Political History is Not My Forte; or, How to Learn History Through Political Cartoons

Many sides of Stalin – as drawn by Cummings

Starting work on new collections is always fun. For a start it means you’re decreasing the number of items that need working on, but you also get to go through something that’s completely new to you. Most recently, I have started cataloguing artwork by cartoonist Michael Cummings, who worked mainly for the Daily Express for a period of nearly fifty years. This particular selection of artwork dates from the early 1950s, a time that seems to be far away in the past, at the beginnings of the Cold War.

Now my first reaction was something along the lines of ‘oh no, I’m not going to know who anybody is’. As it turned out I was wrong. I recognized Clement Attlee, Winston Churchill and Stalin. This didn’t really give me a lot to go on. The 1950s are not exactly my strong point. I enjoy my history, but I enjoy my history quite a lot earlier than that. When I turned to the very first image and had literally no idea what was happening:

My first Cummings cartoon

My first reaction was, ‘this must be a Tory,’ based entirely on the caption. I had one other thing to go on, as somebody had very kindly written on the back of the artwork when the cartoon was published, and even what page it appeared on. As I knew all students and staff at Kent have access to UK Press Online, I decided to hop along and find the appropriate issue of the Daily Express. The cartoon was precisely where the artwork said it was, which was great. What was less great was the fact that there was nothing surrounding the image, no helpful arrows saying ‘this man is so-and-so’, and no articles relating to the image, as far as I could see, anywhere in the issue. So I hit a dead end. Extremely early on. Now what?

Well, perhaps unsurprisingly, Google searching ‘Conservative 1950s NHS’ didn’t get me very far. I had a look on Lexis Nexis but even narrowing down the date range produced more results to check than was feasible. I was almost on the verge of taking a photo on my phone and seeing if my Dad knew who it was, when I decided to check copies of the Express from the surrounding time period. This turned out to be the right thing to do – I came across a cartoon head of the very same man, this time with a caption telling me it was Aneurin Bevan.

Ok, so I basically got everything wrong. Bevan was a well-known Labour Politician, and at the time of the cartoon Minister of Health. At least I knew what the greenhouse was…

Getting the dimensions – featuring my tape measure, Colin

Establishing who people are in each of the cartoons is probably the hardest aspect of cataloguing them, for me. When I’m cataloguing I look out for specific information every time. First we need the basics: a title, artist, publication, date and size. Next comes recording anything that’s written in the cartoon, which we refer to as embedded text. This text and the image itself provides us with the information to assign subject matters to the item. This would be relevant political parties, or any celebrity and sporting news, or government policy mentioned. Other subjects can include setting, items or animals in the picture or emotions you think the people depicted are feeling. And then comes the time to add the people themselves to the record. This is also significant for the subjects; you can’t add the Chancellor of the Exchequer unless you know he’s actually in the picture.

When I first started cataloguing political cartoons, around two and half years ago now, I began with the more modern items. Part of our collections here at the British Cartoon Archive include the newspaper versions of cartoons that appear in the daily papers. This means our collection grows every day, and it’s partly my job to keep on top of this. I won’t pretend that I’ve ever had much of an interest in politics, (I knew next to nothing when I started), but I’ve definitely learnt a lot working here. I could at least recognise most of the Labour and Conservative politics, but my first big stumbling block was Danny Alexander. I think I found him by searching for ‘ginger Liberal politician.’

‘This is a Coalition Budget’ by Peter Brookes

In current cartoons, the colours actually plays a surprisingly large role in identifying who people are. It’s fairly obvious what party a politician is from based on what colour their tie is, (this is obviously a problem for women). This doesn’t work in artwork from the 1950s, which is done in black ink, with a blue wash which would appear grey in the published version. Another clue could be who the person is interacting with and how. If two politicians are having an argument about something it’s likely (although not definite) that they are from opposing parties. This also didn’t help me initially, as Aneurin Bevan was the only person in the first cartoon I catalogued, but it’s certainly helped along the way.

Once you get to know who someone is, there’s usually characteristics that most cartoonists exaggerate when they’re depicting them. For example, Theresa May is always wearing leopard print shoes, whilst Boris Johnson is mainly made of hair. Back in the 1950s, Winston Churchill always has a cigar. This wasn’t strictly speaking helpful, after all if you don’t know what Churchill looks like, where exactly have you been since the start of the 20th century?

