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A Rare Find: The Christmas Card Folio

christmas card crippled children's help society

Heather Roberts (HerArchivist, archive consultant), has put together this wonderful blog which discovers the meaning and significance of Disabled Living’s collection of heritage Christmas cards.

The archive

Disabled Living have a fascinating history stretching 120 years. It’s a vital but little-know part of Manchester’s amazing past and present. On the Donkeys to Innovators project, we are hoping to organise the evidence of their history into an archive and share their journey.

Explore the timeline for some of the key points of the history.

There are some gorgeous archive items in their collection. Hundreds of photographs, decades of annual reports, files of letters, ye old property deeds. Nice, core archive material through which you can learn so much.

Disabled Living also has something else. It’s an absolute treat and so unique. Not only does it say so much about the organisation but it’s also aesthetically delightful.

Christmas card folio

Christmas card crippled children's help society

Christmas card crippled children's help society

It’s the kind of thing that when you look at it, it makes you sigh and wish for childhood and Christmas markets. It’s colourful, full of beautiful vintage designs and interesting stories to tell.

The folio is an old crumbling hardback volume. Within it are pasted the Christmas cards that the society (back then called The Crippled Children’s Help Society) used to send to children at Christmas who were either disabled or otherwise housebound for the season (recovering from illness etc.).

Each card is gorgeously designed and very of its time, charting the way through a good chunk of the first half of the 20th century. There’s hints of classic Arts and Crafts style borders, flowing into Art Nouveau lines all the way through to the vintage bright bold colours of Santas gone by.

They must have been an absolute treat to receive in the post. Many were accompanied by Christmas hampers for the children as a small gift of added kindness for the season.

How this helps research and understanding

This folio is important not only for its beauty and rarity (much of the original archive was lost in a fire). It is also key in understanding what the society really did.

Much of any organisation’s is written down, in minutes and letters and reports. These are all highly valuable. They chart the progress of an organisation, what it had to think about, how it managed challenges, what was planned etc.

However, this only tells one side of the story. It can tell us on the top-level of the organisation what went on. This is the material that is therefore most likely to be kept. It’s rare that much of the ground-level activity is kept. It’s everyday stuff. It’s not discussed by the Board or debated over at Annual General Meetings.

These simple Christmas cards on the other hand, tell a story about the ground-level kindness and activism of the society. You can see it in front of your face. You can hold it in your hands. It’s a beautiful piece of Manchester’s history and we are so looking forward to sharing it with you.

Take care of the pennies

english coins

The adage, “Take care of the pennies, the pounds will take care of themselves” might apply here. Important records, top-level records and core activities are usually kept because they shout of inherent value.

The grass-roots, ground-level, every day activities and initiatives are what the organisation actually does, though. So spare a little effort in making sure that this is evidenced, remembered and celebrated.


Heather’s free “Create your own archive” toolkit can be downloaded here.

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