Hidden Treasures Launch Event Report

No sooner had the ‘Hidden Treasures’ online launch event started, than it received its first question. An online audience member immediately asked about the availability of oral and video content in archives. This enthusiastic reaction set the tone for a lively and informative launch for the Board of Deputies newest project.

Marie van der Zyl, President of the Board of Deputies, began the event by welcoming everyone, before handing over to Dawn Waterman, the Board’s Archives and Heritage Manager, who has led the development of the project. Dawn introduced Hidden Treasures, emphasising the breadth of different archives participating, from national and local government institutions , university special collections and Jewish community projects and encouraging more archives to get involved.

Representing three of these archives were Nigel Grizzard for the West Yorkshire Archives Service, Dr Sean Cunningham of The National Archives, and Dr Toby Simpson of The Weiner Holocaust Library. Each expert brought with them a ‘treasure’ from their archive.

Montague Burton Workers' Solarium

Nigel Grizzard brought an image of Montague Burton’s sunroom, and with it a brief history of Montague Burton, the entrepreneurial menswear manufacturer, who, in his heyday, was supplying one in every four suits sold in Britain. His philanthropic impact made him the pride of Yorkshire’s Jewish community, a pride that persists to this day.

Dr Sean Cunningham presented a medieval doodle, drawn by a clerk during what must have been a particularly boring court case. Some Christian and Jewish boys were charged with “stealing the King’s deer” and one of the boy’s fathers, a Jew named Aaron, took to the stand to defend his son. This was the first of several items he presented that illustrated the uneasy relationship between the Jews of Medieval England and the local authorities.

The final presentation by Dr Toby Simpson, of the German 1930’s board game Juden Rauß – ‘Jews Out’ – stretched the limits of what might be called a ‘treasure’, but represented an important aspect of the history of Britain’s Jews. The long shadow of the Nazi Party, the Shoah, and antisemitism, can be found in many of Hidden Treasure’s archives, with the Wiener Holocaust Library containing some of the most harrowing and sombre material.

These three archives, and the items that were presented, represent only the smallest fragment of the vast amount of material that Hidden Treasures can guide you to. But the launch didn’t end there as questions poured in from the viewers. The experts were asked about how to build family archives, how to deal with digital memories, and, of course, about the availability of oral and video content in their archives.

The launch closed with Gillian Merron, Chief Executive of the Board of Deputies, who was chairing the panel of experts and fielding the questions, thanking our media partner The Jewish Chronicle and leading a quick round up. Dr Simpson summed up the evening, and Hidden Treasures itself, commenting that with archives “people need a way in” and that once you’re in “then you’re hooked”.

Hidden Treasures: Celebrating Jewish Archives in Britain is now well and truly launched and we look forward to guiding visitors back into the past, helping them look at the present with new eyes, and think about the future.

––Daniel Cesarani

Watch the event:


Read more news stories

Hidden Treasures: Celebrating the documents, photos and artefacts in British archives that tell the story of Jews in Britain