….and Strachey

Gaitskell…

Noses and eyebrows are also quite often notable. Aneurin Bevan always has large black eyebrows paired with his neat white hair. Emanuel Shinwell, (“Who on earth?” – me about a month ago), has a very prominent, bulbous nose. Unfortunately, John Strachey and Hugh Gaitskell seem to have the same long, pointy nose, so initially I had to check which hairstyle any pointy-nosed men had to establish who they are. Here the differences seem obvious, but when you don’t know who they are and their images aren’t next to each, it’s not so easy.

There is an odd enjoyment in all this hunting for people and discovering who they are, even though I often sit there in mild despair when all my methods have failed. I wonder if Poirot ever felt like that.

This brings us to my favourite Cummings cartoon:

‘The New Elizabethans’ by Cummings

I love this for two reasons. 1. It is genuinely a fabulous cartoon. I love the detail and the period costume. Elizabethans are much more my style. 2. The published version of the cartoon has a key that tells you who everyone in the picture is. That was a happy moment for me.

I’m going to let you all into a little secret now. One of the reasons I have particularly been enjoying my work with the Cummings Collection is that it’s a nice break from cataloguing the cartoons of today. Sometimes working on this kind of material can get a little wearing. Recently there’s been a lot of cartoons focusing on terror attacks, and a lot about Brexit and the US presidential elections, and for the most part these cartoons aren’t overly positive. This is because the cartoonists genuinely believe what they’re depicting, and the whole point of them is to draw your attention to things that they consider need changing. But it can get very repetetive, so the 1950s is like a little holiday in history for me.

Now obviously terrible things happened in the 1950s. The Korean War and the Cold War for a start, and Stalin certainly did some terrible things. But it’s strange how the distance of time can weaken the effects of this in the present day. If it wasn’t something you lived through, or even something your parents lived through, it’s very difficult to get a proper grasp on how it must have felt at the time. If it does affect you, then you know you’ve just come across a powerful cartoon.

So far, this has happened to me only once whilst cataloguing this collection, when I came across the cartoon on the left. Published in early 1953, initially I didn’t have a lot to go on. It was obviously the shadow of a soldier, and that was enough for me to know if was referencing World War II. I don’t know how common this is generally, but in my head the 1950s and World War II are very, very separate. Even though I knew that 1953 was only eight years removed from the end of the war in Europe, and rationing was still ongoing. Even though I knew that war criminals were being tried, it never really occurred to me that this was something I would come across working on this collection. And that’s what this cartoon is depicting, the trial of men accused of taking part in the massacre of the village of Oradour.

For once the published cartoon actually stood alongside a relevant article in the newspaper, which allowed me to identify what it referenced easily. I had not heard of Oradour before, so I had to read the article to establish what exactly happened. I also used the internet to read more about it, and I was shaken. It wasn’t news to me that this sort of atrocity took place, but I wasn’t prepared for finding it amongst the cartoons.

I do think it’s extremely important that this cartoon, and others like it, exist. Sometimes images can convey more than words, particularly at a distance of seventy years, and cartoons certainly have their place amongst records of history, alongside sources like written accounts and photographs.

But it’s also important to keep things light. So here’s Churchill dressed as a goose:

A Politician’s Panto

All cartoons (c) Express Syndication Ltd, except Peter Brookes, (c) News UK

DR575: Victorian and Edwardian Theatre FAQs

The Bad Girl of the Familt publicity postcard

Publicity postcard for Fred Melville’s melodrama ‘The Bad Girl of the Family’, c.1909

We’re really looking forward to welcoming students on the DR575: Victorian and Edwardian Theatre module to Special Collections & Archives this term! It’s always tremendous fun for both our team and everyone studying.

To help everyone settle in, we’ve collated a list of the most commonly asked questions we get about using Special Collections & Archives during the module. This list is by no means exhaustive, and we’ll try and update it throughout the term. However, if you have a question please do have a look through this list to see if the information you need is here.  As ever, we encourage you to get in touch with any queries you might have. See you in our Reading Room!

Accessing Special Collections & Archives

How do I find material to use from Special Collections & Archives?
How do I book an appointment to view material?
Can I book in to the Reading Room with a group of people?
How can I access the playbills you hold?

Contacting Special Collections & Archives

When is the Reading Room open?
I’ve emailed you with a query – when can I expect a reply?

