (Joseph Sivell). - 6 pieces of multi-user, multi-touch software for public display spaces (2 for IGMT, 1 for LoB, 2 for BMT, 1 for the HIVE). The production of these outputs involved the art historian, archaeologist, HCI expert, computer coder, and creative director noted above. Outcomes - social impact on the working practices of all three sectors involved in the ERDF project (SMEs, cultural organisations, academics) - cultural impact on the end users of the various end outputs noted (particularly, the public facing touch table solutions) - econoimic impact on the West Midlands in terms of an enhanced visitor offer for all 4 ERDF cultural partners organisations
Start Year 2011
 
Description Partnerships emerging from the Suburban Birmingham project 
Organisation Library of Birmingham
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution The Library of Birmingham (LoB) and BMAG (now known at the Birmingham Museums Trust - BMT) were so impressed by the impact of Suburban Birmingham and the follow-on AHRC funded Suburban Birmingham: Hands On upon their staff?s professional development and on audience experiences that they became partners on a £2.4m ERDF project , The Digital Heritage Demonstrator (DHD), led by Clay and Dr Chapman (Department of Archaeology, University of Birmingham) that began in October 2011. As the Interim Director of BMAG has noted, the Suburban Birmingham project has enabled a 'blossoming relationship with UB, not least the ERDF project' (email of 11 March 2013). The committment of LoB and BMT to the ERDF project was born of their engagement with a UB research team lead by Clay. As such, the growing partnership had relied upon experience gained by Clay in working across sectors as PI of the Suburban Birmingham team.
Collaborator Contribution As a result of the engagement of LoB and BMT on the Suburban Birmingham project, they helped to bring the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust (IGMT) and the Worcestershire HIVE archive as partners on the ERDF project mentioned above. All 4 of those partners on the ERDF have have considerable amounts of in kind match in the form of staff time dedicated to the ERDF project. The ERDF project enables academics to work with SMEs and the cultural partners (plus, a wider set of cultural sector collaborators) to produce multi-user, multi-touch, and other kinds of digital solutions (from smartphone and tablet apps to LEAP motion and Occulus Rift), that enrich visitor experiences in the partners' and collaborators' display spaces by enabling intuitive access to collections and interpretative materials. The ERDF project also has offered 35+ business assists to digital SMEs engaging with the cultural sector (including the aforementioned partners) and helped improve understanding across the cultural sector in the West Midlands of the value added by digital engagement and by SMEs.
Impact Outputs: - 35+ business assists to SMEs. Some conducted by a UB art historian (Clay), some by a UB archaeologist (Chapman), some by a UB Human Computer Interaction expert (Dr Chris Creed), some by a UB computer coder (John Sear), some by a UB creative director (Joseph Sivell). - 6 pieces of multi-user, multi-touch software for public display spaces (2 for IGMT, 1 for LoB, 2 for BMT, 1 for the HIVE). The production of these outputs involved the art historian, archaeologist, HCI expert, computer coder, and creative director noted above. Outcomes - social impact on the working practices of all three sectors involved in the ERDF project (SMEs, cultural organisations, academics) - cultural impact on the end users of the various end outputs noted (particularly, the public facing touch table solutions) - econoimic impact on the West Midlands in terms of an enhanced visitor offer for all 4 ERDF cultural partners organisations
Start Year 2011
 
Description Partnerships emerging from the Suburban Birmingham project 
Organisation Worcesterhire HIVE
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution The Library of Birmingham (LoB) and BMAG (now known at the Birmingham Museums Trust - BMT) were so impressed by the impact of Suburban Birmingham and the follow-on AHRC funded Suburban Birmingham: Hands On upon their staff?s professional development and on audience experiences that they became partners on a £2.4m ERDF project , The Digital Heritage Demonstrator (DHD), led by Clay and Dr Chapman (Department of Archaeology, University of Birmingham) that began in October 2011. As the Interim Director of BMAG has noted, the Suburban Birmingham project has enabled a 'blossoming relationship with UB, not least the ERDF project' (email of 11 March 2013). The committment of LoB and BMT to the ERDF project was born of their engagement with a UB research team lead by Clay. As such, the growing partnership had relied upon experience gained by Clay in working across sectors as PI of the Suburban Birmingham team.
Collaborator Contribution As a result of the engagement of LoB and BMT on the Suburban Birmingham project, they helped to bring the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust (IGMT) and the Worcestershire HIVE archive as partners on the ERDF project mentioned above. All 4 of those partners on the ERDF have have considerable amounts of in kind match in the form of staff time dedicated to the ERDF project. The ERDF project enables academics to work with SMEs and the cultural partners (plus, a wider set of cultural sector collaborators) to produce multi-user, multi-touch, and other kinds of digital solutions (from smartphone and tablet apps to LEAP motion and Occulus Rift), that enrich visitor experiences in the partners' and collaborators' display spaces by enabling intuitive access to collections and interpretative materials. The ERDF project also has offered 35+ business assists to digital SMEs engaging with the cultural sector (including the aforementioned partners) and helped improve understanding across the cultural sector in the West Midlands of the value added by digital engagement and by SMEs.
Impact Outputs: - 35+ business assists to SMEs. Some conducted by a UB art historian (Clay), some by a UB archaeologist (Chapman), some by a UB Human Computer Interaction expert (Dr Chris Creed), some by a UB computer coder (John Sear), some by a UB creative director (Joseph Sivell). - 6 pieces of multi-user, multi-touch software for public display spaces (2 for IGMT, 1 for LoB, 2 for BMT, 1 for the HIVE). The production of these outputs involved the art historian, archaeologist, HCI expert, computer coder, and creative director noted above. Outcomes - social impact on the working practices of all three sectors involved in the ERDF project (SMEs, cultural organisations, academics) - cultural impact on the end users of the various end outputs noted (particularly, the public facing touch table solutions) - econoimic impact on the West Midlands in terms of an enhanced visitor offer for all 4 ERDF cultural partners organisations
Start Year 2011