This week I have been researching and writing new content for the Archives+ digital exhibition on the ground floor at Central Library. The new face joining the exhibition is Elizabeth Raffald, a woman who lived in Manchester between 1763 and 1781. My research started from some notes and images supplied by Suze Appleton, who has recently written a short biography about Elizabeth. Whilst this gave me a good overview of Elizabeth’s story, I still wanted to understand more about her, and so with this in mind I ordered up from the archives a copy of the book she first wrote and first published in 1769.

Elizabeth Raffald portrait
Elizabeth Raffald, taken from her book “The Experienced English Housekeeper” 12th ed., 1799

Elizabeth Raffald’s book is called “The Experienced English Housekeeper”. There are several different versions of it in the Archives at Central Library and I was able to get hold of an official edition from 1799. Using this primary source gave me a much greater insight into Elizabeth’s work and supplemented the additional information I found in Suze Appleton’s biography of Elizabeth and the occasional Google search.

The digital exhibition uses a combination of words and pictures to tell the stories of the people of Manchester. I had been supplied with some digitised newspaper cuttings from the eigtheenth century, which were very interesting and relevant, but not very eye catching on their own, so I went on the hunt to find some additional pictures from the archives that would help to illustrate Elizabeth Raffald’s story.

To do this I accessed the GM Lives search facility on-line but a search on “Raffald” only brought back two images and neither was really what I was hoping for. Moving on I tried searches on all of the place names connected to Elizabeth’s story including Arley Hall, Fennel Street, Market Place and The Bull’s Head. This time I was lucky, my searches were rewarded with some really beautiful illustrations, exactly what was needed for the exhibition.

Arley Hall 1850
Arley Hall in 1850 by F C Terry

As GM Lives is a catalogue, not a repository, the images displayed on searches are for reference only (the resolution is too small to use on the exhibition) so once I had chosen all the images I wanted to include I then set about downloading high resolution jpegs from a separate system. The software we use for this is called KE EMu which is an electronic museum management system.

Fennel Street 1800
Fennel Street 1800, site of the Old Apple Market. by M Burtinshaw

Elizabeth’s book contains over 800 recipes plus illustrations of table plans and cooking facilities. To include a selection of these in the exhibition I digitised them using the Bookeye scanner and then used a photo editor to tidy up the scans by cropping and adjusting the levels.

Sweet Patties (Eccles Cakes)
Sweet Patties, a recipe taken from Elizabeth Raffald’s book, are thought to be an early version of what we now call Eccles Cakes

Once I had fully researched Elizabeth Raffald’s story and gathered together an interesting range of images I was able to construct the content for the exhibition. To do this I broke down the story into short, standalone paragraphs and then matched each one with an appropriate image to illustrate it. Finally, and most importantly, in order to make all of this appear on the digital exhibition, I entered all the text and pictures into the Content Management System (CMS) – this is the software running behind the scenes of the exhibition.

So the new exhibition content is now live and accessible to all. If you’re interested to learn more about Elizabeth Raffald, the superwoman of the eighteenth century, then come along to the Archives+ exhibition on the ground floor at Central Library, and look for the exhibit: Radical Thinking. In the meantime, if you’d like to see some more of the pictures and recipes connected to Elizabeth Raffald, you can view them in our Flickr album.

Manchester Mercury 1766
This notice was placed in the Manchester Mercury in 1766