Handling material in Special Collections & Archives

Do I need to wear white gloves?
How do I handle this item?
What can I bring into the Reading Room?

Accessing Special Collections & Archives elsewhere

How do I find other archives for my research?
Where can I find [X] archive?
How do I contact [X] archive?

Exhibition queries

I need a scan of this item! What do I do?
How long will it take you to scan items for me?
Can I use this image for my exhibition?
What should I get my exhibition material printed on to?
Where can I get material printed?
When do I need to get items sent to the printers by?
How much does [X] cost? Can I reclaim this money? How?

Accessing Special Collections & Archives material

How do I find material to use from Special Collections & Archives?
The majority of Special Collections material can be found on LibrarySearch. There are two main ways of finding material:

You can either select ‘Special Collections’ (or ‘British Cartoon Archive’) from the drop-down box on the right-hand side of the search bar, then enter your terms…

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…Or you can enter your search terms as usual, then scroll down and select ‘Collections’ from the right-hand side of the screen. You can then select ‘Special Collections’ from the list:

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Some Special Collections & Archives material is currently only catalogued on our own website, so it’s worth checking both. Our catalogue can be accessed on the first page:

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Enter your search terms, and then you can narrow down the results by collection/type of material/subject…

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Once you’ve found an item you’d like to see in our reading room, note down as much information as possible (especially the identifier) and drop us an email.

If you’re interested in searching the British Cartoon Archive, you can search for books using LibrarySearch as above…or you can use the British Cartoon Archive catalogue to search for cartoon artwork:

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You can search using the box on top right-hand side of the screen, or click Advanced Search (cartoons) to locate more specific material. By using Advanced Search, you can narrow down results by several terms (such as artist and date). Once you’ve found something you’re interested in viewing, click the image thumbnail to view a bigger version of the image or click the artist’s name to find out more information about the artwork.

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If you want to view higher resolution images, or see any original artwork, please do get in touch. It’s worth noting that artwork from the British Cartoon Archive is currently stored offsite due to the Library Refurbishment so we need at least two weeks’ notice to get any material for you. Additionally, some material from the British Cartoon Archive is very fragile, so if we have a digital copy we’ll likely ask you to use that for your research instead.

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How do I book an appointment to view material?

The main way of booking an appointment to view material is as follows:
When you find Special Collections & Archives material through LibrarySearch, you’ll see an option to request the item from Special Collections:

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Once you click on the link, a pop-up window will emerge. Fill in the form using the details of the item on LibrarySearch, then scroll down to fill in the date you’d like to see the item (remembering that you need to give us at least two working days notice – and that we’re closed on Wednesdays):

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Special Collections & Archives staff will then respond to your email to confirm the time of your appointment.

If you can’t make your appointment, or don’t need the material any more, please do let us know as soon as you can – it takes time to retrieve items from the stores and we’re limited on space for holding items in the Reading Room for you.

You can also email your request over to us at specialcollections@kent.ac.uk (giving as much information as you can about what you want to see) or pop in the office to see us.

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Can I book in to the Reading Room with a group of people?

You can, but please let us know in advance (how many people and what material you need) so we can check who else is booked in for that day. The Reading Room is often used by other researchers, and it tends to be a quieter space, so you’ll need to bear this in mind if you’re working as a group! If we have a lot of researchers booked in, we may need to ask you to come back on a different day.

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How can I access the playbills you hold?

Our playbills are currently being stored offsite during the Library refurbishment. The majority of them, however, have been digitised so we can generally supply you with a digital image of items via email or in the Reading Room. You can also view them online via searching our MODES catalogue. If you let us know the classmark (which will generally begin with UKC-POS), we can check if there’s a digital copy available. If there isn’t, we’ll need at least two weeks’ notice before we collect them from our offsite stores.

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Contacting Special Collections & Archives

The SC&A Reading Room

The SC&A Reading Room

When is the Reading Room open?

The Reading Room is open Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays between 9.30am and 4.30pm. We are closed on Wednesdays and at weekends! Although we require 48 hours’ notice to retrieve material, you’re very welcome to drop in with any questions about using our collections during these hours.

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I’ve emailed you with a query – when can I expect a reply?

We aim to answer any queries about booking appointments within one working day, but more specific queries about your course/reprographics for your course will be answered on Tuesday afternoons. Please send any requests or questions over to us by Monday morning.

