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The Biography of an Archive

THE BIOGRAPHY OF AN ARCHIVE  MY father, Friedel Jaffé,  was a refugee from Germany, arriving in London in March 1939. Some years after he died in 1990, I discovered numerous files of his correspondence between 1937 and 1946. Although he told me some details of the desperation of this period of his life, it was nothing in comparison to what I have discovered in this correspondence.  It reveals the bleakness of his life trying to ‘get out’,  believing he had no future, his arrival in London and not being allowed to work, learning a new language, the outbreak of war,  his internment and as a soldier in the Pioneer Corps of the British Army. This archive has taken on its own biography as I make further discoveries and links based on the revelations  within it.

WARTH MILLS   Friedel was interned in dreadful conditions at Warth Mills in Bury, Lancashire.  I am delighted that Richard Shaw has initiated this important project to trace the descendants of those interned there and in so doing tell the stories of the internees. This is an important piece of social  history and still relevant today. See more here

KRISTALLNACHT To mark the 80th anniversary of the dreadful events of Kristallnacht in November 1938, the Wiener Library has included a photograph of Friedel in Berlin and two letters between him and his sister, in their exhibition, SHATTERED: Pogrom, November 1938. This is all further evidence that ‘family’ papers are testament to historical events.

I was pleased to talk about the archive , especially the pieces in it that relate to Kristallnacht,  at the Wiener Library.

Ingenious Women

Interest in Ingenious Women, first published in 2003 continues. Deborah is regularly asked to comment and lecture on her research and also on women’s contribution to innovation and IP.  She was delighted  that World IP Day 2018 acknowledged the contribution women  have made, and continue to make. Women’s ingenuity to problem solve, find creative solutions and work things out cannot  be overlooked. Listen to Deborah discuss the inventions of the ingenious Sarah Guppy on Today, BBC Radio 4 here.

Memories of the Future – On Countervision

Memories of the Future. Peter Lang 2017

New publication –  edited by Dr Stephen Wilson and Deborah Jaffé

What is a memory of the future? Is it a myth, a fiction of a severed arm, a post-human debate or a broken time machine? In an increasingly insecure future-world there is an urgency to consider and debate these questions. Memories of the Future: On Countervision addresses these concerns by speculating on the connections between memory and futurity in fields such as counter-histories, women’s studies, science fiction, art and design, technology, philosophy and politics. This book reveals how these subjects regenerate at the intersections of vision, counter-cultural production and the former present.

This volume links the re-imaginings of memory into the present with topics such as the fever dream allegory of the adolescent social experience, soft technologies of future dress, reinventions of monetary exchange, rekindled subjectivities of school days, and technics and human progression. These countervisions argue against the homogenizing status quo of the present in order to challenge the customs, traditions and conventions of the past and propositions of the future.

Memories of the Future: On Countervision. Dr Stephen Wilson and Deborah Jaffé eds. Cultural Memory Series, Peter Lang Memories of the Future, Oxford. ISBN:9781787075757. May 2017

Frank Hornby & Mechanical Toys – Britain, Germany & the USA.


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The fascinating and entrepreneurial Frank Hornby was the inventor of Meccano, The Hornby Railway and Dinky Cars – one of the great toy designers. Importantly, he believed that all children should play with, and so understand,  mechanics; which is still relevant as we search for more engineers.  More in Deborah’s book  The History of Toys.