The papers of Isaac Holden and his family form one of the most rich, exciting archives in Special Collections. Sir Isaac was a Bradford wool manufacturer who pioneered new woolcombing techniques, established factories in France, and later became an M.P. The papers consist mainly of letters between Sir Isaac and family members. They are full of detail about social and cultural life, religion, travel, industry, politics … Bradford and Keighley (the Holdens lived at Oakworth House) are covered, as is France and even New Zealand. However, this detail has not yet been captured and therefore the collections are not reaching their full potential.
We have a basic list which is accurate as far as it goes, but it was created long before the material came to Special Collections. It does not record many aspects that interest readers now. Hence our new project, Untangling the Holdens, in which we will record and make available the names, places and themes covered in the letters. This will help bring them to new audiences and develop exciting projects.
The library’s two graduate trainees (Jen Fox and Maria O’Hara) are working on the material during their time in Special Collections this summer. This is giving them excellent experience in handling and interpreting historic material. Once the trainees have completed their time with us, we will have more idea how long the work will take and can then consider options for continuing. I will be posting about what we have discovered and how the project will continue, watch this space!