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Handling Special Collections & Archives material

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Viewing an item in the Special Collections & Archives Reading Room

Do I need to wear white gloves?

Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to wear white gloves to handle archival material – except in very special circumstances with certain items. White gloves generally don’t fit your hands exactly, and by wearing them you lose dexterity which can make turning fragile pages much more difficult. As long as your hands are clean and dry, and you haven’t used anything greasy on them beforehand like hand lotion, then touching material without gloves is fine. The British Library have some excellent guidelines that we all follow here.

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How do I handle this item?

The short answer to this question: ask us! We’ll always advise you on how to handle the items you’re looking at, but there are some general guidelines that apply to all our material:

  • If the item is on a book rest, it needs to stay on the book rest
  • Many of the books we hold require you to use snake weights to keep the pages open – this is to avoid putting excessive pressure on an area of the book in order to read it
  • Some of our material is in plastic (melinex) wallets for protection. Occasionally it’s possible to take items out of these wallets to view them, but if this is the case we’ll do that for you. If it’s in plastic, assume it stays in plastic
  • Treat every item (regardless of its age) carefully, even if it looks in great condition – it’s likely in such good condition because we’ve been so careful with it before!

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What can I bring into the Reading Room?

Before entering our Reading Room, you’ll need to put your coats and bags in one of our (free) lockers/on a coat hook and get out the items you need. You can bring in pencils, paper and laptops/tablets into the Reading Room. Ideally, any devices you bring in need to be charged up as we don’t have many plug points easily accessible at the moment. You are also welcome to take photos of material using your phone, as long as flash isn’t turned on. You can’t bring food, drink or pens of any kind into the Reading Room – doing so runs the risk of damaging the items out on display.

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Accessing Special Collections & Archives elsewhere

How do I find other archives for my research?

There are lots of other databases now that will help you find relevant material – here are a few of the main websites…
Archives Hub searches over 300 UK institutions, mainly from the UK education sector:

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Discovery at The National Archives searches over 2500 archives in the UK (and, of course, the National Archives themselves):

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Europeana searches archives across Europe to help you find what you need:

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If you’re interested in finding theatre resources, the Association of Performing Arts Collections is a great place to start:

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As ever, if you need extra help please do ask us – we’re here to help you with any aspect of using archives, not just our own lovely collections!

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Where can I find [X] archive?

Most archives are 21st-century friendly and have their own websites, so searching for them online generally yields results. If not, try using either Discovery or Archives Hub to find the collection you’re looking for.

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How do I contact [X] archive?

Once you’ve located the website of the archive you’re looking for, there should generally be a ‘Contact Us’ page with email or phone details. Like us, most archives will require you to make an appointment in advance to view material; the amount of notice you’ll need to give the material varies. Many archives will require you to fill out a form to register as a user, either online or in person when you arrive, and show proof of ID (passport or driving licence, generally) as well. Some may also require a letter of recommendation from a tutor – they should let you know this before you visit, so it’s always worth getting in touch.

Most archives will have similar rules about us regarding what you can bring in to their reading rooms – so always ensure you have a pencil with you!

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Exhibition queries

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Objects and captions on display during the DR575 exhibition from 2016

I need a scan of this item! What do I do?

Please email specialcollections@kent.ac.uk and mark your email for the attention of Joanna, the Special Collections & Archives contact for this course.

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How long will it take you to scan items for me?

If you email your request to us by Monday, we’ll have a reply sent your way by Tuesday afternoon (along with the images). However, if your request is large (or you email us after Monday) this may take longer – we will let you know.

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Can I use this image for my exhibition?

Special Collections & Archives material (including British Cartoon Archive items) often has very strict regulations attached to it about who can use it and what for – sadly there’s no single rule about it, and you need to ask us before you use any images. Give us as much information as you can and we will get back to you as soon as possible. You can also check with your tutor.

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What should I get my exhibition material printed on to?

The quick answer: check with your tutor! In previous years, students have either had their captions and images printed onto Foamex boards (5mm), which is a little more expensive but tends to look really professional, or print out their own images and stick them onto Foamex by hand, which requires being rather adept with rulers and glue. It’s up to you!

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Where can I get material printed?

We recommend that you use the Design and Print Unit on campus, giving them as much notice as you can. You’ll need to send your items over to them via email in PDF format (no JPGS or DOCX files). In previous years, students have also used Omicron Reprographics in Canterbury – if in doubt, ask your tutor.

