Background – who and what

I am Yvonne Haugen, one of a growing group of volunterers transcribing Anne Lister’s diaries to make them acessible for the general public at the West Yorkshire archives. I live in Norway and have a special interest in Anne’s travels here in July and August 1839.

Anne Lister’s diaries
Anne Lister (1791-1840) was a truly remarkable woman; landlord, private student of medicine, traveller, mountaineer (the first person to officially ascend the Pyrenean mountain Vignemale), an unapologetic lesbian in a time when male homosexuality was a crime. There was no concept of lesbianism, simply “romantic friendships” before traditional marriage. She restored and expanded her family estate and grounds (Shibden Hall), sank her own coal pit, and despite having her hands full with all of the above, she wrote a consistent and detailed diary covering every aspect of her life. She began the diary in 1806 and kept writing up until her untimely death (by an infectious tick bite in Georiga) in  1840. The more sensitive subjects such as gossip,  commentary and personal and romantic activities she disguised in a code of her own device. Her diaries comprise of some 7.720 page or around 5 million words, with about one sixth of the entries written in a code that she created.

West Yorkshire Archive Service
Anne’s diaries are part of the extensive collection of Lister Family of Shibden Hall records, covering 13th century to 1933. The collection is fully listed on the West Yorkshire Archive Service online catalogue (collection reference SH).

UNESCO Memory of the World Register
In 2011 Anne’s diaries were inscribed in the UNESCO UK Memory of the World Register in recognition of their substantial cultural significance to the UK. They are an important resource in the field of Gender Studies and Women’s History, as well as providing a wealth of information about politics, business, religion, education, science, travel, local and national events, medicine and health.

Making Anne Lister’s diaries available to the public
Although the diaries have been photographed and made available online, Anne’s handwriting, prolific use of abbreviations and the secret code means the contents of the diaries is not immediately acessible. So the West Yorkshire Archives – with the help of a growing group of volunteers – are having the diaries meticulously transcribed so that it will be easily acsessible to the public. This massive undertaking goes under the name of the Anne Lister Diary Transcription Project, and since late summer 2019 I have been a volunteer transcriber for the project.

Some of the travel journals from 1839 never made it into the diaries and are not included in the ongoing transcription project. Being a Norsie myself I knew it would be very interesting to transcribe and explore the Norwegian part of these last travels of Anne Lister and Ann Walker. It’s a fun read, especially for anyone familiar with Norway and its traditions. There is a lot of nature descriptions, food commentary and bits and pieces of sosio political information and customs, plus a dash of gossip.

Looking into the places and people etc that Anne mentions has led to some good findings and illustrations, and aslo newspaper adverts and even objects. An exhibition including visuals and texts from the Norway travels has been in the making for some time, but has been forced to take the COVID-19 pandemic into consideration.

The Oslo gallery KUNSTPLASS has been comissioned by Norsk Kulturhistorisk Musem to curate the summer exhibition (as they have done for several years now). This year’s exhibit is called “De te fabula narratur”. I have been teaming up with Kunstplass for the Anne Lister part of this exhibit; an installation based on Anne Lister’s travels in Norway. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the physical exhibition has been postponed until 2021.

In its place will be a digital preview exhibit. This web page will give a background for the Anne Lister part of the exhibition.

If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to get in touch