The website is dead…

The eagle eyed amongst you may have noticed some changes to the Special Collections homepage in the last couple of days. If you’ve noticed any of the changes beyond the homepage, congratulations for doing your research!

Superficially, the major change is the removal of the button for the previous Special Collections website. The old site, a veteran of some years largely constructed by Mrs. Sue Crabtree, has now been taken down. This is to focus on the new searchable website, which also conforms to the University-wide template. All relevant information has been transferred by a painstaking process, largely carried out by Angela Groth-Seary. Any links or addresses to the old website will now automatically redirect to the new homepage, so don’t be confused if your ‘Favourites’ button takes you to a slightly different place!

You may have noticed that a new button has been put in the gap: a link to the British Cartoon Archive‘s website. Special Collections and the BCA, both physically based in the Templeman Library on the Canterbury campus, are now part of the new Specialist Collections and Academic Archives. While the two websites run on slightly different technology, we hope that linking them in this way will make it easier to use all of the resources which we have to offer.

The most time consuming work for me has been adding PDFs of images which link from the catalogue. Occasionally when cataloguing bound items, we come across an illustration or title page which is really interesting. If we feel that it would benefit researchers to have access to this image before (or perhaps instead of) looking at the original item, we add this to the catalogue record. Previously, this was simply a link to the old website, where the image would be displayed. However, with the old site going offline, and not wishing to clog the new site with lots of image pages, we decided to create PDFs of every image and make a single page where all of these can be stored. With lots of help from Fran Williams and Angela Groth-Seary, we have managed to finish this task in time for the Christmas deadline. Now, when you click on a link for an image in the catalogue, it will send you to a PDF of that image, from which you can access the Special Collections website. Conversely, you can browse a list of the items with images on the Special Collections site and link to the catalogue record from individual PDFs.

Invaluable assistance has also been given by Helen Jarvis in the Cataloguing department, who dealt with nearly 600 redirects with a macro. As a result of all of this work, there should now be a seamless shift between bound items on the library catalogue and images on the Special Collections website.

So, after a project that has been in process for many months, we now have our new Special Collections website performing all of the functions of the old site and, with the success of the VERDI project which I reported on earlier in the year, much more. This doesn’t mean that the site will stop evolving though. There are already plans to put together some pages for exhibitions which have taken place (not least, the student curated British theatre 1860-1940 exhibition) and there is also a new University website template which we will need to update to at some point.

The old website is dead, long live the new website! And please let us know if you have any comments on it.

In the meantime, I’d just like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas from everyone at Special Collections at the University of Kent and we hope to see you in the new year.

Excellent exhibitions!

I’m pleased to announce that the much-anticipated exhibitions by the students of ‘British theatre 1860-1940′ went off brilliantly, an much fun was had all round. Not only did all eighteen students produce really good work, but they also introduced their exhibitions to all of our guests, chatted about what they had discovered and even played a part expertly pouring drinks for the opening!

All of the feedback which I have had from guests and visitors has been overwhelmingly positive, with everyone hoping to repeat the success in the next semester…so there’s no pressure for next semester’s module group!

More on the exhibitions will follow, including a new section of the Special Collections website, where we hope to include details of each exhibition that takes place in the reading room, and link to students’ exhibition websites.

In the meantime, please come and visit the reading room to see the excellent work. We will be reopening from 4th January 2011, at the usual times of 9.30-1 and 2-4.30, Monday to Friday. The exhibition will remain up until 14th January.

And if you’d like to whet your appetite, or see more on the exhibitions, please have a look at the websites:

Theatre and Class Identity

The Popularity of Music Hall

Women in Victorian Theatre

Any comments would be gratefully received!

Exhibitions looming

The final preparations are now under way for the British Theatre 1860-1940 Exhibition, which will open to the public on Wednesday 15th December.

The reading room and office have been tidied up, cleaning is underway and three sets of empty boards are looming over three remarkably clear tables. We have six sheets of (almost) identically cut cotton waiting to throw over each group’s work (in the interest of fairness), which will be covered until the grand unveiling. Cushions, books rests, snake weights and Secol covers are neatly stacked, awaiting the formation of three different exhibits created by the eighteen students of the British Theatre module.

The exhbits will be titled

  • The changing representation of women 1860-1910
  • The reasons for the popularity of Music Hall
  • The ways in which theatre troubled class relations

Each group of six students has gone through a process of exploring the sources available in Special Collections, researching topics which interest them and selecting sources to support the arguments they make in the course of their exhibit.

While staff have been on hand to offer advice on the use of collections and on the topics, the work is the students’ own and will draw on their theatrical experiences to inform current academic debates. We are looking forward to experiencing the work which these talented students produce and hope that you will be able to share in it.

If you can’t get to the exhibition, opening times below, each group will produce a website to support their exhibit, which will include digital images of the sources they used. We hope, in the near future, to be able to link these websites to the Special Collections website in order to make this work accessible to everyone.

Exhibition Opening Times

Opens: Wednesday 15th December

Daily opening: 9.30-1pm & 2-4.30pm Monday-Friday (normal reading room opening times)

Closures: 12-3pm Tuesday 21st December
23 December-3rd January (Library closure for vacation)

Closes: 7th January

If in doubt, please phone ahead of your visit on 01227 827609