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When do I need to get items sent to the printers by?

The exhibition launches on Tuesday 4th April this term, and our Reading Room will be reserved for you to prepare your material on Monday 3rd/Tuesday 4th. We recommend checking with your tutor and the printers for specific deadlines, but please do allow time before these days to check your material has been printed correctly.

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How much does [X] cost? Can I reclaim this money? How?

If you’re using the Design and Print Unit on campus, they will be able to give you a quote before they print your work. All other budget-related queries go to your tutor, please!

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Special Collections & Archives 2016: our highlights

With winter frost beginning to appear around campus, the wonderful end of term carol service just around the corner, festive activities everywhere and our Reading Room winter closure dates announced, it seems the end of 2016 is in sight at last. With this in mind, we thought we’d take a look back over our year as a team and share some of our favourite highlights with you all!

2016 has been a big year for Special Collections & Archives: we’re still amidst the ongoing Templeman Library refurbishment, but we’re settling into our new home in the shiny West extension well. We’ve seen launches of a new website for the British Cartoon Archive, and the British Stand-Up Comedy Archive got its collections out to the world online too. We launched our Instagram account, welcomed hundreds of you into our Reading Rooms and got involved with several exhibitions along the way. It’s no surprise that this year has really flown by for us – but there are many events we’ll remember well into the future:

Opening night of the DR575 Victorian Theatre exhibition, April 2016

Rachel (Special Collections & Metadata Library Assistant): “On Wednesday 6th April the yearly exhibition by Kent second year students on the British Theatre History module launched. Whilst this has been an annual event for several years, this time the students faced a bigger challenge than ever: the size of the Templeman exhibition space. This was only the second exhibition in the new space, and was more than twice the size of spaces used in the past! The students rose to the challenge admirably, and created a very successful and effective exhibition on Women on Stage and in Society : 1850-1915.”

Andy Capp and his wife Flo give as good as they get! AC3414, December 1969, British Cartoon Archive

Mandy (Digital Imaging Assistant): “I’ve been scanning material from the British Cartoon Archive so everyone can view it online. I’ve enjoyed seeing how funny the Andy Capp pictures were, and how things have changed as regards to how women were seen. I also got to catalogue some vinyl records – it was like going back in time! Getting them out of the cardboard sleeves with the A and B sides.”

Andy Hamilton talking at the Gulbenkian Theatre on campus, May 2016

Elspeth (Assistant Curator – Special Collections & Archives): “My highlight of the year would be the 2016 Linda Smith Lecture, the second annual lecture which is intended to celebrate comedy and its use in, and for, political and social comment (as well as to promote the British Stand-Up Comedy Archive).  In May 2016 the lecture was given by Andy Hamilton. Andy is a comedian and comedy writer for radio and TV (and well known for regular appearances on topical and panel shows).

Andy covered a number of topics in his lecture, entitled ‘A Life in Comedy (and the Comedy in Life)’, including his career in comedy and the social importance of comedy. The lecture was audio recorded and can be accessed at the University’s Special Collections & Archives.  Keep tuned for news about the 2017 guest lecturer!”

Clockwise from top left: – Illumination from 15thC Book of Hours. The skull begins The office of the dead [Officium Mortuorum, Officium Defunctorum or Vigiliae mortuorum] – Illuminated manuscript leaf from 15thC Fragment of Psalter and Kalender mss – Decorated letter from 12th century De consensu Evangelistarum by Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo – Josie talking about the collection at a public exhibition at Drill Hall Library in March 2016

Josie (Metadata Assistant and Rochester Cathedral Cataloguer):“Looking back at 2016 my fondest memory has been the opportunity I have had to catalogue the extraordinary collection from Rochester Cathedral Library.  My involvement with the project grew to be more than I imagined it could be, giving me the opportunity to build new relationships and  be part of the legacy of a beautiful, rare and culturally significant collection.”

Outreach posters, learning guides, feedback and groups

Clockwise from top left: Promotional posters, learning resource leaflets, group vists in action, and feedback post-its!

