Year 9 students from Chesterfield High School enjoyed an informative and surprising morning touring Liverpool’s long-established Athenaeum club. Positioned just off the busy shopping hub of Church Street, the figure of Athena presides over the door signifying the ideals to which this institution aspires. Once within, the students encountered the club’s links with Liverpool’s history and explored its library and archives, encountering a 1452 text on pyrotechnics from Germany which may be the earliest printed text in Europe, a twelfth century copy of the Magna Carta printed on vellum and a first edition of Joyce’s ‘Ullyses’. As well as exploring the rare, valuable and culturally significant texts, the students enjoyed the opportunity to read through choice items drawn from the archives featuring the appearance of Spring Heel Jack in Liverpool, nineteenth century reports of Liverpool hauntings and contemporary texts on the two wars in a bid to inspire creative writing.
Under the expert guidance of the club’s librarian, students learnt much about historical texts and the development of printing. The club’s public engagement officer, John Corbett helped to contextualise the club’s role in Liverpool’s history and politics leaving students with an insight into the world of late eighteenth and early nineteenth century Liverpool.
The students found the experience to be an enlightening affirmation of Liverpool’s historical and cultural significance. They have seen an archive still visited by scholars as a vital reference library for their studies and have encountered a host of characters and narratives that will inspire a range of creative writing.