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Megan Glanville with the display of her findings from the project

In Conversation With...Megan Glanville

Meet Megan Glanville, a student at The University of Leeds who has been delving deep into our archives at West Yorkshire Archive Service to find stories to share here on our blog.

Written by Bryony Jameson

Please introduce yourself

Hi, I’m Megan Glanville and I’m an MA Social and Cultural History student at the University of Leeds. I also studied my undergrad here, so I have lived in the city for four years now. My interests lie within gender history, and my undergrad dissertation focused on women as educational patrons in early modern England. Outside of my degree (though kind of related) I have a strong interest in genealogy and tracing back my family tree, and also writing and sharing stories with my friends.

Tell us a little about the module.

I’ve always been interested in archives as a potential career path for myself, and one of the reasons that I decided to stay on at Leeds to do my masters was so that I could take the HIST5020M Archive Collaborations module so that I could have some experience in this field. Three different archives were taking part on the module – West Yorkshire Archives, Leeds Central Library, and Brotherton Special Collections. Each archive had a selection of different collections that we could choose to work on, with each one having different directions that we could take our work and research in. We were really spoiled for choice!

Why Leeds Heritage Theatres?

While most of the projects really intrigued me, I really found myself drawn to the Leeds Heritage Theatres collection. Admittedly, I didn’t know an awful lot about theatre history, but was really interested in the project brief, which included finding hidden stories within the collection and sharing them with the public through a series of blog and social media posts. I’m a creative person who enjoys writing, so thought that this would be a good way to express myself. I also appreciated the freedom that working on this project would give me (as opposed to other ones), where the output focused on things like cataloguing. I was also excited to explore such a vast archive and learn more about theatres in Leeds in the process.

Excerpts of the fun facts and findings that Megan discovered as part of the project

Excerpts of the fun facts and findings that Megan discovered as part of the project

Could you describe what you did at the archive? Can you tell us what you found?

The Leeds Heritage Theatres collection is very large and features items such as posters, playbills and programmes dating all the way back to 1876. I was definitely spoiled for choice where I could begin my research!

I initially started by looking at playbills from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but then decided that the best way to uncover the ‘hidden stories’ would be to look at the collection of newspaper cuttings that date back to the early twentieth century. It was a long process, but definitely worth it! I found so much content here that I eventually had too much and had to work out what would be best to share with the public, and what I could expand in more detail for blog posts. One of the most interesting things I found was just how many accidents happened in rehearsals, or during the performances themselves (more on that in a future blog post!)! I also found a lot of interesting behind-the-scenes content for various shows, including the actors/actresses involved (eg, a young Julie Andrews), and a handful of royal visits sprinkled in along the way.

What are you taking away from the project? What next?

I really enjoyed working with the Leeds Heritage Theatres collection and learned so much about the theatres and the city along the way. It was fun to work in a new area and gain valuable skills and connections that will benefit me in the future. I’ve got some more blog and social media posts lined up to be shared on the LHT social media over the coming weeks and months, so be sure to keep an eye out for those! The archive collection is so large that I barely even touched the surface. I’d really recommend taking a look at it!

I’ll be moving back home to Durham soon (I’ll miss you Leeds!) and would love to have a career working in archives or heritage someday. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to work on this project.

The Queen visiting The Grand in the Royal Box in 1958 for a performance of Samson.

The Queen visiting The Grand in the Royal Box in 1958 for a performance of Samson.