Joanna (Senior Library Assistant – Special Collections & Archives): “I’ve loved getting to know the wonderful collections we have here through running many teaching and outreach sessions. This year, we’ve hosted groups ranging from year 10 school students from Folkestone and Maidstone through to postgraduates at the University. The material we’ve used has spanned a huge variety of themes, including the First World War, Shakespeare and Early Modern playwrights, the history of comic strips, peace treaties, stand up comedy, Victorian theatre, local history and curation. We’ve been trying to integrate more material from the fantastic British Cartoon Archive into our sessions, and it’s always been a huge success! We’ve also been developing lesson guides so students have something to take away with them, and I hope we can develop our outreach even more next year.”

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Clockwise from top left: Tavener Bible (1549, SC&A); illuminated leaf from Fragments of Psalter and Kalendar (c. 15th Century, Rochester Cathedral Library); A Display of Heraldry (1679, SC&A); Soliloquium de quatuor mentalibus exercitiis (c. 14th Century, Rochester Cathedral Library); Wingham and Chatham Dockyard indentures (c. 14th century, SC&A); A topographical map of the county of Kent (1769, Rochester Cathedral Library)

Melissa (Head of Academic Liaison): “Whilst it would be difficult to single one memory out, it would have to be viewing the collections themselves. Having the opportunity to engage with the wonderful, diverse and rich materials as part of the exhibitions and displays hosted by SC&A is a fabulously rewarding experience.

The collections do truly speak for themselves but this year, probably the stand out moment for me was when we were able to showcase some of the Rochester Cathedral collections alongside some of our own collections as part of the summer Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies Festival . This rare opportunity to engage with some of the highlights from the Rochester Cathedral collections, following our cataloguing project we have undertaken with them, was not to be missed. I am particularly drawn to old maps and rich imagery and I captured some of my favourite materials from the exhibition. I am therefore letting the photographs do the talking!”

Jane in her element – with rare books!

Jane (Humanities Liaison Libarian): “Although I have spent most of this year out of Special Collections, on a secondment as Liaison Librarian for Humanities, I’ve still been lucky enough to be involved. Back in January, I found myself starring (rather unexpectedly) alongside materials and academics in a promotional video for new modules running in the School of History and CompLit – my hands and skill at nodding are now out there on the web! It’s also been great to link up with the Marlowe Society and to be asked to take care of the two volume copy of Holinshed from the 16thC. This chronicle is believed to be the key source for both Shakespeare and Marlowe when they were writing their history plays, so an excellent addition to our Early Modern and theatre expertise.

Over in my new role, I’ve been delighted to help bring the wide range of collections to the notice of researchers and learners, particularly planning ahead for new courses and new interaction in the years to come. With such an array of exciting materials, I’ve no doubt that Special Collections & Archives will be engaging all kinds of researchers next year.”

Building of Rutherford College, October 1966

Building of Rutherford College, October 1966

Ann (University Archivist): “I found 2016 a particularly exciting year, in which we celebrated 50 years since the opening of Rutherford college in 1966 and the second intake of University of Kent students. The history of the University of Kent, and the inspirational tales of some of Kent’s alumni, were celebrated in the BBC South East documentary ‘Living in ’66 – The Education Revolution’. Back to the present day, in 2016, I have been privileged to preserve the history of an institution that is so proud of its place within Europe, and still says very loudly that we are the UK’s European University. Special Collections & Archives serves both local and international communities, and in 2017 I will really look forward to seeing how we can engage new audiences in the fascinating pasts that we hold.”

We can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store for us! What are your favourite archival memories of this year?

From all the team in Special Collections & Archives, have a very merry festive season and we look forward to seeing you all in the new year!

Putting Faces to Names : Haselden’s Theatrical Cartoons

Recently I’ve been working on a collection of Punch cartoons by W.K. Haselden. The British Cartoon Archive has hundreds of cartoons by Haselden, and he is one of the most recognizable cartoonists of the early 20th century. His theatrical cartoons appeared in the ‘At the Play’ (or occasionally ‘At the Movies’ and ‘At the Revue’) section of Punch, and span a good twenty five years from the early 1910s. They feature many recognizable names and here I bring you a selection of my favourites.

Some hefty tomes

Some hefty tomes

This work has required a lot of research on my part, as I try to identify and create records for the people portrayed in the cartoons. I have met hundreds of actors and actresses along the way, often with the help of the books you can see on the right. Some of my favourite names include Beppie de Vries, Norman V. Norman and Beatrice Appleyard. Here I present to you some more familiar names I came across as I catalogued the collection.

Dame Sybil Thorndike

Sybil Thorndike was born in the late 19th century, and she’s a local girl. Whilst she was born in Lincolnshire, her brother (also an actor, although perhaps more well known as an author) Russell was born down the road in Rochester, where their father was a canon at the cathedral. Sybil attended Rochester Grammar School for Girls, and is probably their most well-known pupil. She was most famous as a theatre actress, and was so well known in her day that she was in the ‘Black Book’ of people to be arrested if the Nazis ever invaded Britain!

Sybil Thorndike in "St. Joan" - a role created for her by George Bernard Shaw

Sybil Thorndike in “St. Joan” – a role created for her by George Bernard Shaw

 

The Medea

The Medea

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

John Laurie

John Laurie is perhaps most remembered for his part in Dad’s Army, as my favourite character Frazer, but this was by no means his most significant role. He was also a part of hit Sixties shows The Avengers and The Ken Dodd Show, and appeared often on stage, particularly in Shakespeare, including Hamlet, Richard III and Macbeth. According to IMDB, he appeared in 161 acting roles on film and TV in his long career. He even appeared in a Disney movie, their 1950 rendition of Treasure Island.

Old King Cole

Old King Cole

Dion Boucicault

It was particularly pleasing to come across cartoons of Dion Boucicault as I catalogued, as we hold a Boucicault Collection here at Kent. These are two different Dion Boucicaults, our collection being about the father of the man in the cartoons. This is quite confusing, and completely unnecessary, as in reality the two of them had completely different names! Whilst he was known as an actor, he was also a theatre manager, and had particular success with the premiere of a little known play, one Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie. It was Dion’s sister, Nina Boucicault, who was the first actress to ever play Peter Pan.

Nina Boucicault (Sister of Dion Jr.)

Nina Boucicault (Sister of Dion Jr.)

Dion Boucicault Jr. (centre)

Dion Boucicault Jr. (centre)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donald Calthrop

Number two of three I’ve found related to collections we hold. It was the first Dion Boucicault’s great-grandson, another Calthrop, who donated some of our Boucicault material. Donald Calthrop was Boucicault’s nephew, and a significant actor in his own right. He appeared in no less than five early films directed by the great Alfred Hitchcock. Sadly, he died of a heart attack before he finished filming Major Barbara in 1941.

Donald Calthrop

Donald Calthrop

Frank Pettingell

And here’s the third. Frank Pettingell was the owner of our largest collection of playscript, both printed and manuscript, and he in his turn acquired them from the son of well-known comedy Arthur Williams, whose stamp can be seen on most of the items in the collection. Frank was a Lancashire man who served in the First World War. His film credits include the original version of Gaslight, and played the Bishop of York in the film Becket, which featured Richard Burton, Peter O’Toole and John Gielgud.

Frank Pettingell, taking a trip

Frank Pettingell, taking a trip

Princess Lilian, Duchess of Halland

Grace Kelly may be well known for marrying European Royalty, but she was not only one! Lilian Davies, an actress more known for her modelling, from Swansea, married into the Swedish royal family in 1976 at the age of 61. They’d been living together for almost 30 years after she and her first husband divorced, but did not marry as it was thought Prince Bertil may have to become Regent after the heir to throne died, leaving a son only a few months old. However, Carl XVI came of age before he came to the throne, and he approved Prince Bertil’s marriage to Lilian. She lived to be 97, and continued to attend official engagements well into her 90s.

A most impressive hat

A most impressive hat

Rachel.

Advance notice: Special Collections & Archives Christmas Closure dates 2016

Christmas Closure 2016

It’s hard to believe that the end of 2016 is in sight! The year has (as ever) been a very busy one for us, and we’ll have an end-of-year wrap up post for you very soon. In the meantime, however, we’ve got Christmas on our minds…

Term ends for the University of Kent on Friday 16th December this year, so the Reading Room will be closed from the end of this day until Monday 9th January. If you’d like to view any material before we close, please do let us know by Wednesday 14th December at the very latest. The University is closed from the 22nd December until the 3rd January, so email queries sent between these dates won’t be responded to until we return.

Kent’s spring term begins on Monday 16th January, so you’ve got a week beforehand to view anything you like in the Reading Room amidst what will probably be a much quieter library…

As ever, please do contact us if you have any queries – and keep your eyes peeled for some festive fun here soon!